Laurie Michaels

Laurie Michaels

Character in 4-H is a framework centered on basic values called the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

Character education for 4-H youth improves the lives of the adults who teach it and the communities that embrace it, giving kids a template for ethical living. 4-H youth development strives to teach universal values that transcend cultural differences.

Exemplifying good character is not a curriculum, an add-on, an out-of-the-box program or a quick-fix fad.

4-H volunteers and 4-H youth educators have the opportunity to help young people not only learn and develop new skills but also learn what it means to be a person of good character. Good character is not hereditary or automatic. It must be developed by example and practice.

One way or another, young people pick up the values that constitute their character.

Character education is primarily a parent’s responsibility, but everybody interacting with youth has an important supporting role. Through adult role modeling and deliberate discussions on how projects relate to character, 4-H’ers consciously learn to be caring, responsible citizens; skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

The capacity to build 4-H through future generations is growing and expanding exponentially. We here in Douglas County are going to have to flex our traditional focus and become more rapidly evolved in our way of supporting youth. The world around us is literally rallying and demanding our programs be held accountable to serve as equity and diversity champions for youth.

Established methods and practices are not meeting the needs of all our youth. We (4-H volunteers and Extension educators) are being challenged to step up and model the changes by practicing the Six Pillars of Character and to witness and encourage youth to share their goals, experiences and to provide supportive and safe environments.

For more than 100 years, 4-H has been the nation’s leading youth organization to welcome young people of all beliefs and backgrounds, giving youth a voice to express who they are and how they make their lives and communities better.

Access, equity, diversity and inclusion are essential elements of 4-H’s goals related to positive youth development and organizational sustainability. For more than 20 years, 4-H has been intentional in building an organization and culture of belonging by actively inviting the contributions and participation of all youth.

As a system, Cooperative Extension believes that diverse perspectives, values and beliefs help generate better ideas to solve the complex problems of a changing, and ever increasingly diverse world. How we as adults model change will help youth discover their character.

Let’s all work together, “To Make the Best, Better” because character is a set of qualities that make someone or something different from others or a set of qualities that are considered admirable in some way.

You can find more information about the local Douglas County 4-H program, teaching materials and upcoming events at extension.oregonstate.edu/program/4h/douglas/events.

Laurie Michaels is the 4-H Education Program Assistant for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. If you have questions regarding this article, contact Laurie at 541-236-3042 or send an email to laurie.michaels@oregonstate.edu

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