4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills as they work in partnership with caring adults. What does that mean? In 4-H we are committed to helping young people develop skills that will help them succeed. We want to empower all youth to reach their full potential.

The Alcorn State University Extension4-H Youth Development Program is designed to address the needs of limited-resource children and youth in Mississippi. This program offered will equip youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet their basic needs and teaches them to lead positive, productive lives and become contributing citizens. Participants gain the knowledge to set and achieve goals through activities that increase their self-esteem and their decision making skills. This program also helps to develops leadership skills, improves communication skills, and increases awareness of job requirements and opportunities.


In 4-H, youth “learn by doing” programs, events and activities that are designed to fit their needs at different ages. Through a variety of program 4-H gives children and teens opportunities to learn life skills, to practice them, and become confident in their ability to use them in the future. 4-H teaches young people how to meet their needs for belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity in positive ways.

More specifically, 4-H programming is built around Eight Essential Elements, sometimes also called the Eight Key Elements:


Essential Element 1: A Positive Relationship with a Caring Adult

A caring adult acts as an advisor, guide and mentor. The adult helps set boundaries and expectations for young people. The adult could be called supporter, friend, or advocate.

Essential Element 2: An Inclusive Environment

An inclusive environment is one that creates a sense of belonging, and encourages and supports its members with positive and specific feedback. Healthy groups celebrate the success of all members, taking pride in the collective efforts of all participants.

Essential Element 3: A Safe Emotional and Physical Environment

Youth should not fear physical or emotional harm while participating in a 4-H experience, whether from the learning environment itself or from adults, other participants or spectators.


Essential Element 4: Opportunity for Mastery

Mastery is the building of knowledge, skills, and attitudes and the demonstration of the competent use of this knowledge and skill by a proficient practitioner. The level of mastery is dependent on the developmental ability of the individual or youth. The development of mastery is a process over time.

Essential Element 5: Engagement in Learning

An engaged youth is one who is mindful of the subject area, building relationships and connections in order to develop understanding. Through self-reflection, youth have the ability to self-correct and learn from experience. The engaged learner has a higher degree of self-motivation and an inexhaustible capacity for creativity.


Essential Element 6: Opportunity to See Oneself as an Active Participant in the Future

The ability to see oneself in the future is to have hope and optimism to shape life choices, which facilitates the transition into participating in the future.

Essential Element 7: Opportunity for Self-Determination

Believing that you have impact on life’s events rather than passively submitting to the will and whims of others is self-determination. Youth must develop a sense of influence over their lives, exercising their potential to become self-directing, autonomous adults.


Essential Element 8: Opportunity to Value and Practice Service to Others

Finding yourself begins with losing yourself in the service of others. Service is a way for members to gain exposure to the larger community and, indeed the world itself.