The National 4-H program received a huge boost this week when the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) awarded it a $7.2 million grant in support of the 4-H National Mentoring Program.

According to a news release from National 4-H, the grant is part of the OJJDP’s national effort "to strengthen, expand and implement youth mentoring activities nationwide to improve the lives of millions of young Americans." The program previously received $5 million in 2012 and $5.3 million in 2011 from OJJDP in support of the mentoring program.

The National 4-H Council will host its annual 4-H National Mentoring Program Implementation Training for 4-H program staff from January 6-9, 2014 as part of the initiative. In addition, the organization will participate in a number of other national mentoring programs, which will coincide with National Mentoring Month. The training will take place at National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The news release states, "More than 190 participants representing 46 states and the District of Columbia will take part in the four-day training including 4-H Cooperative Extension staff ranging from county agents to youth development specialists. During the opening session, Jeff Slowikowski, acting deputy administrator for policy and acting associate administrator for Child Protection Division, OJJDP, will provide remarks on the 4-H/OJJDP partnership. In addition, Dr. Lisa Lauxman, director, Division of Youth & 4-H, 4-H National Headquarters, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), will bring greetings from NIFA/USDA."      

National 4-H says the grant will provide funding to facilitate 4-H mentoring programs in nearly every state in the nation with each program focused on addressing areas of increased risk for youth delinquency. Across the country, state 4-H programs will select from three proven effective 4-H youth mentoring programs to implement in their local communities, which will also serve as the foundation for the staff training:

4-H Mentoring: Youth & Families with Promise, created by Utah State University;

4-H Tech Wizards, created by Oregon State University; and

4-H Life, created by the University of Missouri. 

“This significant grant gives 4-H an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth across the nation,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, National 4-H Council President & CEO. “Through 4-H National Mentoring programs, 4-H program staff will have the opportunity to replicate proven 4-H programs that are producing positive outcomes in underserved communities across the country including reduced school drop-out rates and strengthened family relationships.”

In 2012, the 4-H National Mentoring Program served over 8,000 youth, resulting in significant outcomes in areas such as family relationships and perception of social support and social competence. Nearly 3,000 mentors participated with their matched mentees, a 1:4 mentoring ratio through this program. The program has also been successful for mentors, securing an 80 percent mentor retention rate.