Vendor Newsmaker Q&A Jennifer Sirangelo

Nov. 17, 2017
Every year, 4-H youth participate in more than 5 million science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects from aerospace engineering and robotics to veterinary science and hydroponics.

Rapidly evolving from its traditionally agricultural roots, the 7 million young people in more than 50 countries who participate in 4-H – including more than 3.5 million girls and young women – are now likely to be just as attuned to Mark Zuckerberg as Arnold Ziffel.

If you’ve ever wandered through the 4-H pavilions back behind the race track’s second turn at the county fair, you’ve seen the attention to detail, dedication and creative innovation that 4-H’ers display in their projects.

For an aftermarket business, these youngsters are developing attributes that will make them desirable employees at your operation – especially if they are able to stay down on the farm, so-to-speak, rather than leaving town to seek jobs in the big city upon reaching adulthood.

Sustaining the principles of “head, heart, hands and health,” 4-H traces its roots back to Ohio’s Clark County, where Springfield Township Schools Superintendent Albert Belmont Graham established an after-school Youth Club in 1902.

Operated under the purview of the Cooperative Extension System, a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), 4-H currently consists of more than 100 land-grant universities and 3,000 local offices across the nation.

At least 10 state governors and more than 50 members of Congress are 4-H alumni; former President Jimmy Carter and the late Harold Arthur “Red” Poling, who served as chairman, president and CEO of the Ford Motor Co., also spent their formative years participating in 4-H’s multitude of educational programs.

National 4-H Council President and CEO Jennifer Sirangelo is the first woman to lead the organization. In 2016, she launched the “Grow True Leaders” rebranding initiative to promote the diversity of 4-H programs and participants with the goal of boosting the membership to 10 million young people by 2025.

Presenting cutting-edge education involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills is a concurrent point of emphasis aimed at preparing the membership for future careers in advanced fields such as manufacturing-plant robotics and other innovative developments applicable to the automotive industry.

Sirangelo recently responded to a series of questions asked by Aftermarket Business World:

Q: 4-H is traditionally associated with agricultural activities; how did the STEM program become a 4-H endeavor?

A: 4-H was founded with youth empowerment at its core. In the beginning, programming focused on agriculture, with youth leading in introducing new technologies to the adults who were reluctant to embrace something new. Fast-forward 100 years, and 4-H is still rooted in youth empowerment with youth leading positive solutions for the diverse issues our country faces today. Now, 4-H has evolved into an organization that has global reach and teaches kids essential life skills that empower them for life today and for all kinds of careers tomorrow.

To grow along with the interests and needs of youth, 4-H programming reflects all kinds of activities that young people want to do and all kinds of areas where young people can lead – from healthy living, engineering and robotics to agri-science and business.

Q: Are there 4-H chapters in urban and suburban areas? Is 4-H present in countries other than the U.S.?

A: As the nation’s largest youth development organization, 4-H empowers nearly 6 million young people across the U.S. with the skills to lead in life and career. Today, 4-H programs have evolved to include hands-on projects in areas like health, science, citizenship and agriculture – with more than 3,500 trained 4-H professionals and more than 500,000 volunteers who serve youth in rural (2.6 million), urban and suburban (3.4 million) communities in every state.

Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower 1 million youth in 50 countries.

Q: What does your STEM program entail?

A: 4-H STEM programming and strategies aim to engage kids with hands-on experiences and to meet kids where they are.

Through the research-based 4-H experience, youth collaborate with caring adult mentors to lead hands-on projects. Mentors provide a positive environment where youth learn by doing – with adult mentors providing guidance instead of directing; asking questions instead of giving answers; sitting in the passenger’s seat while the young person takes the wheel to lead; and sharing learnings and encouragement if they make a wrong turn.

This positive youth development approach is applied across 4-H STEM programming and translates abstract concepts into more relatable, practical experiences that help young people explore STEM and apply it to the real world. The four stages – Explore, Learn, Practice and Experience – help kids progress from casual interest in STEM topics to dedicated studies and ultimately career experience.

Every year, 4-H youth participate in more than 5 million STEM projects from aerospace engineering and robotics to veterinary science and hydroponics.

Q: How is Bayer assisting in developing this program?

A: The world’s need for expertise in STEM has never been more intense than it is today. Bayer has partnered with National 4-H Council to grow the pipeline of tomorrow’s innovators and leaders in science. The nationwide collaboration, called Science Matters, will address the need for an enhanced STEM workforce by planting a love of scientific exploration in thousands of youth in urban and rural areas across the country.

Science Matters will extend the reach of 4-H hands-on STEM programming by equipping more than 25,000 youth with the tools and support they need to deepen their understanding of science. Bayer employees and 4-H leaders will provide the opportunity for young people to work alongside professionals in the field demonstrating why science matters to all of us.

Q: How can an aftermarket business assist in supporting 4-H and/or the STEM program?

A: Only 4-H serves every county and parish in the U.S., so supporting 4-H in local communities is simple. Corporate businesses, volunteers and mentors play a vital role in the ongoing growth and development of young people, so by joining forces we can provide life-changing experiences for youth in communities across the nation. We invite partners and individuals to reconnect whether that’s through donation support or volunteering at www.4-h.org.

Q: How can a young person become involved in 4-H in general, and the STEM program in particular?

A: From in-school to after-school clubs to camps, 4-H programs are available in local communities and welcome all young people who want to have fun, learn and grow.

4-H programs and clubs typically meet once per week or once per month, although some may choose to meet more or less frequently. Local 4-H offices will help find the right program for any young person and can provide information on program details.

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About the Author

James Guyette

James E. Guyette is a long-time contributing editor to Aftermarket Business World, ABRN and Motor Age magazines.

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