Mentoring Grant Invests in First District Youth

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country,
and my world.
– THE 4-H PLEDGE

Before I graduated high school, I participated in 4-H, an extracurricular program emphasizing the importance of young people learning, growing, and working with adults as catalysts for positive change. This program began more than a century ago with agricultural roots, eventually adding life skills to its portfolio to reach six million-plus U.S. youth today, including more than 133,000 boys and girls in Arkansas. And like me, millions of adults call themselves alumni nationwide, including famous athletic, entertainment, military, and political figures.

But to understand the impact of 4-H, it’s important to understand its framework. 4-H focuses on four personal development areas, including head, heart, hands, and health. “Head” targets the ability to think to make decisions and managing resources to accomplish a purpose. “Heart” seeks to improve connections between two people by relating and caring. “Hand” encourages engaging in social responsibility through giving and accomplishing goals through working. Lastly, “Health” demands an improved way of living and being.

As a 4-H alumnus and a former member of the 4-H Foundation Board of Arkansas, I’ve seen and experienced the positive impact this framework has played in the lives of our nation’s young people. 4-H presents these youth with great opportunities to learn valuable skills they can carry throughout their lives. In turn, 4-H youth are three times more likely to get involved in their communities and have educational achievement. The program has especially excelled in reaching at-risk young people.

Through its National Mentoring Program, 4-H leaders have mentored more than 30,000 young people considered “at-risk,” seeing significant improvements in family relationships, perceptions of social support, and social competence.

Simply put, the figures of mentoring are nothing short of staggering.

According to a study from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, at-risk young adults with mentors are 35 percent more likely to enroll and graduate from college, 81 percent more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, more than twice as likely to hold a leadership position, and 77 percent more likely to volunteer in their communities than their peers without mentors.

Consequently, I considered it a privilege to recently announce that the National 4-H Council through the Department of Justice had awarded $164,000 in support of 4-H’s mentoring program in Arkansas, including the First District, to keep our young people safe and prevent youth delinquency.

As a former 4-H member, I recognize this program’s potential to reach First District youth on which society has given up. As a legislator, I’m eager to our nation making a concerted investment in our youth. So, whether we have roots in 4-H or some other impactful organization, let’s each pledge our head, heart, hands, and health to make the First District better. And we’ll start with our young people.

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