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How to Develop Life Skills in 4-H Members

Three teens sitting at a table with 4-H and American flags on the table.

Community clubs play a key role in West Virginia 4-H as they provide youth opportunities to have fun, socialize, and engage in educational activities and guest speakers. For many youth, community clubs are where they first experience 4-H and for all youth, community clubs are where they develop important leadership and life skills, like public speaking, civic engagement, community resource development and so much more!

If you are a 4-H volunteer professional in West Virginia who provides leadership to a community club in your area, then it is important to be aware of and remind yourself often of these skills. We hope this will keep your why ignited and help you make intentional choices about the opportunities you plan for your youth that are focused on these key leadership and life skills.

This page is intended to provide you - the West Virginia 4-H volunteer professional - with a brief, easy to consume overview of the 4-H Community Club priorities in West Virginia, as well as practical examples of how you can support your youth in developing key leadership and life skills through your community club program.

West Virginia 4-H Club Priorities

West Virginia 4-H Community Clubs have four main priorities, including:
  1. provide youth with opportunities to lead with the support of caring adults,
  2. help youth develop important life skills (i.e. public speaking, civic engagement, community development, etc.)
  3. allow youth a safe space to socialize productively with their peers,
  4. and most importantly - HAVE FUN!

It is through these four West Virginia 4-H club priorities that opportunities for leadership and life skill development are created for our youth in community clubs. If you would like to learn more about best practice for running a business meeting in your community club, please review "This is 4-H" project book for an introduction. A key take away from this resource is to make sure the business meeting is kept under 20 minutes.

Leadership Skill Development

For example, youth are able to develop their leadership skills within their 4-H community club experience as they:

  • learn how to effectively manage a group
  • lead by example
  • provide support to their peers

Life Skill Development

West Virginia 4-H community clubs provide youth with a range of ways in which to develop important life skills across a variety of areas, including:

Continue reading to find out more about how 4-H community clubs support youth in developing these important life skills.

Public Speaking

4-H'er giving lamb health visual presentation in barn

You - as the leader and 4-H volunteer professional- can provide youth with opportunities to develop their public speaking skills in your 4-H community club in a range of ways. For example, you can encourage youth to practice their public speaking skills each meeting by asking for a volunteer to lead the club in reciting the 4-H pledge. You can also help support your members in crafting a presentation for the State 4-H Presentation Expo that occurs annually in April.

Here are other ideas you can draw on to support this skill within your community club:
  • support youth in learning how to make a motion during a business meeting
  • provide older youth members with opportunities to lead the business meeting
  • help youth make a report
  • encourage youth to give a demonstration related to their 4-H project book or other spark
  • when relevant, allow youth to participate in news media interview

Civic Engagement

Mountain Movers 4-H Club in Greenbrier County hold annual dinner in Renick, WV to honor veterns on Veterans Day

Engaging youth in community service activities and/or service - learning projects, like animal welfare, environmental concerns, food insecurity, and personal health support, is a great way to support them in developing their civic engagement skills.

If you would like to learn more about additional community service ideas for your club, we have a great resource for projects related to United States Flag Holidays.

Other ideas include:
  • Supporting youth in communicating - both written and verbally - with elected and other community leaders.

Community Resource Development

Money growing in the soil.

One of the most common ways 4-H community clubs support youth in developing their community resource development skills is through fundraisers. Through this process, youth are able to raise money to support a cause, while they are learning important skills, like how to:

  • organize a fundraiser
  • interact with the public (i.e. customer service) 
  • make decisions
  • solve problems
  • collaborate productively with peers and adults
  • budget and handle money

Youth also develop greater competence with this skill as they hold an office within their community or serve as a committee member on a special project related to their club work.

Personal Health and Family Well-Being

mother and daughter on yoga mat

You can help foster important personal health and family well-being skills in your club by providing youth with opportunities to:

  • set up an annual club budget or an event budget
  • attending meetings and activities (such as picnics) as a family
  • completing a Project Book & Exhibit

You can also support this skill by offering healthy snacks at your club meeting, planning recreation time at each meeting/activity, and providing Health Officer activities.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and Agriculture

An Ohio County 4-H youth works on a STEMCare project.

Youth can develop important skills related to STEM, including agriculture, as they participate in:

  • a livestock program
  • an environmental community service project
  • an online event or program through 4-H (local or statewide)
  • educational activities/programs offered at a club meeting
  • being a member of a Robotics team
  • serving as the club’s treasurer

Although your club may not focus on livestock or robotics, it is still important - as a community club leader - to consider how you can incorporate STEM and/or agriculture in your 4-H community club program. This can easily be done during your educational component time, as well as being aware of events happening in your county and at the state-level that relate to this content area. Even if you do not feel confidence in your own STEM and agriculture skills, this is a great opportunity to find a local expert within your community who could serve as a guest speaker or lead an activity related to STEM.

Workforce Development

A stack of papers in a folder on a desk with three pencils and a vase of flowers.

Lastly, workforce development is another life skill fostered in youth through their participation in your  4-H community club program. These skills are grown as youth:

  • complete a Project Book & Exhibit (i.e. career exploration)
  • run for an office
  • hold an office
  • serve as a committee chair
  • plan an activity or event
  • develop their soft skills (i.e. communication skills, motivation, teamwork, conflict management)

Whether it is learning more about topics of interest or gaining more soft skills, 4-H community club participation helps prepare youth for when they enter the workforce.