4-H wants you to Raise Your Hand

Minnesota 4-H worked with nearly 69,000 youth in the state in 2016. To grow that number and better help unlock their potential, the largest youth development program in the nation is now calling out to its more than 10 million alumni nationally for help as part of the Raise Your Hand campaign.

Launched earlier this month, Raise Your Hand is a call to action for alumni to pay it forward and help the next generation benefit from 4-H as they did. Former 4-H’ers, many of whom are today’s Minnesota corn growers, are asked to self-identify themselves at the Raise Your Hand website and hopefully get involved.

By engaging alumni, Raise Your Hand’s ultimate objectives are threefold: Stronger advocacy, increased volunteering and financial contributions.

Nationwide, 4-H’s goal is to grow participation from 6 million to 10 million youth by 2025. In order to do so, having alumni ambassadors will be crucial, according to Erin Kelly-Collins, alumni engagement coordinator with the Minnesota 4-H Foundation.

“We hope that alumni will remember how important 4-H was to them and then choose to advocate for 4-H in their own communities,” say Erin Kelly-Collins. “Whether that is with a neighbor or at the county level, we want our alumni to be a positive and affirming voice for the program.”

Minnesota 4-H requires more than 11,000 volunteers annually to ensure youth of all ages and subject areas of interest are supported. Kelly-Collins said many of those volunteers are alumni, but a large number are also just interested in a particular subject area and would like to educate youth about it. Through Raise Your Hand, Kelly-Collins hopes to find alumni who know the importance of 4-H and a passion to give other kids the opportunity.

“We hope to find alumni who are in the right place in their lives to help empower youth with the skills they will use for the rest of their life,” says Kelly-Collins.

Finally, 4-H is hoping to engage alumni interested in contributing financially to 4-H in Minnesota and beyond. Although 4-H does receive state funding and assistance from grants, Kelly-Collins said current funding doesn’t support innovation in a way that allows them to grow their reach.

For example, Minnesota Compass, which tracks and analyzes trends in topics that affect quality of life, found 35 percent of Minnesota youth aren’t engaged in extracurricular activities. With more than 1 million youth-aged children in the state, that is more than 350,000.

“These youth do not have the meaningful activities to build skills and find passion,” Kelly Collins says. “We could make the difference for those 350,000 youth by helping them reach their full potential.”

4-H is asking alumni to step forward and register with the Raise Your Hand campaign by June 30 at 4-H.org/raiseyourhand. For added incentive, states with the most alumni raising their hand will receive $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 for the top-three spots, respectively.

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