University of Illinois 4-H

Illinois State Cooperative Extension Services

How the Illinois Extension is positioned at the national, state, regional, and city levels:

Demographic Categories Illinois Statewide
Black/African: 14.26%
Asian: 5.23%
White: 71.86%
Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 0.03%
Native Alaskan/Native American: 0.23%
Two or more races: 2.42%
Other race: 5.97%
Median age: 37.4
Total Population: 12,700,381

Illinois Extension is the “flagship outreach effort of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offering educational programs to residents of all of Illinois’ 102 counties — and far beyond.”

Illinois 4-H benefits from program leadership that sees the value in diversity of ideas and experiences at all levels of the organization. Staff are encouraged by leadership to try things that have never been done and to take calculated risks. The state leadership team now consists of specialists with backgrounds in urban as well as rural communities. There are several projects currently in development that are being designed to increase the engagement of urban communities and adolescent youth across the state. Our state program leader actively seeks out partners from a variety of sectors that have the capacity to spark engagement of new audiences in 4-H.

How the Illinois State CES address the multitude of issues and priorities in their community through educational programming:

Illinois 4-H adjusts program promotion and delivery methods to attract minority and under-served audiences through several programs.

In one of them Illinois 4-H hosts a summer multi-day event called 4-H Illini Summer Academies (ISA), where high school youth stay on campus and engage in hands-on learning facilitated by a campus-wide array of academic departments. The program is designed to give youth a high fidelity glimpse into the college experience and aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Career Field Exploration – Youth have the opportunity to choose between many career fields, including animal science, human development, public health, engineering, journalism, food science and biology, and exploring the academic preparation required to succeed in the profession(s) of their choice.
  • New 4-H Audience Engagement – For almost half of the three hundred participants, ISA is their first encounter with 4-H, and the experience serves as a catalyst for continued involvement in the program.
  • College Experience – Participants explore what college is like by staying overnight in the residence hall and practicing independence.

For the past three years Illinois 4-H has made changes to the program to its promotion strategy in order to make it accessible to youth from urban and underrepresented communities. The following adjustments have resulted in an increase in participation by students of color and students who would be first in their households to attend college.

  • In 2016, Illinois 4-H created and funded a program scholarship called the Trailblazers Scholarship. This scholarship invited aspiring students to apply for financial support to attend the Illini Summer Academies by describing their experiences as trailblazers. Considerations for the scholarship include: a) identification with a community underrepresented in a career field matching one of the offered academies; b) demonstrations of membership in a household where no member ha previously earned at least a bachelor’s degree; c) evidence of financial need (such as free or reduced price lunch eligibility).
  • In 2017, Illinois 4-H extended its program promotion beyond the usual channels and created opportunities for city schools to sponsor enrollment for small groups of their students.
  • Also in 2017, Illinois 4-H developed a partnership with the TRIO Talent Search Program to offer ISA as a culminating summer experience for their program participants.
  • In 2019, participants in the Juntos college readiness program were offered financial support to attend ISA.
  • Also in 2019, Illinois 4-H extended the ISA program from three days to five and introduced workshop topics entitled S.L.A.A.Y. (Success for Latino and African American Youth), where students meet with campus staff of color and discuss issues and opportunities impacting minority students attending public and predominantly white institutions.

How Illinois State CES attracts, develops, retains, and structures competent talent:

As related to professional development of staff, Illinois 4-H adjusted staffing positions, job descriptions and pattern to meet urban needs, recruited people with appropriate urban competencies and experiences, often from non-traditional places, and offered special and specific training to their staff.  Some examples are:

  • Illinois 4-H created thirteen Metro Educator positions, to be located across the state in counties with an urban population of 50,000 or greater. These positions were created on the heels of a major staff cut-back and demonstrated a commitment to meet the growing need to engage new audiences located in urban areas.
  • Youth development professionals were recruited from non-traditional places to fill the Metro Educator positions. Many were new to Extension and all demonstrated competencies relevant to urban communities such as experience working in urban environments, bilingualism, and high levels of cultural competence.
  • In the past two years Illinois Extension has committed a massive amount of staff time and financial resources toward an organization-wide cultural competency training program using a diverse team of extension staff as peer trainers utilizing the Navigating Difference curriculum.

How Illinois State CES collaborates to leverage resources for collective impact:

Examples of Illinois 4-H engaging with new and different kinds of partners in their community are listed below.

  • Cultivating a partnership with Olympic medalist and East St. Louis, Illinois native, Jackie Joiner-Kersey.  The collaboration leverages the African American athlete’s public platform to build positive associations between  Extension and 4-H youth development and communities of color.
  • Partnering with Google to host a STEM event for youth across the city of Chicago.