by Rachel Pienta | May 8, 2023
4-H functions most effectively as a youth-adult partnership that fosters positive youth development. Youth-adult partnerships can take several forms. One form is a mentoring relationship between a caring adult volunteer and a 4-H youth.
Mentoring is a relationship-based process that occurs over time. The mentoring process can be formal or informal. This blog post will explore what it means to be a mentor and the importance of mentoring roles in youth development. The person being mentored may be referred to as a protégé or as a mentee. Mentoring is not a one-way relationship. The relationship can fulfill professional and socioemotional needs for both mentor and protégé (Inzer & Crawford, 2005).
Formal mentoring tends to occur within an organizational structure. A senior member of an organization or an adult may be assigned to serve in a mentoring role to a new member or to a youth. Informal mentoring relationships are voluntarily formed between two people who choose each other (Inzer & Crawford, 2005). A third, hybrid approach known as youth-initiated mentoring (YIM) is also an option as a model and may be optimal for building mentor relationships in 4-H programs (van Dam L. B., 2021).
Mentors play one or more of these five roles for mentees.
5 Roles of the Mentor
The following mentoring roles can be accomplished within a formal or informal mentor relationship:
- Goal Setter: Help identify and prioritize the goals of the person you are mentoring.
- Adviser: Provide advice and guidance, often based on life experience and organizational knowledge.
- Cheerleader: Encourage positive actions and celebrate success.
- Growth Cultivator: Suggest activities that will help the person grow.
- Role Model: Serve as a model of potential success and provide real-life examples of how to surmount obstacles.
Goal Setter: The mentor as goal setter helps the youth to identify potential goals to set. Mentors can also play an important role in teaching youth how to balance and prioritize goals. For example, Susy may want to win a blue ribbon at the livestock show. At the same time, Susy is also trying to maintain a 4.0-grade average and work part-time. Susy’s mentor can help her to set realistic goals that help her to develop time management skills.
Adviser: It can be helpful for youth to learn from the experiences of others. For example, Michael wants to become state 4-H president. He has connected with adult volunteer Cory, who was state president when he was a 4-H youth. Cory serves as a sounding board and often shares how he learned from mistakes and was able to build on his successes to achieve his leadership goal.
Cheerleader: The cheerleader role may seem simple but also the most important. Celebrating youth successes – whether large or small – can make a big difference in a child’s life. Marking success with recognition and encouragement helps to reinforce positive behavior and helps to build a foundation for continued achievement. For example, Anna has been working on her aim during archer
y club practice. She wants to compete in an upcoming match. You observe her stance and coach her to adjust her posture. Anna is now able to hit the center target three out of four times. You praise her improvement and celebrate the achievement with her, sharing an exuberant high five.
Growth Cultivator: 4-H professionals and volunteers often refer to growing leaders and “making the best better” – the growth cultivator does these things. As a growth cultivator, a mentor helps to point youth in the direction of the next and most appropriate challenge that will help foster positive development. For example, Nathan has prepared a strong project board display for the county fair. You suggest he use that project board to develop an illustrated talk for district showcase.
Role Model: Serving as a role model for youth may seem like a full-time job! However, the key part of being a role model is honesty. Role models do not have to be perfect, but modeling honesty and how to be accountable when mistakes are made are critical elements of being a good role model. For example, you are usually early to club activities, greeting everyone with a smile and a personal acknowledgment when they come through the door. On the way to a district council meeting, you encounter heavy traffic and run late. When you arrive, your club youth members are already there and a 4-H agent has started the meeting. At the break, you shrug off your poor mood and tell your youth, “I didn’t leave early enough to allow for rush hour traffic. That is on me. I appreciate how you were all here on time and were able to participate in the meeting before I arrived.”
3 Key Elements of Effective Mentoring
A robust, growing body of research on youth mentoring suggests that a hybrid model of targeted mentoring and relational bond mentoring may produce the best outcomes for youth development (Christensen, 2020). Targeted mentoring involves a relationship focusing on a specific outcome or behavior – such as academic or career mentoring. Relational bond mentoring focuses on developing rapport and may present a more holistic approach. 4-H is built on a developmental model that uses this hybrid approach. Youth-adult relationships may initially form to reach specific goals – such as completing a project. Over time, as the youth becomes more involved with the program, relational bonds may develop. Research by Raposa et al (2019) suggests that effective youth mentoring involves an “interconnected set of three processes (i.e., social-emotional, cognitive, and identity formation processes) through which the establishment of close, caring relationships with non-parental adults are expected to promote positive developmental trajectories” (Raposa, 2019). Effective youth mentoring is likely to incorporate all three of these elements: social-emotional, cognitive, and identity formation processes.
How Does Youth-Initiated Mentoring (YIM) Work?
4-H can have an important role in providing a structured, safe environment where youth choose and develop mentoring relationships. One way to establish these type of mentoring relationships is youth-initiated mentoring (YIM). YIM is a hybrid approach in which youths and their families are helped to identify and recruit caring adult mentors from within their existing social networks (van Dam L. R., 2021).
The 4-H youth-adult partnership model provides a structure for helping youth to identify, recruit, and maintain connections with caring adults (van Dam L. B., 2021). The key elements in YIM are youth agency and choice in establishing and maintaining relationships.
Club leader teaches poultry anatomy to youth.
Which Type of Mentor Role Fits?
The mentor role that best fits you and your mentee may incorporate one or more of the five mentor roles. It is likely that at some point during a long-term mentoring relationship a mentor will have played all of the five roles in supporting their mentor.
Become a Mentor with 4-H!
As a 4-H volunteer, you will opportunities to serve as a mentor to youth looking to form relationships with caring adults. To learn more about how to get involved, reach out to your local UF/IFAS County Extension office.
- Christensen, K. H. (2020). Non-Specific versus Targeted Approaches to Youth Mentoring: A Follow-up Meta-analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 959–972.
- Inzer, L., & Crawford, C. (2005). A Review of Formal and Informal Mentoring: Processes, Problems, and Design. Journal of Leadership Education, 33-50.
- Raposa, E. R. (2019). The Effects of Youth Mentoring Programs: A Meta-analysis of Outcome Studies. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 423–443.
- van Dam, L. B. (2021). Youth Initiated Mentoring: A Meta-analytic Study of a Hybrid Approach to Youth Mentoring. J Youth Adolescence, 219–230.
- van Dam, L. R. (2021). Youth-Initiated Mentoring as a Scalable Approach to Addressing Mental Health Problems During the COVID-19 Crisis. JAMA Psychiatry, 818.
by Heather Kent | Dec 9, 2022
Our youth planning committee has been hard at work planning the 2023 Northwest Teen Retreat. This year’s theme is “Lights, Camera, Action!” and promises to be a fun-filled weekend of learning and friendship. The retreat will be held February 17-19 at 4-H Camp Timpoochee. Registration is open to all youth ages 12-18 in 4Honline. This event is planned for teens, by teens, and is designed to help youth develop and practice workforce-ready skills. Over the weekend, youth also have the opportunity to explore different 4-H project areas. Here’s a run-down of the agenda, and what to expect:
||After check-in, enjoy some pizza, tour the camp, and participate in District games. This year youth will have the opportunity to try to beat the adults!
||After breakfast, youth will have the opportunity to participate in a service project, learn about 4-H awards and scholarships, and how to deal with different personalities.
||After lunch, youth will select a fun shop to learn more about a 4-H project area. This year, our teen planning committee selected the following:
1. Grilling- learn about fire safety, food safety, and how to win a scholarship in the 4-H Tailgating Contest
2. Sports Fishing- Camp Timpoochee is a great place for fishing. Learn some angler skills and how to participate in the 4-H Sports Fishing Tournament and Skill a thon.
3. Cake Decorating- If you love those baking shows, then you will love this session! Practice decorating a cake with icing like a pro.
4. Dance- Get your exercise will learning some fun new line dances, as well as a few favorites.
5. Forensic Science- This session is about forensic entomology. Work as a team to solve the murder of a Florida Black Bear- a mystery solved by science!
||After dinner, walk the Red Carpet Saturday and dance the night away.
||As soon as breakfast is over, pack up and head home.
Thanks to generous sponsors, the registration fee is only $120 per youth and includes cabin accommodations, meals, workshop supplies, and a t-shirt. Your county 4-H program may be able to offer additional discounts or scholarships, so check with your local 4-H office before registering in 4Honline. Download this handy packing list to your phone.
If you have any questions, please reach out to your local UF IFAS Extension Office. Registration is open from December 16 through January 31st.
by Claire Davis | Feb 11, 2022
Like me, you make ask, what is a “sense of belonging”? Have you ever felt out of place when going to a club, meeting, or gathering? Do you remember how it made you feel? Maybe you were nervous, had a funny feeling in your stomach, a knot in your throat, or weren’t sure if you belonged?
Volunteer working with youth. Calhoun County Animal Science Camp 2021
One of the essential elements of 4-H Youth Development is belonging. Youth members need to know that they are important to you, cared for by others, and feel a sense of connection to the group they are in! As a facilitator of a 4-H activity, whether that be volunteer, adult, or Extension agent, it is important to provide youth with a safe, inclusive environment when participating in groups. When the facilitator creates a space where youth feel physically and emotionally safe, youth tend to form positive relationships with their peers and role models. Feeling connected to others will affect their behavior, mental health, academics, as well as other life skills. Creating this sense of belonging for all participants is a solid foundation to build a program on!
Now you may be asking, how on earth can I create a sense of belonging?
Since you are the adult facilitator in this setting, it’s your job to provide youth with the opportunity to feel safe during activities. To do this, use discussion questions that engage all the youth members, and encourage them to learn from each other. Below are a few ideas to foster this sense of belonging.
- Welcome new members. Youth who are already part of the group will feel more comfortable than those that are just starting. Assign existing members a role in welcoming newcomers, similar to a welcoming committee. 4-H and other group activities like team sports, can be overwhelming because there is a lot of information given, so think about preparing welcome packets for new members or families. These packets could include information on how to enroll in 4-H Online, club calendars, brochures, frequently asked questions, contact information, and more!
- Ice breakers. Ice breakers and team building activities are really important to help all members feel
Calhoun County Animal Science Camp Ice-Breaker. What is Agriculture? Summer 2021
comfortable with each other! These types of interactions help build relationships within the group. These are helpful when a group is just starting out, as well as continuing to build bonds overtime. Being deliberate in choosing these types of activities will help any group feel more cohesive. Adjust the activity to suit the group that is participating. Keep it simple for cloverbud age youth (5-7) or add challenges if the group is older or has been together for a period of time. “Ice breakers, get acquainted games, or even roll calls that ask questions about member’s interests (answer roll by making the sound of your favorite animal) can help members get to know each other better.” (Kent, 2015)
- Create a safe space. It may seem easy to create a safe space for youth and other adults but it’s much more difficult in practice! We all think about keeping youth safe physically, but what about the emotional aspect of safety? We must be aware of “microaggressions”, which is defined as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. As a leader, you will want to be able to identify these so you can educate and redirect the situation. It is our job, as adults, to help youth, and other adults, understand the impacts of their words. Creating a shared set of ground rules for everyone to follow can help everyone feel comfortable, knowing the expectations of the group as well as having a voice in creating the space.
Intro to Animal Handling- Gulf County Summer Camp 2021
- Encourage engagement. Engaging youth members can be done in multiple ways! Various options include using discussion questions, club committees, or even silly ice breaker games – anything constructive to grab and hold their attention. Using discussion questions allows youth to learn from each other while also encouraging a sense of curiosity for life-long learning. Having different committees allows for smaller work groups, which is much less intimidating than a single large group. It is easier for opinions and thoughts to be heard in a smaller setting. Ice breakers may seem silly, but they are a fun and wonderful way to get youth involved.
While a sense of belonging is important for youth, it may take some time and intentionality to create the space to provide the sense of belonging. Our youth members come from all different walks of life and as the adult leader, you must think about the challenges youth may face that makes them different. Some youth may look different physically; some may come from a family that has never done 4-H; some may have experienced trauma; some may have special needs.
A 4-H club, program, or activity can provide a space that youth belong to, as well as allowing them to learn invaluable life skills. Adults, volunteers, and agents are essential to creating this space, while also helping other members see how to increase the sense of belonging for others. What will you do to help make all members feel welcome?
Creating a Welcoming Environment in 4-H Clubs
by bestevez | Jul 22, 2021
Did you know that UF/IFAS Extension and UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) offer an internship program to UF students? The internship program’s goal is to benefit interns through a unique service-learning opportunity and mentoring by professional educators while providing support to UF/IFAS Extension faculty and the communities they serve. This program typically has interns serve in-person at their selected Extension Office. In 2021, four UF students interned at Northwest District Extension Offices.
Deanna Brock-Escambia County
Deanna Brock is originally from Pasco County and is a current Agricultural Education and Communication undergrad at the University of Florida (UF). As former Florida 4-H member, Deanna has utilized her knowledge of the program to assist with day camps, judging teams, and county council. She has shared her knowledge of the Florida 4-H Tailgating Competition to enhance our Tailgating Day Camp and create a Florida 4-H Tailgating Handbook. While assisting with the day camps, Deanna has experienced different teaching styles, with different age groups, and successfully lead numerous group activities such as baking and flying drones. She looks forward to expanding her knowledge of graphic design and video creation, and honoring youth at the awards banquet.
Zyreshia Jackson is a Family, Youth, and Community Sciences major who will graduate from the University of Florida (FL) in August 2021. During her time at the Bay County Extension Office, she has created numerous educational videos for our day camps and projects, helped facilitate multiple trainings, and has been an integral part of our 4-H program. In May, Zyreshia also presented a training that she worked on as a part of her class project. For this training she developed the curriculum, a presentation, and supplemental material that focused on Social-Emotional Learning and resilience. After graduation, Zyreshia will pursue a master’s degree from Texas A&M in Public Service and Administration.
Taylor Paynter is a graduating senior with a degree in Environmental Science. Her summer internship at the UF/IFAS Bay County Extension office has been filled with programs, fieldtrips, and learning opportunities. Some highlights of her 8-week program have been assisting with Florida Panhandle Scallop Sitters, artificial reefs, and editing immersive dive videos.
Carlos, a Food Science undergrad at UF, has been a true asset to the summer program. He has created numerous educational videos for our virtual culinary day camp, actively taught lessons at a food preservation workshop, grilling day camp and as part of a nutrition lesson at a local library. Additionally, as part of his class project, he has created a closed Google site field to fork day camp that will be part of the Liberty County 4-H toolkit for future day camps.
The Northwest District thanks Deanna, Zyreshia, Taylor, and Carolos for all of their hard work with our clientele and we hope to see them soon as colleagues.
For more information on the UF/IFAS CALS student internship program, visit https://cals.ufl.edu/getinvolved/extension_internships/.