What Does 4-H Mean?

Positive Youth Development is the educational framework 4-H uses which leads to positive behaviors and outcomes among young people. It is the cornerstone of the 4-H program. Positive youth development occurs through an intentional process that provides opportunities, choices, relationships, and the support necessary for youth to fully reach their potential. 4-H's unique role in youth development is based upon scientifically valid research.

The four H's represent the cornerstones of raising productive, well-centered and happy young people. Our mission is to make that happen.

  • HEAD -- Make sound decisions, set goals and stick with them until they are achieved, and have practical skills needed to lead a productive and fulfilling life.
  • HEART -- Act with integrity and accountability, and help others become their best.
  • HANDS -- Put the needs of the community before those of themselves, and serve others.
  • HEALTH -- Actively take care of their minds and bodies.

Want to learn more about the History of 4-H?

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Eight Essential Elements of the 4-H Experience

  • Positive relationship with a caring adult.
  • An inclusive environment.
  • A safe environment.


  • Opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future.
  • Opportunity for self-determination.


  • Opportunity for mastery.
  • Engagement in learning.


  • Opportunity to value and practice service for others.

Proven Results

For over 100 years, 4-H has fostered a "learn by doing" approach with proven results. The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, a longitudinal study conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, shows youth engaged with 4-H are:

  • nearly two more likely to get better grades in school
  • nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college
  • 41% less likely to engage in risky behaviors
  • 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities

4-H is dedicated to learning and understanding how its programs help youth become responsible citizens leading healthy and productive lives and discovering critical science-focused innovations. Learn more about these important research findings on youth and 4-H:

Learn more about the National 4-H Program.