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4-H Citizenship in Action: Learning the Advocacy Process

Citizenship, sometimes referred to as civic engagement, is a pillar of the 4-H program.  A key part of guiding youth to develop as citizens is helping them to find and use their voice.  One way to help youth in this discovery and skill building process is through learning advocacy. The simplest way to define advocacy is to think about it as being a process of defending or promoting a cause. When advocacy becomes linked with civic engagement, youth can become engaged in a powerful experiential learning process.

Advocacy Opportunities

4-H members have several opportunities to learn and apply advocacy skills in programs such as 4-H Day at the Capitol, 4-H Legislature, and the National 4-H Conference. However, advocacy can be an important part of the community club experience for all 4-H youth.

In 4-H, youth have opportunities to learn communication and leadership skills that can help them to become effective advocates for themselves and others. A community service project may involve an advocacy component.   For example, youth in one county participated in a community clean up effort.  The youth were assigned to clean a small park.  While they were cleaning the park, they noticed that trash containers were not located in visible locations.

After the clean up project, youth discussed the park conditions at their next club meeting.  The youth started discussing ways to improve the park and to help discourage littering. Their club leader introduced the SMART goals planning process to the club. The officers led the club members through the SMART process to develop a plan.

Putting SMART Goals to Work

Through the SMART planning process, the club took several important advocacy steps:

  • Identified and researched an issue,
  • Engaged in goal setting and planning,
  • Reached out to decisionmakers,
  • Presented information including possible solutions.

As a result of their experience, 4-H members learned how to address a community issue, ways to engage key decisionmakers, and saw their actions make an impact when county officials added trash containers in visible locations along with public signage.

Advocacy Learning Opportunities

4-H March for Health is an event that advocates for living a more active lifestyle

4-H Virtual 5K advocates for making small changes for a more healthy lifestyle

Opportunities to have youth engage in hands on advocacy experiences may involve community problem-solving.  Youth can also learn advocacy skills by working to raise awareness about issues.  For example, February is American Heart Month.  Youth can engage in advocacy about heart health in several ways:

  • Wear red and encourage others to wear red to raise awareness about heart health.
  • Set exercise goals such as a walking goal to help improve heart health and challenge others to join your effort.
  • Promote heart healthy nutrition by asking local restaurants to feature a special healthy menu item during February.
  • Ask the county commission or city council to issue a proclamation for American Heart Month.

American Heart Month is just one example of healthy living focused advocacy.  Each month of the year has several associated health awareness campaigns. By choosing to advocate for better health, 4-H members can address two pillars at the same time: advocacy and healthy living. You can also tie this campaign into our 4-H Virtual 5K, which occurs every March and encourages youth and adults to walk or run.

Celebrate 4-H and Practice Advocacy Skills

National 4-H Week is celebrated every October and offers a great way for youth to develop advocacy skills by raising awareness about 4-H.   Ideas may include but are not limited to writing letters to the local paper, securing a prominent spot to set up a 4-H exhibit, requesting a proclamation from local government officials, or engaging in a community service project.

Tips for a successful advocacy learning experience:

  • Start planning early.
  • Use SMART goal planning process.
  • Remember to celebrate success and say thank you.

For more information about 4-H programs and additional advocacy resources, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

 

Resources

4-H Project Learning

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/4H/4H34300.pdf

National Awareness Months

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/health-awareness-months#march

Strategies for Engaging and Communicating with Elected Officials

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wc324

 

 

 

Public Relations for 4-H Clubs

4-H Public Relations CalendarLast week, we wrote about ways that marketing can support 4-H clubs, projects and individual members. Marketing is the first step towards public relations. While marketing helps establish general interest in your club, project or program, public relations is about building relationships with people in your community to establish and maintain a favorable public image.

While the 4-H agent works to maintain a favorable overall public image of 4-H, clubs, volunteers, parents and members contribute to that image whether they realize it or not. Why should parents, volunteers and youth be concerned with 4-H public relations?

  1. The 4-H program image reflects on its faculty, staff, volunteers and families (and vice versa)
  2. Positive relationships with the public can open doors and opportunities for 4-H youth
  3. A positive image attracts positive people who are willing to work hard to “make the best better”

How can you support positive 4-H public relations?

  • Share your story– You can support a positive reputation and image of 4-H by sharing your story as a volunteer, parent, member or alumni. It doesn’t have to be a formal presentation either. When 4-H comes up, share why you are a part of it, how it benefits you and how to get involved.
  • Give back to the community– Annually, 4-H asks members and volunteers to give their “hands to larger service” through service learning. Members identify a problem and plan to solve that problem through service. When clubs serve their community, it promotes a positive image of the 4-H program, club and everyone involved. Most importantly, youth are learning generosity and compassion by making their community a better place. Check out this recent post for some COVID-safe service project ideas.
  • Engage with the public– While large community events are not encouraged during these current COVID times, you can promote your club and the 4-H program by tying into National Days. For example, if you are part of a livestock club, you can read a book about agriculture to promote Ag Literacy Week, post your video on social media, and invite teachers to share the video with their students. Not only does this activity reflect highly on your club, it also promotes the agriculture industry. There are lots of opportunities throughout the year to tie into national days. For inspiration, 4-H PR Calendar.

Promoting a positive 4-H image sets the stage for advocacy, which develops support for your club or program. It’s important for volunteers, parents and members to be strong advocates for the 4-H program to secure support from your local decisionmakers and donors. Next week’s post will focus specifically on advocacy, which uses a positive image to take action to support your club.

Marketing, Public Relations and Advocacy: A Pyramid of Support

Pyramid explaining the relationship between marketing (base), public relations (middle) and advocacy (tip of pyramid)

Marketing provides a foundation for public relations and advocacy. All three actions have implications for volunteers, parents and members.

The terms marketing, public relations and advocacy are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. However, all three of these actions support our 4-H clubs and projects. Over the next couple of weeks, we will break down each term and talk about how 4-H volunteers and members can use these actions to benefit their clubs and projects.

Marketing is simply the act of generating interest in your 4-H club or project. It can be through word of mouth, media, or displays at community events or businesses. Public relations goes a step further than just generating interest; it is about promoting a club or program’s reputation and image. Advocacy is the most advanced action of the three, and it is the act of using a program’s reputation and value to generate public and even monetary support.

At first glance, you might think that marketing is the responsibility of the 4-H agent, and it is (at least for the total 4-H program). However, marketing has important implications at the club and individual member levels that volunteers, parents and youth should consider:

  1. Marketing the Club- recruit additional members and volunteers
  2. Marketing the Project- generate interest in project sales or secure a buyer for a market animal project
  3. Marketing your Skills- use 4-H experiences to market workforce skills for your resumé and prepare for school, scholarship or job interviews.

Marketing the 4-H Club

In order to be chartered, clubs must have a minimum of five youth from at least two different families. Marketing is a great way to recruit members for new clubs, but sometimes club rosters may dwindle due to circumstances beyond the volunteer’s or parent’s control such as a change in job, move to a different community, schedule change or even a change in school. A static display at the local library or school or even a press release or social media post can generate new members for your club.

Another reason why volunteers may want to engage in marketing relates to diversity and inclusion. 4-H is a three-way partnership between the federal, state and local governments. As such, 4-H is a non-discriminatory program and annually, 4-H programs must provide evidence that their programs are open to all. If your club is not representative of your community’s demographic make-up, your 4-H agent may ask you to conduct “All Reasonable Efforts.” This is a process to verify that the club has made efforts to engage youth who are representative of their community. Your local 4-H agent can help you identify opportunities to market your club and record those efforts on the “All Reasonable Efforts” checklist.

Marketing the 4-H Project

One of the great things about 4-H is it is a safe place for youth to learn about business and entrepreneurship. Many (if not most) 4-H projects offer opportunities for youth to learn financial literacy skills. Whether it is selling an animal for food, or so that other youth can start a herd or flock, there are opportunities for youth to market their project to generate sales or secure a buyer for their animal. Check out this website from Penn State on tips for identifying potential buyers, drafting a letter to buyers and how to prepare your personal sales pitch.

Marketing Your Skills

To be prepared for work and life, 4-H youth need to learn how to present themselves to potential employers. It can be hard to get that first job or internship when you have no previous experience. Use your 4-H project, leadership and citizenship experiences!  The 4-H “Marketing You” worksheet can help you identify marketable workforce skills you have learning through your 4-H experiences to make you a competitive applicant for a job, scholarship or entry into college or trade school. The Florida 4-H Next Stop Job program walks you through how to:

It’s not too late to apply for Community Pride Funds!

4-H Guide to Community Pride Grants4-H clubs and individual members of all ages are eligible to participate in a Community Pride Project. This project is a great way to directly impact your community through a special service learning project of your choice. Service learning is an experiential learning activity and you can read more about what service learning is here or here.

Community Pride is a service learning program. The objectives of the Community Pride Program are:

  • Youth learn about their community and the impact the community has on their lives.
  • Youth understand how to relate to their community as individuals and through group cooperation so they can effectively work in community activities, programs, and organizations.
  • Youth develop skills and knowledge in community leadership.
  • Youth gain experience carrying out community projects to improve their environment.
  • Youth develop an interest in and love for their community.

How Does Community Pride Work?

4-H member setting up trap for feral cat in community

4-H member in Martin County sets up a trap for feral cats as part of the Community Pride Project Photo by: Natalie Parkell

During the project a community issue is identified, a service project is selected, a plan is implemented by the group, and reflection and reporting take place.

What types of projects can you complete through the Community Pride Grant?

That is up to you! The best thing about the project is that you get to select your service learning project based on you community’s need. There are five main steps to the Community Pride Project and those are listed in detail below. Martin County 4-H members received a Community Pride Grant to help combat feral cats in their neighborhood and you can read more about it here. Broward County 4-H members have completed a variety of projects through this program and you can see the variety of projects here. If you would like to receive a Community Pride Grant to complete a service project of your choice, follow the steps below and contact your county 4-H Agent for assistance.

Cat that was captured and released after being neutered through a Martin County 4-H Project

One of the cats that was captured, neutered, and released as part of Martin County 4-H’s Community Pride Project combating feral cats. Photo by: Natalie Parkell

Step 1: Community Needs Assessment

A Needs Assessment might sound intimidating and complicated, but it is a very simple step. Think of a needs assessment as a brainstorming session with the club members. They will share their input from their personal experiences in the community to figure out what project should be selected. It is important for this part to be youth-led because you want to select a project that has a community need and an interest from the youth. During the brainstorming session you will also come up with potential solutions to the problem.

Step 2: Creating a Project Plan

The next step is to create a project plan based on the ideas that were generated during the brainstorming session. Youth will select a solution that they can work towards and this solution will be the project. It is important to consider what steps will need to be completed to make the solution a reality (i.e. supply needs, work days, locating community partners, and more).

Step 3: Submit a Project Proposal 

Your next step is to submit a proposal. All 4-H groups (or individual members) who would like to participate in this program must submit a proposal for funding of their Community Pride Project. Proposals accepted from the county must be emailed to 4hcontests@ifas.ufl.edu at the State 4-H Headquarters by the January 11, 2021 deadline date to be considered for the current 4-H years funding. Groups that are awarded funding will be notified via email in February with further instructions on your n

Step 4: Implement your Project

Now for the fun part! This is where you get to put your project plan into action and complete your community project. You will create your own timeline and schedule for the project and it will need to be completed between February through May 2021.

Step 5: Evaluate and Report

After your project is complete, it is time for you to reflect on all your hard work. During this time you will also evaluate the project and submit an official report to the state office by June 1, 2021. The state 4-H Office will conduct judging of all the completed projects during the first week of June. Participants in the Top Five Projects will be invited to a recognition breakfast!

2021 Community Pride Grant Important Dates:

  • January 11th, 2021 – Project Proposals Due
  • February 2021 – Grant Monies Disbursed
  • February to May 2021 – Project Implementation
  • June 1st, 2021 – Project Reports Due

Looking for COVID-19 “friendly” Service Project Ideas?  Check out this earlier post for suggestions!

Spirit of Giving through Community Service in 4-H

Care stockings for elderly residents.

Amid holiday season, one of the busiest times of the year, it’s a great opportunity to find ways to serve others.  There are many activities that will allow you to safely relieve the fatigue of quarantine, virtual school and zoom meetings by getting into the spirit of giving through 4-H service projects.

Traditionally, community service projects would include a group of 4-H members banding together one day to clean yards for the elderly or visit nursing homes or volunteer at local shelters.  Although COVID-19 limits many forms of our traditional service projects, youth and their families can still coordinate amazing opportunities amidst our new normal of social distancing.  Remember, while participating in any 4-H affiliated programs or projects, all members, families, and volunteers must adhere to our safety protocols which include but are not limited to wearing masks the entire time, remaining 6-feet apart, hand sanitizing and washing regularly, and more found here.

Here are some safe alternatives to implement with your local 4-H program, club, or businesses:

  • Power Hour Yardwork– If outside activities are your forte, have families sign up to clean one location together as a family unit. Remain masked, gloved, and wash hands regularly to ensure safety of yourself and others.  Set obtainable goals for your one-hour timeframe to limit traffic and need for the use of facilities.
  • Business Lawn Decorating- Some business, such as Elderly Rehabilitation Centers and Nursing Homes, allow outside groups to decorate the outside areas of their facilities for the holidays. This is a great way to show off your creative side and even drum up some friendly competition. Remember to follow UF COVID guidelines (wear masks, social distancing, etc).
  • 4-H Care Stockings- Pack stockings with hygiene items, socks, word games, and/or prewrapped snacks and deliver them to long term care facilities or even local businesses. Be sure to include information on 4-H, whether it be a card, business card, or 4-H pledge bookmark!  You never know where we may find new 4-H Volunteers or members.
  • 4-H Book Buddies- Find a facility that would allow you to read a book (even better if you dressed in character) to their clientele. While this may not be feasible in person with COVID restrictions, offer to pre-record a session and either email or share the link!
  • Food Drives- Set up a location (preferably at your 4-H office) for locals to donate unperishable items in containers that can be sprayed with disinfectant spray. Work with your 4-H Agent or other adults to set up where these items will be distributed to.
  • 4-H Furever Gifts- Put those sewing (or tying) skills to good use and make some dog toys, blankets, or beds out of old t-shirts or jeans. These make perfect donation pieces to pet shelters and rescue facilities!
  • 4H Pen Pals- Contact your local elderly residential facilities to see if 4-H members could submit cards/letters to residents. Be sure to speak to someone in management to get approval for contact information.  Another alternative to this would be to contact classroom teachers and ask if you can send a letter or card to the class.  This would be a great way to recruit future 4-H’ers too as you share your own stories!

    4-H’ers packed pillow case hygiene packs for residents at the Chautauqua Rehabilitation Center.

Service projects are an excellent method of targeting life skills in the “head and heart” areas of the targeting life skills model.  Teaching our youth to care about others instills empathy while teaching them the spirit of giving activates community service volunteering.  For more ways to volunteer in your county, check with you local 4-H office and seek ways that you can volunteer with 4-H today!

4-H Celebrates November Month of the Military Family

Image with flag and military members saying Military Family Appreciation Month

Courtesy photo from https://media.defense.gov

When you think of military service, what words come to mind … training, deployments, relocation, freedom, service, and sacrifice? One word that most people overlook is… Family! According to National Child and Traumatic Stress Network “November was first declared as Military Family Month in 1996. Since then, November has been a time to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices our military families make. They contend with separation from their families and make adjustments to new living situations and communities. Military Families embody strength, resilience, and courage. Care of military families and children sustains our fighting force, and strengthens the health, security, and safety of our nation’s families and communities.”

Help 4-H recognize the Military Family this month. Many of us live in a community with active duty military families, and almost every community has a Guard or Reserve family that you may not realize are service members. These individuals have a different job in the community and serve in times of need.

For those of us without a military background, it can be difficult to know how to be supportive. You may want to meet military family’s needs but don’t know where to begin. Therefore, we have put together a few ideas to help you on your supportive journey.

  • Create something decorative to cheer up a veteran’s nursing home room. Picture, Mandala, Bookmark
  • If you have a new military family come to your community welcome them to the neighborhood or school. Help them find their way around, give them a list of best places in your community and your phone number in case they need help.
  • Leave a care package with family friendly activities and self-care items. Operation Gratitude and Operation Care & Comfort are two organizations that do this for military members.
  • Volunteer to babysit or take a child to a practice and give the military parent a break especially if one of the parents is deployed. Just having someone they can trust offer help is a big gift!
  • Volunteer your time to provide companionship, serve a meal, assemble holiday packages. Veterans’ advantage has a list of trusted organizations and nonprofits if you don’t have a person in mind.
  • Deliver a meal or prepare something that they can take from the freezer and put in the oven or microwave as a quick meal.
  • Send a thank you note expressing your appreciation for the family’s support of our Military.
  • Offer to cut grass, clean, or help with household chores.
  • Offer to run errands – doing a grocery run, picking up dry cleaning, and other errands can ease the burden of juggling responsibilities while a military member is deployed.
  • Adopt a family for the holidays. Holidays can be hard when a service member is deployed or doesn’t have family in the local area. Include military families in your holiday plans – holiday dinners, festivals, baking, etc. If you do not have a family locally Soldier Angels can help you to adopt a family.
  • Treat a service member or veteran to a holiday stocking filled with items to bring them some cheer. If you don’t have someone in your local area, Soldiers Angels Stockings For Heroes is a national organization doing this. https://soldiersangels.org/holiday-stockings-for-heroes/
  • Offer to board a military family’s pet while the family goes on vacation or takes a trip. Dogs on Deployment or PACT Military Foster Program
  • Donate to local or national military support programs or gift your airline miles to Hero Miles Program.  It supports wounded, injured, and ill service members and/or their families who are undergoing treatment at a medical facility.

We hope you and your family will consider doing something to recognize our military families this month. Also, if you have a family with kids, take them to visit a war memorial and discuss the meaning of service and sacrifice, and that this is something to remind us of the people who served in and died as a result of war. Help them understand the sacrifices of our military families to make our lives better and ensure our basic freedoms. I have been told by friends who are military families that even the “little things” can make a big difference to a military family. Please join us in celebration of National Military Families Month by adopting or supporting a military friend or support organization in 2020.

Written by Jennifer Sims and Paula Davis