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Letter: Nurturing our most important crop through 4-H

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The most important crop that we raise in Minnesota is our young people. The future of our state depends on the skills and abilities of the next generation.

The challenge of preparing tomorrow's leaders is one reason I believe so strongly in youth organizations like 4-H, where young people take the lead in addressing today's challenges. Each year, more than 113,000 kids throughout Minnesota participate in 4-H and learn skills that they will use throughout their lives: exploring, learning, gaining confidence and giving back to their communities.

As we celebrate National 4-H Week October 3-9, I encourage you to take a look at your local 4-H and recognize the young people stepping up and taking responsibility for their future and ours. This is also a good time to say thank you to the 13,000 Minnesota adults who make a difference by volunteering their time to help 4-H participants each year. 4-H is Minnesota's largest youth serving program, providing young people with opportunities to learn and grow in all 87 counties.

I am a former 4-H'er who has benefitted from the way 4-H builds leadership ability, confidence and decision-making skills. What 4-H'ers "learn by doing" makes a difference not only in their lives, but in the lives of everyone around them. Minnesota 4-H'ers learn to work hard and set goals in projects ranging from exhibiting livestock to photography to rocketry.

Today, there are many ways to get involved in 4-H, including traditional clubs, after-school programs and outreach and community service projects.

A 2009 report on positive youth development from Tufts University confirmed the positive impact that 4-H has on young people. According to the study, young people who take part in 4-H:

• Have better grades and are more emotionally engaged with school;

• Score higher in their ability to make friends and work well with others;

• Are more than twice as likely to contribute to their communities;

• Are less likely to experience depression and 47 percent less likely to have risky or problem behaviors.

Minnesota is fortunate to have dedicated professionals and volunteers who invest time in programs that provide opportunities and guidance to our youth. At University of Minnesota Extension, we are proud to provide opportunities for 4-H participants to develop their "head, heart, hands and health" for the benefit of their families, their clubs, their communities, their country and their world.

To learn more about Minnesota 4-H, visit www.extension.umn.edu/youth/mn4-H.

To watch a short video of Minnesota 4-H in action, visit

www.extension.umn.edu/source.

Bev Durgan

University of Minnesota Extension

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