California 4-H boosts reach with Latino youths

In California, more than 39% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. In the K-12 public school system, more than 54% of students identify as Hispanic or Latino. Growth estimates project that Latinos will make up half of all Californians by 2060. The youth membership of the University of California Cooperative Extension’sAgriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) 4-H programs did not represent the state’s Latino population. As a result, in 2015, UC ANR provided $2 million to fund the UC 4-H Latino Initiative, a three-year effort from 2016 to 2019 to develop, adapt, implement and evaluate culturally relevant and responsive 4-H youth development programs. Seven counties representing rural, suburban and urban communities received funding to hire a bilingual and bicultural 4-H program staff. Additionally, UC ANR hired an assistant state director for diversity and expansion. The goal was todevelop, deliver and assess culturally responsive program models to recruit and retain Latino youths, families and volunteers into 4-H.Over three years, each countyincreasedits reach with youthsusing a combination of program models and delivery modes.Statewide, youth enrollment grew from serving 1.1% of the school-aged population in 2016 to 1.9% at the end of year three (2019). The number of Latino youths enrolled in 4-H grew 104% from the year before the initiative to year three.Specifically, the 2016 program year had 34,040 Latino youth members, which was 40% of total 4-H membership, and the 2019 program year had 69,383 Latino youth members, making up 47% of total 4-H membership.Newly recruited Latino youths participating in 4-H programs reported improvements in mindset and social skills. The 4-H organizational culture shifted to become more accepting and welcoming, particularly with implementing new, culturally responsive programming.Adopted strategies includedincorporating positive development of ethnic identity, tailoring to the needs and interests of local and regional Latino youthsand families, removing barriers to participationand increasing cultural competencies among 4-H volunteers. Resources developed by the Latino initiative are now located on a webpage and continue to be accessed by 4-H academics, staff, volunteersand 4-H professionals across the nation.

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