4-H Member Claire and her 4-H leader leading a session called “I don’t mean to be rude, but you look like a dude” at the Idaho State Contest.

Practitioner Tip Tuesday

By Guest Blogger Claire Sponseller, 4-H Educator

Umatilla County, Oregon

I have thoroughly been enjoying Mary’s blogs as they are driving me to think more on what we as professionals can do to see 4-H youth thrive. So on that note, I’ll throw caution to the wind and hope to aid more thought on a thriving Oregon 4-H.

I, too, was a product of 4-H in Ada County, Idaho and had a pretty special relationship with my 4-H leaders and fellow club members. I started in 4-H because I was asked, which seems how most things still happen in 4-H. I dabbled in a little bit of everything, from livestock projects to youth leadership, but I keep landing back on: “What made my 4-H career a professional career?” It was those youth-adult partnerships and the comradery with my peers. Those same peers and leaders were at my wedding 20 some years later. They became my extended family, supporting me through college and guiding me to Extension and where I am now. Continue reading

At some point in my life I fell in love with words. I am not sure why this happened, because I distinctly remember being told in high school that my vocabulary was not very large. By college it had not improved much, and by the time I took the Graduate Record Exam to get into grad school I knew I had to make an effort to improve my vocabulary. Maybe it was listening to those GRE vocabulary tapes that first piqued my interest, or maybe it was the delightful discovery of the precision of words- finding the perfect word for describing something. In some cases it was because I just liked the sound of the word. I still don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that I began to pay attention to the words people use, and ponder the precise meaning and purpose for using them.

So it was as I wrapped up my reading of William Damon’s The Path to Purpose: How Young People find their Calling in Life this week. Toward the end of the book Dr. Damon presents a chapter, written largely to parents, but very apropos to our work as youth development educators, on facilitating the Continue reading

New competencies for program evaluators

I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled blog post on helping youth develop a hopeful purpose for a live update from a (very) rainy Cleveland Ohio, where over 3,000 program evaluators have gathered for the 2018 national conference of the American Evaluation Association. The conference theme is Speaking Truth to Power, and in a captivating plenary session yesterday the AEA president talked about the illuminating role of good evaluation in establishing credible evidence for program results, something that is especially important in the post-factual world that has descended upon us.

I am a long time member of AEA and have attended this conference almost annually for 20 years. The conference has been instrumental in my training as an evaluator, as I have slowly developed my own evaluation capabilities over time. Each year I learn so much about the practice of program evaluation, about the nuances of establishing credible evidence, and about the importance of bringing the voices of justice and equity to evaluation designs, because the decisions made on evaluation results must reflect a truth for all, not just a few. Continue reading

Taking a long view towards the development of purpose.

Truth be told, I don’t watch much TV. Primarily because there are so many other things I would like to do instead. But another reason is that I find the shift of TV culture to reality-based shows disturbing. I’m doubtful there is any “reality” being portrayed on the screen, but more than that I don’t like the message these types of shows represent – that there is a quick route to success and material wealth that is worth taking at any cost. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not really that much of a curmudgeon, and I know there are examples of a few who have had their sparks fanned into flames by reality opportunities, but let’s face it: most do not.

But you know what? We live in a culture now that promotes quickness, often with the goal of financial wealth and personal security in mind. William Damon, in the Path to Purpose: How Young People Find their Calling in Life points out that we have changed from a society that values the development of a meaningful purpose in life to one that values monetary gain in just the last 50 years. Continue reading

From a 4-H beginning to capitol hill. Civic identity and engagement is a developmental process

As that old saying goes: unless you live under a rock…. You know that the mid-term election season has arrived. Yard signs are up, candidates’ visual ads are pointing out the flaws of their opponents, and the airwaves are filled with analyses of potential scenarios related to the outcomes of the election. One of the rising concerns is the disinterest of many young people toward the elections. As I was driving home the other day I was listening to a reporter interviewing a young man in his early 20s about his plans to vote. In response to her question he replied:

“Look, I’m a gamer boy, so no, I am not voting. Because I don’t really… care?” The last word rising sharply after a pause to highlight how ridiculous the reporter’s question was to him. I don’t know about you, but this young man’s words chilled me to the bone. Not just because of his apathy, but because a missed opportunity. Because developmentally, it may be too late to instill a sense of civic responsibility in his worldview. Continue reading