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National 4-H Council makes plans for youth and adult training with $50 million donation

The National 4-H Council plans to use the $50 million that writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated to boost training and programming for both adult leaders and for the youth they serve.

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The National 4-H Council plans to use the $50 million that writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated to boost training and programming for both adult leaders and for the youth they serve.

"We are building 4-H for the future," said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council. "This is our 120th year, and with this historic investment from from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, we are looking to not only meet some of the urgent needs of young people today, but to lay the groundwork for the relevant, vibrant 4-H program into the future."

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Jennifer Sirangelo is the president and CEO of the National 4-H Council.
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4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization and is the youth development program of the nation’s Cooperative Extension System and U.S. Department of Agriculture. It serves 6 million kids and families in every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs involving 1 million youth in 50 countries.

Scott in February 2022 announced the donation, one of many large contributions she has made to a variety of causes. It is the largest single gift to the National 4-H Council in its history. Scott, the former spouse of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, pledged in 2019 to dedicate the majority of her wealth to charitable causes.

Sirangelo said some of the money will be used to work on strengthening the workforce that administers 4-H throughout the country, making sure that the program can attract "world-class talent" that reflects the diversity of the community it serves. It also will be used to train leaders and volunteers from the national to the local club level.

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"It's really those adults who are in your life in 4-H that are guiding you, pushing you, helping you get over the obstacles, and we really want to invest in those adults — both the volunteer leaders and those club leaders but also the staff from Cooperative Extension," Sirangelo said. "Those county agents, county educators, and specialists need to be up on the latest youth development research, and we're excited for being able to invest in them. They are the most important part of ensuring young people have a great 4-H experience."

The 4-H Council also will be investing in enhancements to youth programming. Sirangelo said that includes improving and creating new events and opportunities and making sure that 4-H members can benefit from the program. Making sure that every 4-H club in every county could benefit from the investments was "a high priority for us," she said.

4-H began, in part, with the idea that young people were more apt to latch on to the latest research and innovations than older people and that Cooperative Extension could spread those new ideas. While 4-H is known for its history as an agriculture education program, the program now engages youth around the country with programs in STEM , healthy living and civic engagement , as well as agriculture and many other areas.

Sirangelo said another plan in the works for the Scott donation is to expand on the "4-H At Home" program that began during the COVID-19 pandemic. That also will expand on the original 4-H idea of getting information to young people to which they may not otherwise have access.

"Maybe you don't have a computer science club in your community, but you could be in your ... Lucky Clovers Club and be able to to meet 4-Hers and 4-H leaders from other states and participate in things like computer science or rocketry, robotics, drones — things that may or may not be in your community," she said. "To me this is exactly fulfilling that 120-year-old mission of 4-H, which was to empower young people to make the difference and be a catalyst in their communities."

Related Topics: AGRICULTUREAGRICULTURE EDUCATION4-H
Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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