Lessons for 4-H Youth Member Recruitment and Retention From the First-Generation College Student Literature


  • Ashley Patricia Parra University of Arizona
  • Nicholas A. Morris Kent State University at Stark
  • Jeremy Elliott-Engel University of Arizona




first-generation, access, equity, and belonging, 4-H, member retention, member recruitment


4-H is the largest positive youth development organization in the United States and is implemented by the land grant university system. To achieve program expansion, the century-old organization will need to recruit and retain millions more youth that reflect their increasingly diversified communities. Higher education has also worked to recruit and retain youth previously not engaged in college. This paper explores the hypothesis that there are lessons to be learned by the 4-H program from the literature on first-generation college students. Literature on risk factors and retention are presented for both first-generation college students and 4-H youth members. The two literatures are compared for similarities. Parallels existing between the experience of a first-generation college student entering an undergraduate program and the experience of a first-generation 4-H youth member entering the 4-H program were explored. Considerable overlap is found between recruitment and retention challenges in both audiences prior to enrollment/participation and during matriculation/participation providing considerable opportunities for 4-H and positive youth development organizations to identify adaptations to support first-generation youth members.

Author Biographies

Ashley Patricia Parra, University of Arizona

Student Success Specialist, TRIO Arizona Science, Engineering, and Math Scholars Program (ASEMS)

Nicholas A. Morris, Kent State University at Stark

Adjunct Professor, Environmental Studies and Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management

Jeremy Elliott-Engel, University of Arizona

Associate Extension Specialist, Department of Agricultural Education, Technology, and Innovation; and, Associate Director & State 4-H Program Leader, Arizona Cooperative Extension


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