Wally Linneweber has worked with the tractor club in southern Knox County for about 45 years. Why would a farmer who has a busy schedule day in, day out all year long volunteer to help a group designed for kids from third grade through their senior year in high school?
Linneweber says it's just a way to help the kids. He believes they benefit from some of their experiences. In fact he's so dedicated that his goal is to serve a full 50 years as a 4-H leader. And this Indiana Prairie Farmer/ Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer is only one of thousands of adults who give up time across the state to promote 4-H and help young people get involved in a wholesome activity.
Recently, results from a national study confirmed the value of 4-H. There are an estimated six million 4-H members in the U.S. today. This study was conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University.
The study determined that compared to youth not in 4-H, young people in 4-H performed better in science, engineering and technology subjects. They are also more likely to pursue science careers. Many projects within the 4-H program, even in rural Indiana, challenge students to think about science in new ways. Anyone taking the soil conservation project, for example, has the opportunity to learn what soil and water conservation, water quality and steam monitoring are all about.
The study drew some specific conclusions for a child in 4-H, vs. one not in 4-H. According to the research, a 4-H member is nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school than a child who is not a 4-H member.
Also, a 4-H'er as identified in the study is nearly two times as likely to plan to go to college. And the 4-H member is 41% less likely to engage in what the study termed 'risky behaviors.'
Finally, 25% more 4-H members can be expected to positively contribute to their families and to their communities.
State officials in Indiana hope to take advantage of those overall results to work with students to assess the 4-H program overall.
Studies aside, however, there's no questions about what makes 4-H work. It's the countless hours donated by volunteers like Linneweber that keep the effort forward.