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Vermont 4-H'ers Attend College at Higher Than Average Rates, According to UVM Analysis

Dyani Jones, the top-rated student at Mount Mansfield High School, and her horse, Eli. Jones participated in 4-H focusing on activities that involved horses. “You can pursue whatever you’re interested in and learn those really important life skills that help with school and then beyond in the process,” she said. Jones will attend UVM next fall. (Photo: Brian Jenkins)

Vermonters who participate in 4-H attend college at higher rates than average, according to an assessment of student data conducted by the University of Vermont.

Of the 87 Vermont students who graduated from high school in 2015 and 2016 and participated in 4-H, 66 percent went on to college, the assessment found. 

By comparison, 53 percent of Vermont high school graduates overall continued on to college in the 2014/15 school year, according to the New England Secondary School Consortium.

Of the 4-H students who went on to college, 26 went to college in Vermont and 12 went to institutions in New York. The University of Vermont was the top destination, with seven students attending the school.

“A hallmark of the 4-H program is the network of mentors who work with young people, helping them imagine their futures, set goals, make realistic plans about how to achieve them and generally offer encouragement and support,” said Sarah Kleinman, director of Vermont 4-H/Youth Programs at University of Vermont Extension, which oversees 4-H in Vermont. “I’m not surprised to see a high percentage of them following through on their plans by attending college.”

4-H member Dyani Jones of Jericho, Vermont, a senior at Mount Mansfield High School who will attend UVM next fall as a Green and Gold Scholar, credits 4-H with helping her set and achieve academic goals. The Green and Gold program awards a full in-state tuition scholarship to the top-rated senior attending selected Vermont high schools and a number of border high schools.  

“At the beginning of every 4-H year, we set goals for our projects, and at the end of the year we reflect on whether or not we met those goals,” she said. The skills transferred to her schoolwork, she said. "I would set goals to get assignments done and get certain grades in my classes, and that helped me achieve my overall goals in school.”

The UVM assessment was based on student data collected by the National Student Clearinghouse.  

A national survey of 4-H programs conducted by Tufts University complements the findings of the UVM analysis. While the Tufts study didn’t address college continuation, it did focus on academic engagement in middle and high school. It found that 4-H participants were 1.5 times more likely to report high academic competence, compared with students participating in other community-based, out-of-school programs, and 1.7 times more likely to have higher levels of school engagement.

4-H is a life and job skills development program, helping youth to explore areas of interest that builds career awareness, civic engagement and leadership. For more information on 4-H, call 1-800-571-0668.