4-H Thriving Model Evaluation Shows Impact of Program on Local Youth

Over the past year, Wisconsin 4-H has engaged in a process to evaluate the impact that the program has on the youth who participate in it. Over the past few years, a new model for viewing youth development programming, in particular the 4-H program, has been introduced around the country. 4-H remains the largest youth development organization and it is important to create ways for youth and leaders to understand the impact the program has on participants. It is also important to develop a means to better understand the reason the program exists in the first place. The 4-H Thriving Model was developed by an educator at Oregon State University, Mary Arnold. The model illustrates what components of a youth development program work to create an environment where youth develop positively.

The 4-H Thriving Model states that youth development programming should be based or grounded in four foundational components. 4-H programming contains Sparks, Belonging, Relationships, and Engagement. A program should provide a place for youth to explore their interests and passions-their Sparks. Belonging is the feeling that one belongs in a setting or program. Developmental Relationships with adults who are caring, challenge growth, and share power are part of the cornerstones of the 4-H program and vital to the development of thriving youth. Engagement in programming that provide this developmental context will lead to youth thriving.

How do we know 4-H youth are Thriving? When the following are observable in young people. Challenge and Discovery: Youth have a desire and willingness to try new challenges. Growth Mindset: Cultivate a growth mindset that emphasizes effort in learning over innate ability. Express a Hopeful Purpose: Believe in a hopeful future and purpose in life. Transcendent Awareness: Youth are connected to something greater than the self that provides meaning and purpose in life and shapes everyday thoughts and actions. Pro-Social Awareness: Demonstrate the pro-social values of respect, honesty, responsibility, empathy and helping. Positive Emotionality: Are able to express and manage emotions appropriately. Lastly, Goal Management: Set and manage goals, with perseverance toward goal achievement.

What does this look like in adulthood? Youth who thrive because of participation in 4-H aim for Academic Achievement and Motivation, Social Competence, High Personal Standards, Contribution to Others, Connection with Others, and Personal Responsibility.

Iron County had 14 youth complete the survey and in every category exceeded the scores of the state as a whole. This however doesn’t mean that we don’t have areas in which we could improve. Our lowest scores were in the area of Sparks. We have already taken steps to improve this by investing in new project areas and creating more opportunities for youth to explore new skills such as Nordic skiing and mountain biking. We should also be excited about the scores that relate to Belonging. The responses to the statement, “I feel like I matter in 4-H,” are especially positive. 100% of respondents rated this a 4 or better. Four is considered a good score in this evaluation. “I hope all youth feel that they matter and I am proud of these results,” said Youth Development Educator Neil Klemme. Klemme adds, “In a time when youth mental health is a growing concern, some say an epidemic, these results illustrate the impact 4-H can have on participants, building resiliency in youth and helping them to cope when things get tough.”


If you have any questions regarding the Thriving Model Survey results for Iron County, please contact:

Neil Klemme
4-H Youth Development Educator

Extension Iron County
300 Taconite Street, Suite 118
Hurley, WI 54534
Phone: 715-561-2695
Fax: 715-561-2704

Email: neil.klemme@wisc.edu


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