4-H Exploration Days influences future lives of attendees

In just a few months, more than 2,000 young people will experience campus life for a few days when 4-H Exploration Days takes place June 20–22. But they won’t just be having fun although you can be assured fun will be part of the experience. What they learn and do in those summer days and evenings may influence their future choices and determine the kind of adults they will become.

 4-H Exploration Days, Michigan State University’s largest pre-college program for youth ages 11 to 19, draws kids and adult volunteers from all over the state. The 2011 program even attracted a guest delegation from Poland. Youth choose from more than 200 sessions held both on and off campus. Sessions cover a vast range of topics from basketry and scrapbooking to field hockey and basic Web page design. They’ll stay in the dorms, experiencing cafeteria food. Besides attending sessions, young people can swim, skate, shop or just explore campus in their free time.

 Statistics show that the program prepares young people for a successful transition to college and life as a contributing adult. Data obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse database shows that 4-H Exploration Days participants who attended the program between 2004 and 2011 and were high school graduates from 2009 to 2011 are currently attending college at a 77 percent higher rate than their Michigan peers.

 In a survey, ninety-seven percent of the 2011 4-H Exploration Days participants reported that attending the program increased their interest in attending college, and 87 percent said that the program better prepared them for college. Beyond that, 80 percent reported the program increased their knowledge of different majors, career paths and opportunities right here at MSU.

 More than 90 percent of the 2011 participants reported the program helped them develop life skills such as making decisions, managing time, adapting to new living arrangements, accepting people different from them, socializing, communicating effectively and following tasks through to completion.

 The proof is in the numbers. 4-H Exploration Days is a powerful program having a positive effect on participants for years to come. Thanks to Judy Ratkos for her vision, leadership and diligence to gather some very challenging but important data. Holly Lacina and Gail Hebert have provided valuable assistance in data entry and tracking youth through their early adult years. This kind of analysis is critical to our ability to help Michigan and local decision makers understand the value of our programs. And for those who like output numbers, we have those, too: registration for Exploration Days 2012 opened on March 20 and to date, more than 1,600 youth have registered, representing 79 of Michigan’s 83 counties. That’s a pretty compelling story, too!

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