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I pledge my heart to greater loyalty

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my family, my club, my community, my country, and my world.
 –The 4-H Pledge

Our 4-H Pledge is about whole person development. Head. Heart. Hands. Health. When we speak this pledge together, we commit ourselves to growing all parts of the youth with which we partner.

Last month I wrote about the head part of our 4-H Pledge. Today, I’d like to consider our hearts.

I pledge my heart to greater loyalty.

This part of the 4-H Pledge in anchored in social and emotional learning. SEL is the process of acquiring and applying knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

There are two key ways 4-H fosters social and emotional learning in youth; through relationships with caring adults, and opportunities to explore different ideas and experiences outside of a young person’s home community.

Caring adults make a world of difference
Youth who have relationships with three or more caring adults, who are not their parents, are more likely to develop into healthy, caring and responsible adults themselves. Research shows they are also more likely to be successful in college and career. 4-H is a wonderful place for those relationships to grow.

Jim Schneider is a caring adult who helps with the 4-H robotics project in Koochiching County. He volunteers regularly so that youth can learn to trust him and feel safe exploring new ideas. “It’s important for adults to get involved with kids,” he said recently. “And for community members to see the value of cross-generational relationships. When we spend time learning and discovering with youth, they feel cared for and important.”

Exploring builds empathy and respect
Engaging young people in environments different from their own is an effective way to build empathy and respect for others. 4-H offers many opportunities for youth to safety participate in events at the county, regional, state and even national levels. Whether it’s a weekend leadership retreat, a summer camp or conference, or multi-day learning trip to Washington D.C., 4-H’ers connect with people who are different from themselves, explore ideas that are new and challenging, and learn to work toward common goals.  When young people have these experiences, we believe they are also developing critical workforce skills.

Genevieve is a 4-H’er in Hennepin County who first joined a club 5 years ago. She has engaged in a variety of 4-H experiences that have stretched her understanding and grown her ability to collaborate with youth from all over the state and country. “Every 4-H leadership experience I’ve had has helped me grow important skills. As a leader, I need to be aware of the voices and ideas that haven’t yet been expressed or heard. It’s especially hard to do that on a large scale, but I know it’s right.” Most recently, Genevieve used those skills as a member of the National 4-H Conference youth leadership team and is committed to further developing them in college, as a professional, and as a 4-H volunteer.

In 4-H, youth build skills they need to lead for a lifetime. True leaders lead with every part of who they are, so we are committed to growing the head, heart, hands and the health of young people across Minnesota.

How is 4-H helping your children build social and emotional learning skills? I look forward to hearing and seeing your own reflections. Please share them with me in a quick email. Together, we are making the best better through 4-H.

Pledging my heart to greater loyalty,

Dorothy M. Freeman
State 4-H Director

Want to learn more about social emotional learning?

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