Nebraska 4-H Strong

Nebraska will be celebrating a strong 4-H youth development program in February. The 4-H program offers many strengths for youth, volunteers, and communities. Those strengths include building life skills through hands-on learning, growing confidence, resilience, and compassion, while adults provide a positive, strong environment. The theme for this year’s Nebraska 4-H celebration is belong. There will be several opportunities for the 4-H members, volunteers, and supporters to celebrate in Dakota County. 

The 4-H Pledge is the strong backbone of the 4-H program that has been around for more than 100 years. The H’s stand for head, heart, hands, and health. The pledge has been recited at 4-H meetings and events for almost 94 years. Let’s see what the pledge has to offer youth and adults. 

We pledge our heads to clearer thinking.

The 4-H programs are grounded in the belief that kids learn best by doing. Participants complete hands-on projects in areas such as science, healthy living, food supply confidence, community development, career and college readiness, leadership, and entrepreneurship, in a positive environment. Through these projects, they receive guidance from adults and are encouraged to take leadership roles. 

Nebraska 4-H is committed to supporting the youth in our state with hands-on learning. Whether it be in a school classroom, a cafeteria, a gym, a living room, an outside space, or online, learning can happen anywhere. One program in Dakota County that has a strong collaboration with the South Sioux City Schools is First Lego League (FLL) Robotics for the past ten years. Each year, approximately 40 students compete in the experience, learning valuable life skills with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, while building, programming, and testing robots with more than 15 coaches and mentors. 

Virtual learning experiences increased through Nebraska 4-H in 2020. New statewide programs, including Living Room Learning, Boredom Busters, Virtual Field Trips, Virtual Summer Camps, and many more, have been created and continue to expand in 2021. Statewide and community-based online opportunities within 4-H continue to broaden this year for youth in classrooms, home school co-ops, remote learners, and afterschool groups.

[More information can be found at:

We pledge our hearts to greater loyalty.

It is important for youth to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in a group. Feeling nurtured in a safe emotional and physical environment is essential to their development. It is also important for youth to see themselves as active participants in the future. 

Nebraska 4-H is committed to providing learning environments for youth that contain the elements which are essential to effective youth development programs. Belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity, are integral to designing high-quality activities for hands-on learning. 

University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty/staff, as well as volunteers, are trained to utilize and to incorporate the Essential Elements into their work with youth. The elements help these individuals view the whole young person, rather than focus on a single aspect of life or development. When used, youth are more likely to become civically involved.

[More information can be found at:

We pledge our hands to larger service.

The 4-H civic engagement programs empower young people to be well-informed citizens who are actively engaged in their communities and the world. Youth learn about civic affairs, build decision-making skills, and develop a sense of understanding and confidence in relating and connecting to other people. 

Nebraska 4-H is committed to fostering youth’s commitment and contribution to their communities. Through service opportunities, young people in 4-H develop a caring attitude, which builds character. 

Throughout 2020, youth across the state have found new and unique ways to give back to their local communities. From sending cards and messages to residents of community care centers, growing vegetable gardens and donating produce, designing painted kindness rocks with uplifting messages, or ensuring local health officials are well-supplied with personal protective equipment, Nebraska 4-H participants have persevered by continuing to serve others, despite challenging times. This movement continues in 2021. 

[More information can be found at:

We pledge our health to better living.

The 4-H healthy living programs empower youth to be healthy – body and mind – with the skills to make healthy decisions and lead healthy lifestyles. Having the confidence and skills to lead healthy lifestyles not only improves overall well-being; it enables youth to tackle life’s challenges today and become leaders in their lives, careers, and communities as they grow into responsible adulthood. 

Nebraska 4-H is committed to supporting young people during times of change. The unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed and continues to change, the routines of many. The school and activity schedules, as well as important milestones, of youth in our state, have been altered this year. 

To assist caring adults who help young people cope, a series of articles focused upon “Supporting Young People Through Change” were written and made available in 2020. Topics focused upon contributing in a changing world; creating a routine, coping, and connecting in changing times; finding comfort in a changing world; and identifying grief. All who work with and/or care for youth can provide assistance in helping young people cope with the challenges and develop into caring, connected, and capable adults. 

[More information can be found at:]

How do you get involved with this strong program in Nebraska? Please contact a Nebraska Extension Office or visit the website at or

Angela Abts, a 4-H and Youth Development Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension for the past 12 years, along with eight years with K-State Research & Extension. She focuses her extension programming working with youth audiences through school enrichment, afterschool, First Lego League teams, and traditional 4-H clubs in Dakota County and statewide.

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