The economic value of youth development volunteers in Oneida County

Lynn2By Lynn Feldman
Oneida County 4-H Youth Development Educator
UW-Extension Oneida County
Phone: 715-365-2750


Over the course of this past year, more than 2,600 volunteer hours were credited to the University of Wisconsin-Extension Youth Development work in Oneida County. With a dollar value of $22.24 per volunteer hour as determined by the U.S. government for the state of Wisconsin, the value to Oneida County of those hours was $57,824.00.

Extension work involves building the capacity of communities by engaging with people in transformations that will positively enhance the lives of county citizens. In Youth Development work, capacity building involves volunteer development.
The majority of the Youth Development volunteer hours are credited to the 4-H program. From leading project groups, participating in the Leaders’ Association, running special events, and helping with the Fair, volunteers are responsible for the 4-H program’s existence.

As the UW-Extension educator, my role is to train, develop, and manage volunteers. I assist with their professional development training in how to partner with youth, provide youth activities that fit with developmental stages, provide a safe environment, and problem-solve challenges. Any first time volunteer must go through a mandatory training that I lead as well as a background check and risk management certification.

Development of volunteers doesn’t stop with initial training however. Volunteers continue to grow through one-on-one training offered that surrounds organization, communication, and other leadership skills necessary not just for confidence in teaching youth; but for Oneida County 4-H program visioning, networking, and growth. The result this year has been the initiation of a community club program in the Three Lakes area and sustainable leadership of the 4-H club in Rhinelander. It has also resulted over the past couple of years in new project area growth: Fishing, Lego Robotics, Skynet astronomy, babysitting, sewing, and Legos.

In addition to 4-H, business leader volunteers were responsible for piloting a workforce readiness workshop in Three Lakes this past summer. With a need for teens to be ready to meet customer and business owners’ needs in their summer jobs, the business leaders readily gave of their time to not only help youth but ultimately help secure the tourist economy vital for community economic stability. Their volunteer work fostered the idea of a more wide-scale workforce readiness program run by volunteers in the Three Lakes High School now scheduled for the spring of 2017.

Youth volunteers exist in the 4-H and Teen Court organizational structure. Working in partnership with adults, youth leaders create and lead programming, create a sense of belonging for younger youth, provide mentorship for younger youth, and set an example for community service learning. All the while, they grow in the development of basic life skills.
Over the past couple of years, in evaluations collected from youth leaders; the common measure life skills of communication, self-determination, cooperation, creativity, respect, and critical thinking were all listed as ones which they felt were addressed during their volunteer work.

As Oneida County looks to the future, it has as a main goal, a healthy economy. It is easy to see how adequately skilled workers who are excited to live and raise families here, who are engaged in civic leadership, and who appreciate the natural resources of the area through stewardship actions contribute to the healthy economy goal.

The current adult and youth leadership volunteer work and development that is the mainstay of the UW-Extension Youth Development program contributes to the goal of a future healthy economy in a big way. For more information on how to volunteer with UW-Extension Youth Development programming, call the Oneida County Extension office.

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