Youth-adult partnerships

Youth-adult partnerships interconnects 4-H youth development with community development. As an application of community youth development, youth-adult partnerships:

  • recognize youth development is a key part of rebuilding communities, and that every member of a community has a part in creating a healthy community;
  • view youth as assets to their communities as much as adults, and place youth in equal roles with adults in planning, implementing, and evaluating programs that shape their development, as well as the development of their communities; and
  • create opportunities through 4-H for young people to learn leadership, citizenship, and life skills through shared leadership with adults and youth in community settings.

Youth-adult partnerships may involve youth and adults together in leadership development, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, community mapping, civic activism and governance.


Extension Council Youth Leadership 

County extension councils across the state are expanding the role of youth and young adults in decision-making through Extension Council Youth Leadership (ECYL).


The goals of the project are to:

  • support extension councils in engaging youth, ages 14-17, in non-voting capacities (voting members must be at least 18 years old by Missouri State Statutes);
  • support extension councils in engaging more young adults, ages 18-25, in voting positions; and
  • integrate youth-young adult participation into ongoing council leadership development.


MU Extension conducted a statewide survey of extension councils, and held focus groups with youth and young adults in 2005. Results showed most councils are interested in expanding the involvement of young people, and young people want to serve. 

The ECYL training program was developed to assist extension councils with modifying their bylaws, adding youth as non-voting representatives, recruiting young adults to run for elected seats and mentoring new members in their first year on council. 


Councils report a more diverse membership, enhanced dialogue on community issues and improved relations between youth and adults in the community. Youth report stronger connections to MU Extension and aspirations to continue serving in the future.

Counties implementing the program are bringing new voices and organizational change to University of Missouri Extension Councils.

The Extension Council Youth Leadership (ECYL) Training Module can be found on the extension website.

Resources for ECYL's can be found at the bottom of the page.

Youth-adult partnership training

Missouri Youth-Adult Partnership Trainers is a statewide program with the goal of training and supporting youth and adults as trainers and facilitators of youth-adult partnerships in their local communities. Workshops prepare community teams of youth and adults to assume roles as trainers and facilitators of youth-adult partnerships, and to build upon existing efforts.

The 4-H Center for Youth Development is partnering with Mizzou 4-H Collegiate members to offer youth-adult partnership training to local and regional 4-H groups, as well as other agencies and community groups.

If your group or community is interested in exploring youth-adult partnerships, customized training may be available on-site in your county.

Missouri 4-H Homegrown Community Leaders Project (MOHOCOLA)

In 2010, Missouri 4-H joined 13 other states participating in the Engaging Youth, Serving Community Project, sponsored by USDA Rural Youth Development and the National 4-H Council.


The vision

The Missouri 4-H Homegrown Community Leaders Project (or MOHOCOLA) aims to provide an array of leadership development opportunities that engage rural youth in their own development, as well as the development of their communities.

The project is partnering with three rural areas (five communities) to construct youth in governance models specific to their needs. Communities will create a pipeline for rural youth leadership development, where youth gain leadership skills and knowledge, experience meaningful civic leadership roles with caring adults, prepare for college and make long-term goals and plans for hometown civic and entrepreneurial leadership.

Over two to five years, youth-adult teams from each community will impact a single public issue they identify, creating a ripple effect of continuing discovery, learning and dissemination. At the end of five years, the project envisions rural communities with civic infrastructure in place to support a growing number of young leaders going to college with strong local ties and entrepreneurial aspirations leading them back to their communities.


The 4-H Engaging Youth, Serving Community (EYSC) project helps youth and adults from rural communities to identify social, cultural, economic or environmental issues affecting us and to develop and implement action plans to resolve them.

EYSC youth participate in experiences that develop their life and leadership skills, improve their understanding of socio-economic and cultural diversity, and give them a sense of belonging, purpose and involvement in the success of helping solve issues in their communities.

Through the EYSC program, 4-H youth development programs will work with community partners to directly serve at least 6,500 youth and adults in 65 rural communities nationwide.

Missouri projects

Rural communities who are developing national demonstration projects for youth in governance include:

  • Barton County (Lamar)
  • Dade County (Greenfield)
  • Oregon County (Alton, Thayer, Couch)


Steve Henness, MU Extension State Specialist
1110 S. College Ave., Columbia, MO 65211

Supplemental materials