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A Look into the Four Pillars of 4-H

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4-H was founded more than 100 years ago and is still going strong as America’s largest youth development organization. Built on the principals of thought (head), compassion (heart), service (hands), and healthy living (health), 4-H helps kids around the country become leaders in their communities. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at these four quintessential parts of 4-H and the programs that help develop them.


4-H prides its success in making our nation’s youth more clear and original thinkers. The 6 million young people who belong to 4-H finish out the program with better critical thinking skills, more creative approaches to everyday problems, and an intellectual curiosity that leads them to become lifelong learners, ready to tackle the issues that matter most in their communities.

To foster strong, creative thinking, 4-H has focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. 4-H has multiple STEM programs, camps, and clubs that help kids become more confident with subjects such as math and engineering.


4-H youth leaders also pledge their hearts to greater loyalty and care for their families, friends, and communities. They are committed to helping and understanding others in order to improve the world around us. Fostering the necessary technical skills to contribute to one’s community and the economy is important, and they are complemented by values such as caring and loyalty.

This pillar is represented through the 4-H agricultural programs. These programs foster a deeper understanding of the ties in our communities through food, animal husbandry, and other agricultural themes. State fair programs and competitions help youth reach out to those in their communities and better understand how agricultural ties people together.


Community service is an essential part of the 4-H experience. Whether it is in an urban neighborhood or rural farming communities, 4-H’ers are committed to bringing valuable support to their communities through a variety of different initiatives.  With activities such as beautification projects, fundraising, neighborhood clean-up, 4-Hers learn that becoming true leaders means giving back.

Service is another pillar of 4-H. 4-Hers pledge their hands to larger service and participate in community work projects. Giving back is a true mark of a leader, and 4-H helps future leaders find their voices while doing good.


Another critical part of 4-H’s youth development program is championing healthy lifestyle choices. A focus on good physical and mental health is integral to the 4-H mission of creating sharp, effective youth leaders. Kids who stay active, eat right, and are mindful of their and others’ mental health are the best suited to become role models in their communities and transmit these practices to their friends and families.

Healthy living is another pillar of 4-H, with an emphasis on sustainable and healthy food preparation and eating practices. 4-H programs provide young adults with the basic knowledge and skills they need to create healthy habits both at home and in their communities.

Even though there are four pillars of 4-H and each has unique programs – all of them fulfill every H in 4-H. One example is 2017’s National Youth Science Day activity. Last year, students came together to complete a STEM challenge for National Youth Science Day. However, the project, which focused on Wearable Fitness Tracking Technology, had elements of thought (STEM), community (group projects), service (creating inexpensive ways for the community to be healthier, and healthy living (fitness tracking). 4-Hers don’t only become leaders in one pillar, but all four. That diversity in thought and mission helps them become even better leaders for the future.

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