• .

COLUMBIA, Mo. – It is a busy time of year in Missouri 4-H. Oct. 1 marked the beginning of the new 4-H year, and faculty, staff and volunteers are busy making sure everyone has what they need to start off right.

But on Sept. 29-30, more than 100 4-H faculty and staff all over the state took time to meet with one another online at the Missouri 4-H Fall Retreat. Why? Because we believe that all Missouri youth deserve the opportunity to join 4-H, the best positive youth organization in the world. Our team needed to get together and discuss our 2020-21 objectives and contribute to make the best even better. We took several hours to learn, refresh and recommit to the Missouri 4-H mission of engaging youths as valued, contributing members of their communities. In partnership with caring adults, we can provide those opportunities.

“Youth are the center of and reason for 4-H’s existence. With the support of our caring volunteers, we continue offering experiential learning opportunities,” said Lupita Fabregas, director of Missouri 4-H. “Supporting our youth to develop skills so they can achieve their full potential is our mission. We invite you to join our team as a 4-H member or volunteer!”

One of the keynote speakers for the conference was Mary E. Arnold, professor and extension 4-H youth development specialist at Oregon State University. Arnold is now on special assignment with National 4-H Council as director of youth development research and practice. Her recent work includes developing and testing the 4-H Thriving Model, which describes the process of positive youth development in 4-H programs.

Arnold’s keynote presented an overview of the 4-H Thriving Model and how it connects with 4-H’s Essential Elements of Youth Development and 4-H Common Measures 2.0, a system of evaluating program impact. This was the first of three presentations she will be giving to help Missouri 4-H implement the Thriving Model in its programs.

Our second keynote speaker, University of Illinois Extension marketing and communications manager Judy Mae Bingman, describes herself as a storyteller who “uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story.” She spoke about how to turn our messaging around to show off the real heroes of our story—the youth. She encouraged us to think about why we do what we do, and to use that “why” to show impact.

Missouri 4-H volunteers invest their heads, hearts and hands into growing a healthy youth development program. 4-H volunteer Aaron Baker, leader of the Home Pioneers 4-H Club in Macon County and former Missouri 4-H Council president, shared the importance of supporting our volunteers and letting them lead with the guidance of the 4-H team. He discussed the need for flexibility by volunteers to support youth development and also the importance of staff, volunteers and youth working together as one Missouri 4-H team.

Baker offered us his insights on giving youths a voice, providing them with leadership opportunities, and being innovative to meet their needs. “Most of our volunteers are busy moms and dads,” he tells us. Baker said he was encouraged by Missouri 4-H efforts to streamline programming and give our volunteers the tools to help deliver a quality program to members back home.

Under our 4-H volunteer leadership, 4-H members develop the confidence and skills to contribute to a world we have yet to imagine. Our volunteers across the state are planting the seeds of change by growing tomorrow’s leaders today. Missouri 4-H is grateful and inspired by our 4-H volunteer family.

The 4-H team set our Missouri 4-H 2020-21 goals, which include providing opportunities for all youth, growing and diversifying our reach and delivery modes, and offering our members more career-readiness opportunities.

“We are expecting a challenging year, but we are ready!” Fabregas says.