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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Helping organize 4-H and FFA Activities Could Help Members Develop Leadership Skills

LAS CRUCES - By getting involved in the actual planning and evaluating of 4-H and FFA club activities, members may better develop the leadership skills necessary for life, said two New Mexico State University researchers.

Brenda Seevers and Thomas Dormody of NMSUfs Agricultural Experiment Station found that participation in various club activities helps 4-H and FFA members develop leadership skills like public speaking, working in groups and problem solving. "More activity may cause more leadership," Dormody said. But the researchers found there is room for improvement in helping members develop leadership skills.

Seevers and Dormody surveyed members from 4-H and FFA in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona to see if the clubs provide members with leadership skills that will help them throughout life. Members age 14 to 18 filled out survey forms that asked questions about how their club experiences improved their various leadership skills.

4-H is a community-based club in which youth ages five and up learn many skills including leadership, communication, cooperation, decision-making and responsibility. The members learn these skills through participating in many projects and different activities such as food preparation, livestock evaluation, photography, gardening and computers.

FFA is an organization that includes junior high and high school students. The main goal is developing leadership, cooperation and citizenship for tomorrow's agriculturalists. FFA features many different activities such as agricultural mechanics, parliamentary procedure, crop/livestock production and plant identification.

In 4-H, the researchers found that involvement is highest at the club and county levels. "Fewer members choose to go above and beyond local activities to state or national events, where they may actually gain more through interaction with other members," Dormody said.

The survey showed participation is greatest in activities such as fairs, demonstrations, teaching younger members and community service projects. Other activities that members ranked as top leadership developers included holding office, livestock shows, judging contests and public speaking.

Seevers said the study showed 4-H members were least involved in planning and evaluating activities. The researchers are interested in getting the members more involved in all aspects of leading the club. Planning, implementing and evaluating club activities could help make members better problem solvers,-they said.

In FFA, members don't advance beyond chapter activities for members who don't like individual competition.

The researchers designed a scale for their survey to test if belonging to organizations such as 4-H and FFA gives members leadership skills beneficial to them in the real world. They had to develop the scale before they could effectively do the study, because existing scales that measure leadership development were incomplete.

The researchers said their next project will be using the same scale to assess leadership development in other New Mexico vocational student organizations, such as Future Homemakers of America (FHA), Business Professionals of America (BPA), Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) and Technology Students Association (TSA). They want to see if other vocational organizations are getting students involved in planning, implementing and evaluating their own club activities.