Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Urban 4-H Youth DevelopmentMinnesota Urban 4-H Youth Development is a part of the Center for 4-H Youth Development and the University of Minnesota. Urban 4-H Youth Development is also a part of the Children, Youth, and Families At Risk (CYFAR) New Communities Project.

Program Name

Minnesota Urban 4-H Youth Development

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

Urban 4-H works on behalf of youth living in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the surrounding suburban communities to measurably improve their learning through educational programs and applied research. Urban 4-H partners with schools, agencies, organizations, and volunteers to build sustainable programs that meet the unique needs of urban youth. This mission is accomplished with two signature programs: Urban Youth Learn and Urban Youth Lead. Each program is carried out through networks of community partnerships.

The goals of Urban Youth Learn are to:

  • Increase the number of programs 10% each year from 2005
  • 2009 in targeted urban neighborhoods through partnerships with agencies, organizations, and volunteers (22 current programs)
  • Reach underserved youth living in targeted urban neighborhoods (including immigrants, refugees, youth of color, young people living in lower economic households)
  • Improve the quality of urban youth programs through training and technical support
  • Measurably increase each program's impact on both youth learning and the effectiveness of its learning environment
  • Disseminate evaluation results to partners, stakeholders, colleagues, and families through annual reports, publications, and presentations


The goals of Urban Youth Lead are to:

  • Build sustainable youth leadership programs in four targeted urban neighborhoods in 2005-2006 (6 current program sites)
  • Expose urban youth, who would not otherwise have the opportunity, to higher education and careers
  • Guide youth through a leadership development process designed to foster personal awareness, develop leadership skills, and shape a vision for themselves
  • Measure the program's impact on both youth learning and the effectiveness of its learning environment
  • Disseminate evaluation results to partners, stakeholders, colleagues, and families through annual reports, publications, and presentations.
  • Create a replicable program model that can be used in other urban neighborhoods


Unique Youth Needs:

  • Non-formal learning environments (like those in Urban Youth Learn and Urban Youth Lead) are important in the education of youth, particularly during out-of-school time, when the majority of a young person's waking hours are spent unsupervised and unstructured. These environments provide physical and emotional safety, trusting relationships, clear rules and consequences, responsibility of place and program, access as needed, and social capital. They offer prime opportunities for youth to get involved in their own learning and development. This is especially important to those who are not otherwise thriving in school. These programs also offer unique opportunities for immigrant and refugee adolescents - a break in the day when one has the chance to be him or herself, sort things out, pursue an interest, or find camaraderie, by offering learning environments designed to support their acculturation. These programs also offer learning environments that provide opportunities for youth to develop interpersonal and intercultural relationships with their peers. Unfortunately, social segregation is common among youth of all cultural backgrounds, and this is especially apparent in urban schools. A nonformal learning environment may be one of the few places where youth have a chance to get to know peers who are outside their segregated friendship boundaries In recent years, attention has been given to the need for culturally relevant and responsive approaches to youth development. There is a growing realization that practice needs to change in order to better reflect and serve the changing face of communities. Building intentional learning environments is one way to address the need for culturally relevant and responsive approaches to youth development.

Program Description

Urban Youth Learn is a training and technical support program designed to help program leaders create, strengthen, and advance youth programs that occur during nonschool hours. The program begins each fall with workshops that invite program leaders from agencies, organizations, and schools to partner with Urban 4-H. Attending this workshop is the first step to building partnerships with program leaders. Urban 4-H continues to build this partnership throughout the year by working with program leaders to implement strategies that improve their youth programs.

Urban Youth Lead is a leadership development program designed to expose urban adolescents to the worlds of higher education and careers by using an innovative youth development approach. This guide helps program leaders create a learning environment in which youth identify their interests and discover possibilities for their futures. This is done by working with youth to build awareness and leadership skills so that ultimately, they become the authors of their own lives. As a part of this process, youth will use their personal leadership skills to design a field experience and present a portfolio that documents their growth and future aspirations. Urban Youth Lead is inspired by the works of Paulo Freire, one of the foremost leaders in the field of education who carried a revolutionary message of hope that education leads to liberation.

Resource Materials Used in Program

  • Skuza, J. (2005). Understanding the experiences of immigrant adolescents: Acculturation is not the same as assimilation. In P. Witt & L. Caldwell (Eds.), Recreation and youth development. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.
  • Skuza, J., Cogshell, N., & Russo, J. (2005). Urban youth learn: Developing effective out-of-school time programs. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota.
  • Skuza, J., Russo, J., Kawase, M., & Gates, E. (2006). Urban youth lead: Learn, lead and see your potential. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota
  • Skuza, J. (2004). Site-based youth development programs: Reaching underserved youth in targeted communities. Journal of Extension, 42(1).
  • Witt, P. & Caldwell, L. (Eds.) (2005). Recreation and youth development. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.
  • Wonderwise curriculum designed to encourage young women to become more involved in science and science careers.
  • Curricula from the National 4-H Cooperative Curriculum System (4HCCS).

Groups Served by Program

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, youth ages 5-17 (the approximate target age range of Urban 4-H) account for 73.2% of the 0-19 population. In this group, the Latino and Latina youth population is the fastest growing group in Minnesota, with a majority of this population living in Minneapolis and St. Paul. This rapid growth rate is followed by African-American and Asian youth groups. St. Paul hosts the largest urban Hmong population in the United States. Currently, over 60,000 Hmong people live in the Twin Cities. A second wave of over 5,000 Hmong refugees is expected to emigrate from Thailand to St. Paul from 2004 to 2007. Over half of this Hmong population is under the age of 14. Minneapolis also hosts the largest Somali refugee population in the United States.

Urban 4-H Youth Development programs reflect the Twin Cities diverse youth population. Youth served in 2004-2005 were: 58% African American, 22% Asian American, 12% Hispanic, 6% European, and 2% Native American.

Program Funding

Funding sources include University of Minnesota Compact; USDA; Children, Youth, and Families At Risk; Minnesota 4-H Foundation; and fees. Urban 4-H Youth Development operates from business and program plans.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

Urban 4-H Youth Development has 7.5 FTE program staff and faculty with diverse academic and professional backgrounds grounded in subject matter related to urban youth, special populations, youth development and education. We also support a network of university interns and adult volunteers.

Program Evaluation

As a result of partnering through Urban Youth Learn and Urban Youth Lead, Urban 4-H collaboratively administers an evaluation that measures a youth program's impact on both youth learning and the learning environment. The evaluation is 2-part, utilizing phenomenological essays (youth-written essays on their experience of learning) and a 5-component survey on learning environments. Together, these evaluation methods reveal the nature of the learning environment in youth development programs by capturing the often neglected voice of youth.

Urban Youth Learn outcomes include:

Effective learning environments (5-component survey on learning environments) High-quality youth learning experiences (assessed with essay method) Significant improvements in school attendance, academic achievement, and school climate (tracked and measured by 21st Century Community Learning Center program sites)

Urban Youth Lead outcomes include:
Effective learning environments (5-component survey on learning environments) High-quality youth learning experiences (assessed with essay method) Concrete connections for urban youth to careers and higher education opportunities

Program Outcomes

The Urban 4-H program sites continue to be safe, fun, and effective learning environments for new immigrant and refugee youth. In 2004-2005, approximately 830 youth have participated in Urban 4-H programs, which is an increase of about 350% in youth participation since the last year. Urban 4-H partnered with 12 schools, agencies, organizations, and volunteers during 2004-2005 to deliver 28 sustainable programs that met the unique needs of urban youth.

Evaluation results from older youth interviewed indicate that the most positive Outcomes of their participation in Urban 4-H programs center around learning to express themselves and to work together with other youth and adults.

All efforts to sustain the project - particularly forming partnerships with schools and other local community organizations and agencies - significantly add to the development of both staff and program participants. In addition, local organizations and agencies help to provide additional opportunities for youth to connect through activities such as organizing family events, engaging youth in cross-age teaching opportunities, and helping them contribute to community-service projects. Such projects often lead to civic engagement which may facilitate the transition to adulthood. A number of youth in fact return to the Urban 4-H program (upon adulthood) to serve as adult volunteer leaders and/or university interns. In fact, one Hmong male from St. Paul was recently selected to serve as Minnesota 4-H Ambassador during his freshman year in college. As a youth, he was actively involved in many aspects of Urban 4-H. As a young adult, he applied his leadership to the Minnesota 4-H Youth Development program.

Urban 4-H staff and faculty on the other hand, are increasingly being called upon by school staff and other partners to provide technical support, tools and training in leadership, behavioral management and curriculum development.

Additional Comments

Community-based programs, like the programs offered through Urban 4-H, develop learning environments that typically occur during out-of-school time. Non-school hours can lead to increased risk or opportunity for youth depending on how the time is used. Unfortunately, adolescents typically have fewer out-of-school time programs available to them because too often a heavy emphasis on academic achievement overshadows informal learning opportunities. In turn, adolescents who are not involved in school activities have fewer organized youth development opportunities available to them. This is unfortunate because out-of-school time programs offer prime opportunities for adolescents to truly get involved in their own development through recreation. This is especially important to those who are not otherwise thriving in school. These programs also offer unique opportunities for immigrant and refugee adolescents - a break in the day when one has the chance to be him or herself, sort things out, pursue an interest, or find camaraderie. Eventually these opportunities may lead to a positive transition into adulthood.

Other key elements:
- Networks of community partnerships
- Networks of adult volunteers and interns

https://youthtoday.org/2017/01/4-h-stem-program-reaches-somali-kids/?sf52720032=1

Program Contact

Jennifer Skuza, Ph.D.
(612) 624- 7798
skuza@umn.edu

http://www.extension.umn.edu/youth/mn4-H/urban4-H/

Program Dates

These programs began in September 2003 and run throughout the year; they are still operating.