MU Extension 4-H volunteer training builds youth safety and success

 MU Extension 4-H volunteer training builds youth safety and success

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri Extension 4-H youth development program is wrapping up a campaign that requires current 4-H volunteers, both new and experienced, to complete volunteer orientation by Jan. 1, 2009. Volunteers who join the program after the beginning of the year will have six months to complete the mandatory training.

“The 4-H volunteer orientation is a one-time requirement in addition to successful annual 4-H volunteer background screening,” said Ina Linville, MU Extension 4-H interim program director. “Keeping our kids safe is our program priority, and every young person in the Missouri 4-H program is worth our collective effort spent in volunteer orientation training and annual background checks.”

Since the campaign began in September 2007, more than 4,000 volunteers have completed the free orientation, which covers 4-H basics such as MU Extension and 4-H history, positive youth development concepts, project and life skills, experiential learning, competition, character and creating safe environments for youth. Volunteers can complete training in person at orientations led by regional and state staff, access the material online or even review it on CD-ROM or in print.

“We’ve tried to make it easier for the volunteers by developing several ways for them to complete the training,” Linville said. “We know they are busy people, and we value their time.”

Even so, the MU Extension 4-H staff has met resistance from some volunteers.

“When I found out I had to do ‘extra,’ I was not too thrilled,” said Rachel Lohmann, a longtime 4-H volunteer from Newtown, Mo. “I felt comfortable as a volunteer already and wondered, ‘Why should I take it? What good is it, actually?’”

But Lohmann discovered the training wasn’t as difficult as she thought it would be.

“I was relieved that I could do the training online,” she said. “It was fairly easy to get to and read. I picked up little tidbits that I didn’t know before.”

“Volunteers, both new and experienced, have told us that they have enjoyed the experience and have learned a lot,” Linville said. “That is important to us because our volunteers are the most important ingredient for a safe and successful 4-H program.”

Each year, more than 9,000 volunteers provide fun, hands-on learning opportunities to more than 104,157 Missouri youth. MU Extension 4-H offers multiple volunteer opportunities for all who are interested. To find out more about the MU Extension 4-H program, contact your local MU Extension office or go to www.4h.missouri.edu.