In Colorado, 4-H Members Show Higher Involvement in Community, Stronger Leadership Skills and Better School Performance

Note to Editors: The following press release highlights a survey of 4-H members from across the state. Many youth who participate in National Western Stock Show competitions are 4-H members. 4-H day at the National Western Stock Show is Wednesday, Jan. 18th.

A Colorado State University Cooperative Extension study of Colorado’s fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students reveals that rural and urban students who are enrolled in 4-H were more involved in helping the less fortunate in their community and performed better in school.  

     The study, based on a survey conducted in multiple schools in 15 Colorado counties, shows that 4-H’ers also are more likely to succeed in school, getting more A’s than other students. Results of the survey show that 38 percent of 4-H members report getting mostly A’s in school, and 36 percent report mostly A’s and B’s, compared to 26 percent and 32 percent, respectively, of non-4-H youth.

     "4-H offers participants elements that are essential to their success and development into adults that are positive influences in their community," said Jeff Goodwin, director of Colorado State Cooperative Extension 4-H and youth development programs. "Through 4-H, children and teens develop positive relationships with adults outside of their families in a safe and inclusive environment. In addition to providing them with an opportunity to explore topics and activities that engage and that are exciting – from building rockets to learning about animals in the wild to photography – they are provided with information and guidance to help them master skills within those topics while developing valuable life skills.  

     "Seventy-five percent of youth involved in 4-H in Colorado are from towns and cities of 10,000 or larger," added Goodwin. "This deflates the myth that you have to live on a farm to be in 4-H."

     In keeping with a considerable emphasis of 4-H on community service, a significant number of urban and rural 4-H members say they are involved in projects that help other people, give money or time to a charity or other organization that helps people, and to have spent time helping people who are poor, hungry, sick or unable to care for themselves. In fact, 64 percent of 4-H members report they are involved in a project to help others, nearly 68 percent have given time or money to a charity, and nearly 53 percent have helped the poor, sick or hungry. Of non-4-H youth surveyed, 47 percent had been involved in a project to help others, 53 percent had given time or money to a charity, and 45 percent had helped the poor, sick or hungry.

     In addition, 4-H members also are more likely to have relationships with other community members – outside of their family – that are of diverse ages, and feel that adults in their community make an effort to listen to their opinions. In fact, 65 percent of 4-H youth surveyed had engaged in a conversation 10 minutes or longer with an adult other than their parents within 30 days of the survey, compared to 59 percent of non-4-H members.

     4-H’ers are also more likely to be able to speak with ease in front of others, set goals for their individual success, plan ahead and manage money wisely. The survey reports that nearly one-third of all 4-H members have been elected to a leadership role in their school or community, compared to 20 percent of non-4-H members. In addition, 46 percent of 4-H members were likely to volunteer in class to lead activities, compared to 34 percent of non-4-H members. Fifty-three percent of all 4-H members felt other kids looked up to them as an example, compared to 40 percent of non-4-H’ers. Finally, 64 percent of 4-H members surveyed said they could meet new people easily compared to 58 percent of non-4-H members.

     The survey also indicated that students who were involved in any extracurricular activity, such as 4-H, school clubs, band, sports, church clubs or community clubs, were less likely to drink alcohol, shoplift, use illegal drugs, smoke or vandalize property.  

     In addition to traditional 4-H programs, Colorado State Cooperative Extension offers a significant number of school enrichment and after-school programs to children and teenagers across the state. In 2004, more than 8,000 youth reported participating in 4-H after-school activities, and 68,800 children reported having participated in 4-H school enrichment activities. Urban 4-H clubs involve youth and volunteers in special interest activities.

     The survey was conducted by the state 4-H office earlier this year in rural and urban schools. Results from nearly 2,000 surveys, with 395 responses from current or former 4-H members, were tabulated with assistance from a senior-level marketing class at Colorado State. Complete results of the survey are available at


     More than 88,000 youth are enrolled in Colorado 4-H programs, with 15,000 of those youth enrolled in 1,272 traditional 4-H clubs that focus on developing leadership and special interest skills among members, community service projects and more than 75 special interest activities.

     In Colorado, 6 percent of 4-H members live on farms; 15 percent live in town with fewer than 10,000 residents or rural areas; 49 percent live in towns or cities with 10,000 to 50,000 residents; 13 percent live in suburbs of cities with more than 50,000 residents and 17 percent live in central cities of 50,000 residents or more.