Impacts of the state 4-H Council experience : a phenomenological study
Leadership has long been recognized as a subject central to the human experience. Prepared leaders can wield critical influence in the rise of cultures, the growth of human opportunity, and the lasting direction of world events. Studies of leadership inform the earliest writings of Aristotle, the history of warfare, the early success of the American space program, the impact of Nelson Mandela, and countless other examples of forces that have shaped our world today. It is logical to expect that the study of leadership will also inform the world of tomorrow, as young people mature to assume roles that guide the mechanisms of social change and cultural advancement. This study focuses on the impact of leadership experience, through engagement with a large-scale program designed to foster its effectiveness and success. The program is focused on the experience of adolescents and rooted at the University of Missouri, one of 69 Land Grant Universities, established by the Morrill Act of 1862 to expand access to higher education. Once established, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 expanded the Land Grant University mission to include the Cooperative Extension Service, which will henceforth be referred to as Extension, an outreach component of Land Grant University programming which sent agents into rural areas to connect end users with the products of their university's agricultural science research. When they encountered target audiences who were unreceptive to their innovations, some of these agents found success in shifting their outreach focus from adults to youth, who were often more open to new approaches (www.4-h.org/about/4-h-history). ... The State 4-H Council model is an experiential youth development opportunity that is in line with the Missouri 4-H mission to engage youth as "valued, contributing members of their communities in partnership with caring adults" (4h.missouri.edu). It is intended to produce youth outcomes consistent with the Missouri 4-H vision to create an environment in which "youth and adults learn, grow and work together for positive change" (4h.missouri.edu). This study adds understanding to the impacts that can accrue from service on a state 4-H council and help inform the development of these councils in state 4-H programs beyond Missouri's borders. In doing so, this study will reveal elements of Missouri's State 4-H Council model that could be adapted by other avenues of leadership development, identifying factors that promote and detract from success and providing greater insight into the leadership experience.