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4-H Update: GotViva program aims to advance 4-H priorities

4-H Update by Megan Thorson

Megan Thorson is the 4-H program coordinator for the Freeborn County Extension Service.

University of Minnesota Extension 4-H Youth Development Program in Freeborn County had the opportunity to participate in a program titled GotViva, which stands for Growing 4-H Opportunities Together: Volunteers in Vision and Action.

Megan Thorson

GotViva is a planning and reflection process to see where the 4-H program is now and where we want to be at some point in the future. This process started back in February, when a group of local citizens of youth and adults were identified to be part of a steering committee to guide and assist with the development and implementation of the GotViva process. On the steering committee were representatives from The Arc of Freeborn County, Parks and Recreation, Semcac, a 4-H youth, a 4-H adult, a parent in the community, an extension committee member and a county commissioner, as well as the two 4-H staff.

The purpose of GotViva is to strengthen the volunteer system and structure to advance 4-H priorities, see what direction the 4-H program can take to fully contribute to the positive development of all young people, and identify potential organizational partners — who have mutual interest in working together to improve the scope and quality of youth development in our community.

GotViva included the collection and review of demographic information and 4-H program data, as well as the facilitation of focus groups. 4-H staff met with four focus groups that included 4-H youth, non 4-H youth, 4-H volunteers and non 4-H volunteers/adult professionals representing community organizations serving youth.

The same questions were asked at these focus groups that ranged from, “Do you know what 4-H is and its strengths in our county?” to “What do youth do?” or “Where do they go while they are not at school?” From these conversations with the four focus groups, staff analyzed the answers and pulled out top themes from the results.

The steering committee was then able to review the demographic data and themes from the focus groups to see what strengths, weaknesses and opportunities were out there for the Freeborn County 4-H program. The demographic data that was the most interesting to the group was the amount of free/reduced lunch youth in our community as well as the 4-H members that actually do not live in the county or attend school in this county.

The following were the top themes that came out from the focus group conversations.

There are two categories of youth — the ones who are super involved and the ones who have minimal involvement.

The current image is that 4-H is only for farm kids or kids who have animals. Freeborn County is becoming more diverse, and there are some who are simply unfamiliar with 4-H.

There are many opportunities for additional partnerships; there are many barriers to 4-H participation such as online enrollment, transportation to events and parental support or responsibilities at home.

From all of this information, the steering committee funneled this down and picked two priorities for Freeborn County 4-H to focus on — to identify active seniors or retirees that are willing to help support and mentor youth through sharing an area of expertise or interest and secondly, to start a new 4-H club in the town of Albert Lea that is focused on brand new families that are new to 4-H. A group of current 4-H volunteers met to come up with an action plan and action steps to take to accomplish these goals.

The University of Minnesota Extension and Freeborn County 4-H’s overall mission is to engage all youth and give opportunities to all youth in our community that will enable them to shape and reach their full potential as active citizens in our community.

To learn more about 4-H or this program, give the Freeborn County Extension Office a call at 507-377-5660.