4-H and Extensions Offer Partners for School Turnarounds

“I couldn’t be more hopeful, more optimistic about your generation” Secretary Duncan told a group of nearly 500 4-H youth delegates earlier today at the National 4-H Youth Conference in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Secretary Duncan at the conference where both Secretaries answered questions from the audience and talked to students about the challenge of educating our way to a better economy. In his State of the Union address this year, President Obama emphasized that “to win the future, we have to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world, tapping the creativity and imagination of our people.”

Secretary Duncan said that one of our greatest challenges is turning around the bottom 5% of our nation’s schools.  To address this challenge, the Obama Administration dedicated more than $4 billion in school improvement grants to states through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the budgets for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

States have identified their lowest achieving schools and we are challenging them to compete for this funding by putting forth their best turnaround plans. However, schools and districts cannot do this work alone. They need to engage and work with public and private partners such as the 4-H and land grant university extension programs. “Forming these kinds of partnerships provides the best chance for rural areas to turn around their lowest performing schools and keep children from dropping out,” said Secretary Duncan.

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization and a program of our nation’s cooperative extension system. Each U.S. state and territory has a state cooperative extension office at its land grant university and a network of local and regional offices that can work with schools. The 4-H and extension programs can provide community-based partnerships that help schools create sustainable community changes in a number of ways.

The National 4-H and Extensions can work with schools to create programs that are specific to the school community’s needs, including financial literacy, parenting, healthy living, food and nutrition, science literacy, robotics, and civic engagement to bridge formal and non-formal learning experiences.

Check out the USDA’s Youth Development and 4-H page for more information.

– Sherry Schweitzer


  1. As a retired teacher I can tell you that students who have the right role models and set goals are going to succeed. 4-H is an organization that lives that. So many students don’t have any idea or belief in where they can go. Low expectations by both teachers and students is a road for disaster.

  2. As one of the FIRST male 4-H members in the county & perhaps beyond, I can say for sure that the program is unbelievable. Throughout my 11 year membership in the club my mother lead, the Pin Oak Debs, became the Pin Oak Progressors in in the Fall of 1977 when another young man & I joined the club.

    There were and still are projects for every interest a child could have. I concentrated on the food projects like Let’s Learn To Bake & Let’s Start Cooking. Then as time went on I showed calves in the fair, made photo stories in Photography, played around in the shop making wood & metal things but my dad really had to help me there. Then moving into computers in my final year or so.

    I long for those days as I am now a teacher in the GREAT City of Chicago, but I am so happy that at least in some ways I can still guide my students the way this program guided me. A strong sense of work, good ethical values, intelligence beyond what a test may show, and bravery to step out of the box and be something that is not part of the expected norm.

    Now with my Masters under my built and my Ph.D. In the works all related to technology I have this wonderful program to thank & praise. 4-H is a pillar of so many children’s lives that only it’s growth can be a consideration at this point.

    Thank you for this opportunity to properly praise this program on a national level. I cannot explain the wonderful mood that I have gotten into just from writing this comment.

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