4-H Youth Mentoring Programs: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

National 4-H Council logo - 4-H youth development programs.What better time than the beginning of the year for our nation to recognize the immense importance and positive impact of mentoring on the lives of our nation’s youth.  For many of America’s youth, 4-H mentors are so much more than tutors or program leaders — they are hope, they are comfort, they are family. They are the pathway to a promising future.

4-H, America’s largest positive youth development and youth mentoring organization, empowers six million youth — approximately 50 percent girls — in every county and parish in the United States.

In partnership with our nation’s public universities, Cooperative Extension System and the United States Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National 4-H Council is committed to growing the next generation of STEM experts and leaders. The sky is the limit for millions of girls who participate in a variety of 4-H science programs.  Council is proud to be partnering with STEM Connector’s Million Women Mentors initiative to collectively tell our story and to ultimately make a difference in the lives of girls and young women.

4-H National Youth Science Day
The national rallying event for 4-H science, 4-H National Youth Science Day is an interactive learning experience that gets youth excited about STEM, and spotlights the many ways millions of youth are engaging in 4-H Science programs year-round.  In 2014, National 4-H Council, in partnership with 4-H professionals and mentors, engaged tens of thousands of girls and young women through the national science experiment, Rockets to the Rescue.

4-H youth testing their rockets for the 4-H NYSD Rockets to the Rescue experiment. 4-H youth completing the 4-H NYSD Rockets to the Rescue experiment. 4-H mentor reviewing 4-H youth's rocket for the 4-H NYSD Rockets to the Rescue experiment.

4-H Tech Wizards
In 2015, 4-H will also reach thousands of at-risk youth, including girls, through the 4-H Tech Wizards program developed by Oregon State University Extension.  4-H Tech Wizards is one of several programs offered through the 4-H National Mentoring Program, which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 4-H Tech Wizards is an after-school mentoring program for vulnerable youth, including girls, who are under-represented in STEM fields.  The science focused program prepares young people to enter the STEM workforce by teaching web site development, geospatial technologies, and robotics.

And there’s evidence that these programs work.

4-H Mentoring Works: Measurement and Evaluation
A decade-long longitudinal study conducted by Tufts University, The Positive Development of Youth: Comprehensive Findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, revealed 4-H programming does indeed get young people more connected to science. According to the study, 4-H’ers are two times more likely to participate in science programs during out-of-school time (grades 10-12) and 4-H girls are two times more likely (grade 10) and nearly three times more likely (grade 12) to take part in science programs, compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities.

Experts believe nearly all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some science, technology, engineering or mathematics training, including an estimated 2.8 million STEM jobs that will be created by 2018; however, studies show only 16 percent of American youth are interested in a STEM career.

“We realize that the STEM skills gap exists because there is a STEM attraction gap. Many young people, including girls, are simply not interested in STEM and don’t see its relevance for their personal success. Through 4-H National Youth Science Day and other STEM programming, we engage young people in more than 5 million science projects every year—providing exciting, hands-on projects that show young boys and girls how STEM works in real-world careers and that science can be fun.”  Jennifer Sirangelo, president & CEO, National 4-H Council

To learn more about all of the 4-H Science programs available to young people, visit www.4-h.org.

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