Perhaps you have heard the analogy that the 4-H agent is like the principal of the school, and volunteers are the teachers. Fair point. Not a bad analogy. However, the good principals take time to get dirty on the playground now and then.
Whenever I hear someone say that in 4-H we “don’t really work with youth, we work with volunteers” I cringe. Frankly, I make no apologies that I got into this line of work because I wanted to work with youth.
I work with youth because I believe in positive youth development.
I work with youth because I am well-trained and effective at developing programs that bring about positive outcomes in youth.
I work with youth because I believe it’s necessary for me to always do some direct service programs with youth so that I never lose my edge.
I work with youth because I believe youth are cool, and surrounding myself with them makes me a better person.
Therefore, I make no apologies that I do, and enjoy, working with youth.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to work with volunteers, parents, stakeholders, etc.
Quite the opposite is true. I believe in positive HUMAN development, and that all of our 4-H clientele can benefit from our programs.
I also absolutely recognize I can’t work with every youth. If I only let my program grow as far as what I alone can handle, then I am cheating my program out of it’s true potential and that is a disservice to the youth we are trying to serve. THAT, my friends, is were volunteers come in. Volunteers don’t exist because you can’t or should not work with youth. Volunteers help expand your efforts to the breadth and depth that your communities deserve.
With that being said, our next several blog posts will focus on volunteer needs: assessing your county’s needs, where to find volunteers, recruitment strategies, training, and recognition. Next week we will begin with identifying your county’s unique volunteer needs.
But remember, never be ashamed to say it- we work with youth. And if you are lucky enough to be at 4-H University this week, enjoy your youth time! I look forward to seeing you there.