At first glance, 4-H looks somewhat different from what many of us remember. Traditionally thought of as an agriculturally-focused initiative, 4-H today centers on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering and technology programs, offering a wide variety of options for personal growth and career success. A closer look, however, soon reveals that Hennepin County Library’s Urban 4-H Club still holds the same values that are core to the original program: learning by doing, youth and adult partnership, building youth leadership, and giving back to the community. Along with STEM activities, 4-H projects today often dive deeply into broader community issues such as homelessness, racial equity, and restorative justice.
The partnership between Franklin Library and the University of Minnesota began in 2011 with a young man who was selected to receive a Page Education Foundation Grant, an award that includes a service project component. Rather than simply volunteering with an existing program, he was inspired to create something totally new: a mentor-focused program to build youth leadership and encourage young people to look to their futures, to dream big. From his vision and collaboration with Franklin Library staff and the University of Minnesota’s Extension Center for Youth Development, the Urban 4-H program was born.