United Way believes that education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. As a Bureau County United Way member agency, University of Illinois Extension is providing educational programs for youth, ages 5-18, to engage them in learning about themselves and the world around them and provide opportunities to develop mastery and practice generosity.
4-H is the largest youth program in the world and its evidence–based success has been proven for over 100 years. 4-H provides youth with critical life skills. Through 4-H clubs, youth gain a sense of belonging within their groups, independence through decision-making and responsibility, a spirit of generosity toward others, and a variety of opportunities to master skills and knowledge. Research shows that young people who participate in 4-H clubs do better in school, are more likely to see themselves going to college, are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and they contribute more to their communities. 4-H programs also focus on learning employment skills, experiencing healthy relationships, becoming physically fit, thinking green, and engaging in science.
The local 4-H program offers many different opportunities for youth and family involvement. Bureau County has 4-H community clubs located across the county, programs at after-school sites, in-school programs, special events and workshops, and new Special Interest Clubs (SPIN) where youth meet to learn about a specific project or topic. New SPIN clubs include shooting sports clubs and after-school science clubs.
Science clubs provide youth the opportunity to learn about science, engineering and technology. This includes 4-H Science Special Interest Clubs, provided at after-school programs. Five local after-school programs are currently participating. Each month, youth in the Science SPIN Club will explore a different science concept, using a variety of hands-on, experiential, and/or inquiry-based activities. During the program, youth learn to think like scientists, as they complete activities, including making slime (polymers); writing and reading hidden messages (acid-base chemistry); discovering how balancing and spinning toys work; and more. These programs go beyond teaching basic science concepts — youth are also becoming engaged in learning, developing problem-solving skills, practicing effective communication, building their vocabulary, and learning how to learn. In addition, the program provides opportunities for local teens to practice generosity, by volunteering to assist younger youth with the projects.
But if you ask the students themselves, they’ll tell you the most important part of the program to them is that it is fun. “This is awesome!” and “Can you come back tomorrow?” are common comments from the programs, and many youth can be overheard asking their parents if they can do the experiments again at home. The after-school science program encourages youth to continue learning outside of school hours and to be excited about learning new things, developing life-long learners who value education and use their skills and knowledge to positively impact their communities.
In a recent local needs assessment, community leaders cited the need for expanded 4-H and youth development programming:
• To help youth learn about and experience possible career choices. Youth are expected to make career decisions at an earlier age. 4-H offers youth opportunities to learn more about themselves by exploring their interests, to build knowledge in areas of interest, and to develop and practice skills related to various career or employment interests including youth entrepreneurship.
To help youth learn life skills including but not limited to:
• Communication: including soft skills — interpersonal relationships, teamwork, communicating with others.
• Finances: learning about money management including budgeting, planning for the future, credit and more.
• Healthy nutrition and healthy active lifestyles including food choices, cooking skills, and the importance of daily physical activity.
• Leadership education and opportunities to experience leadership roles and practice skills.
• Living on your own and the responsibilities of adulthood.
University of Illinois Extension is grateful for the needed financial support of the Bureau County United Way which ensures that these vital educational programs are available for local youth, teens and their families.
For more information, call the Bureau County Extension Office, 850 Thompson St., Princeton, at 815-875-2878. The mission of the University of Illinois Extension is to deliver quality, relevant educational information in fiscally responsible manner. The goal is to help people develop skills; solve problems; and improve their families, farms, businesses and communities. The University of Illinois Extension provides unbiased research-based information to local residents. Visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/blmp/
The Bureau County United Way is located at 401 S. Main St. in Princeton and provides funding help for 15 local non profit member agencies, as well as providing a variety of community services. Call the Bureau County United Way at 815-872-0821 for information on how you can lend a helping hand to those in need in Bureau County.