Fostering Youth Development

A member of Cole County 4-H shows her Charolais heifer at the Missouri State Fair.

Fostering Youth Development
Article by Christal Huber,
4-H Youth Specialist

4-H, a United Way of Central Missouri partner agency, is a nationally recognized youth development program. It is established across the United States in collaboration with land grant universities and their Extension Services. Our focus is the development of confident, competent young people that can improve the future. While 4-H began primarily as an agricultural-based organization it has moved far beyond just providing agricultural knowledge. 4-H programs now range from robotics and computer programming to engineering and cooking. The possibilities are potentially endless for learning opportunities that can be accomplished with 4-H.

Our motto is “Learning by doing”, which encourages youth to not only learn by reading and writing about topics that peak their interests, but also by physically pursuing these topics by completing projects in that particular subject. 4-H is a volunteer-led organization. Across the United States there are hundreds of thousands of adult volunteers that assist youth in learning about and completing their projects.

Osage and Cole Counties have a rich history with 4-H that dates back many years. The two counties combined have 20 established 4-H Clubs that serve 409 youth with the help of 189 volunteers. Even though agriculture projects are still popular today, youth do not need to live on a farm to join 4-H. We have a wide variety of topics to choose from, and more are being offered every day. Locally, two specialty programs we offered this past year were aquaculture and clowning.

Summer is a busy time of year for 4-H programs. County fairs in the area run from July through August for youth to showcase their talents. Between the Cole and Osage County Fairs, over 1000 exhibits were entered at both fairs, not including agriculture exhibits. 4-H Camp is also another summer highlight. Youth from 13 area counties travel to Camp Clover Point at the Lake of the Ozarks state park. There, they participate in community living, teamwork, conservation, archery, STEM sessions, swimming, canoeing, and much more.
With the gracious support of United Way we are able to assist our youth in completing these projects and attending camp. Their support also helps to send youth to various state-wide conferences and events. United Way also aids us in the growth of our program. STEM has always been a large part of 4-H; it began with animal science, agronomy, horticulture, and conservation. Now it has grown to include aerospace, robotics, computer programing and much more.

With the aid of a one-time United Way Community Support Grant we are able to purchase several new Robotics kits to help expand this area. With these kits we hope to reach more youth and increase our programing. Through local events, United Way is able to help us foster relationships and contacts with various other youth organizations in the area. This allows us to become creative with our offerings by fostering a collaborative atmosphere.

The 4-H year kicks off on October 1 with a National Youth Science Day. This year’s kit explores the world of computer science (CS) with the 2018 challenge, Code Your World. Co-developed by West Virginia University Extension and Google, Code Your World is a four-part challenge that invites kids to get involved in CS through fun hands-on activities like digital animation, gaming and dance.

Registration also opens for our traditional community clubs on October 1, with National 4-H week following October 7-13. This year we are also kicking off a new type of 4-H program called SPIN Clubs. SPIN clubs are shorter-term programs that provide 4-H experiences for busy families and growing communities. They are run by volunteers who have a special passion or interest they would like to share with youth. We are excited for this new adventure and are currently seeking volunteers in all Missouri counties.

If you or your organization would like to volunteer, utilize programing, resources, or foster a collaborative relationship please contact Christal Huber, 4-H Youth Specialist at or the University of Missouri Cole County Extension office at 573-634-2824.