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The mission of the 4-H Mentoring: Youth and Families with Promise program is
to increase the developmental assets of youth, ages 10-14, and their families.
This mission is accomplished by utilizing culturally appropriate, early-intervention
strategies such as one-to-one mentoring, involvement in 4-H clubs, and family
activities. 4-H Mentoring: Youth and Families with Promise is designed to increase
youth’s interpersonal competence, improve youth’s academic performance, and
strengthen family relationships.
In an effort to reduce and prevent juvenile delinquency, Utah State University Extension has made it a priority to promote developmental assets in at-risk youth. Developmental assets include, but are not limited to, family support, relationships with nonparent adults, school engagement, resistance skills, and a sense of purpose. The State 4-H office currently provides leadership for this work as part of their overarching mission to "assist youth in acquiring knowledge, building character, and developing life skills in a fun learning environment that will enable them to become self-directing, productive members of society."
The 4-H Mentoring: Youth and Families with Promise program (4-H YFP) is a prevention program designed to enhance the developmental assets of at-risk youth, ages 10-14. This program targets youth and families who have below-average school performance, poor social skills, and/or weak family bonds. Youth are referred to the program by school counselors, teachers, and administrators, as well as other youth-serving organizations. This program consists of three components:
- · One-to-one Mentoring - Volunteer mentors work directly with youth to build academic and social skills
- · 4-H Activities - Clubinvolvement serves to enhance social competencies through leadership opportunities, community service, and group projects
- · Family Night Out - Group activities are designed to foster family bonds through experiential learning activities
The 4-H YFP program originated in 1994 as a response to a community mobilization effort to reduce and prevent juvenile delinquency in Iron County, Utah. The original 4-H YFP program was administered by the local county Extension office with support from State Extension Specialists and internal funds from USU. With the awarding of additional internal and external funding, the program was expanded into as many as 25 of Utah’s 29 counties. As of 2004, the State 4-H office oversees the implementation of the 4-H YFP program throughout the state.
Currently, there are 32 program sites serving an average of 20 youth per site and approximately 700 youth statewide.
- · 50% of participants are from rural counties
- · 40% from urban counties
- · 10 % from semi-urban counties
Theoretical and Research Background
The importance of youth interacting with, and being influenced by, supportive adults is highlighted in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory: "The development of the child is enhanced through her increased involvement, from childhood on, in responsible, task-oriented activities outside the home that bring her into contact with adults other than her parents" (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p. 282). In light of ecological systems theory, the developers of 4-H YFP hypothesized that the integration of mentoring and family interventions into established youth development programs, such as 4-H, would reinforce and enhance the state-wide mission of promoting developmental assets. This hypothesis is supported by emerging research which suggests that integrating mentoring into existing youth programs is a promising strategy for youth development (e.g., Kuperminc, et al., 2005).
The program’s integrative approach is consistent with conclusions drawn from research and reviews of youth development programs regarding programmatic characteristics that lead to positive outcomes (e.g., Cress, 2004; Lerner, 2006). Characteristics of effective programs typically include caring adolescent-adult relationships, designs that are long-term, and approaches that incorporate multiple aspects of the youth development framework (e.g., National Research Council, 2002). The youth development framework, as described by Roth, Brooks-Gunn, Murray and Foster (1998), includes (a) program elements that present youth with new roles and responsibilities, (b) support for youth, and (c) a focus on enhancing internal assets and competencies. The design of 4-H YFP supports the enhancement of developmental assets by providing youth with new roles, relationships, and responsibilities, which are supported and reinforced across programmatic components (Mentoring, 4-H, and Family Night Out).
- · Improved academic performance
- · Enhanced social competencies
- · Strengthened family bonds
- · Increase developmental assets
- · Decrease juvenile delinquency
Once youth are enrolled into the program, 4-H YFP utilizes a multi-pronged approach to achieve program goals.
Each youth is matched with a volunteer mentor - typically a young adult - recruited through a local university, the family’s religious congregation, or community organizations. Mentors meet regularly with the mentees for 1-2 hours each week engaging them in a variety of learning activities (academic, athletic, cultural, etc.). In each interaction, mentors serve as motivators and positive role models.
Youth in the YFP program participate in local 4-H clubs, which provide participants opportunities to develop social competencies and mastery in a variety of subject areas. Clubs typically meet 6-12 times a year and typically consist of 6-10 youth per adult. The 4-H program emphasizes a "learn-by-doing" approach to education and help youth develop responsibility, leadership, self-direction, as well as interpersonal and life skills. Youth are exposed to the concept of generosity and serving others by participating in organized service projects. Through these interactions, 4-H YFP participants develop friendships with peers and a sense of belonging in a positive social network.
Family Night Out Activities
Program youth, parents or guardians, and mentors participate in monthly "Family Night Out" (FNO) group activities that are organized by local YFP site coordinators. Through FNO youth and parents have an opportunity to participate in fun and educational experiential activities together with the mentors. The objective of the FNO component is to strengthen family bonds and to improve parent-youth communication using themes such as: building trust, kindness, positive communication, and working together.
Mentors are supported by personal contact from their site coordinator twice a month. Contacts are used to offer encouragement, provide on-going training, obtain progress reports, assure quality mentoring is regularly occurring, and to resolve any concerns or obstacles the mentors may be experiencing.
Partnerships and Collaborations
Collaborations and partnerships play an important role in the support and implementation of 4-H YFP at both the state and county level. Collaborations help off-set program costs and foster community involvement and ownership. Financial and in-kind support has been, and continues to be, generously offered by these partners. A sampling of these partnerships is detailed below.
Annual evaluations of the YFP program include:
- Youth reports of academic achievement, social competency, and family bonds.
- Parent reports of youth academic achievement, social competency, and family bonds.
- Mentor reports of youth academic achievement, social competency, and family bonds.
- Assessment of the fidelity of program implementation.
Outcomes and Impacts
Outcome reports are annually prepared by faculty in the USU Department of Family, Consumer, and Human Development. Consistently, evaluations have documented significant improvements, as reported by parents and children, on all targeted goals. Parents and children report improved academic performance, enhanced social competencies, and strengthened family bonds. Additional, program families tend to report decreased delinquent behavior and increased parental efficacy.