This year, the Iowa 4-H Foundation created a new funding opportunity called the 4-H Forward Grant. Designed as seed investments for an innovative local program, through these grants, we hope counties will be able to better recruit and retain members, reach new audiences and grow local capacity. Four proposals were selected from a competitive pool, to receive a total of $35,000 over a three-year period, beginning in 2024. These funds were allocated through the Program Endowment Fund. Congratulations to these grant recipients!
Emmet County: 4-H Soccer for Success
To better engage the Latino population, Emmet County will hire a summer bilingual Soccer for Success coordinator who will be responsible for recruiting coach-mentors, recruiting participants, working with partners, scheduling events, managing risks, and connecting with families. Goal: To increase the diversity of youth participating in Emmet County 4-H by 10% and increase youth enrolled in long-term opportunities in Emmet County by 15%.
Hamilton County: First-Year Forward Cohort Program
The First Year Forward Cohort program will meet every other month for the span of one 4-H year, as a way to help orient new members and families to the 4-H Program and increase retention of 4-H members. Meetings will cover the basics of 4-H, what it means to be in 4-H, and the educational goals of 4-H. A free meal for each 4-H’er and their family along with childcare will be provided each month. Goals: Increase re-enrollment by 10%.
Linn County: Igniting SPARK 4-H Clubs to Engage Youth and Address Community Needs
SPARK-based 4-H clubs will be created for youth interested in horticulture with a goal to help address food insecurity in Linn County. Clubs will be led by newly recruited community volunteers who will be trained 4-H club volunteers with the option to become trained Master Gardeners. This unique crossover opportunity between 4-H and the Master Gardeners will leverage expertise and passion of the volunteers while creating a high-quality learning experience. Goal: To reach 50 youth.
Louisa County: Special Interest 4-H Club Expansion
This project will build capacity and focus on positive youth development and extend reach to non-traditional audiences through First Lego League focused 4-H Clubs. Louisa County is a recreational desert and has few opportunities for youth to access STEM programming--two new First Lego League 4-H Clubs will help meet this need and reach a more diverse audience. Goal: To help youth develop critical thinking skills, participate in civic engagement, develop leadership attributes and encourage independence.
4-H Connect: Reaching New Communities
The 4-H Connect program is a three-day retreat designed to use cultural strengths to introduce untapped and underserved youth to their local 4-H program, introduce volunteers and staff to culturally based leadership development best practices, and connect youth to post-secondary educational opportunities and resources available through Iowa State University.
Young people also participated in fun and educational activities and presentations on topics ranging from resume writing and leadership to lifestyle budgeting, personality styles, teamwork and communication, dancing, soccer and art.
“4-H Connect helped me come out of my comfort zone and learn how to work with new people,” said participant Bethany Espinoza.
Youth also shared that they learned more about the importance of speaking up for themselves and how to achieve their goals by listening to experiences from those of differing cultures.
“The youth who attended this retreat are full of energy and inspire me to continue reaching all youth in the state through 4-H programming,” said Lorena Dorado-Robles, 4-H recruitment, retention and engagement specialist.
Participants left the experience feeling positive and encouraging others to attend the program in the future.
“If opportunities like this come, don’t be afraid to grab them, it’s all about connecting with other youth that look like us,” said participant Leverny Loanis.
Bridging the Gap: Retaining Clover Kid Members
Wapello County is well known for their Clover Kids Program, annually serving over 250 youth. An outstanding partnership with local elementary schools has been key to this success. What has been a challenge, however, has been retaining Clover Kids members into 4-H. To address that challenge, a similarly structed club was created at Liberty Elementary, which serves 4th-6th grades.
In eight lessons the club covered topics including healthy living, financial literacy, community engagement and introduced them to the opportunities provided by 4-H in our community. Each month, they were introduced to a 4-H member so they could make connections with other local 4-H kids. Club members also planned three community service project.
The Liberty After School Adventure 4-H Club was successful in not only retaining Clover Kids members, but recruiting new members as well. Out of eleven members, four were previously Clover Kids and seven were completely new to 4-H. Three members participated in the 4-H Expo.
One parent shared that her daughter Rebecca always loved coming to Liberty After School Adventure Club. “She was constantly thinking of projects she could make for Expo!”
The Liberty After School Adventure 4-H Club received a Program Grant from the Iowa 4-H Foundation which provided enrollment fees for members and covered supplies for the club.