Project LEAP: A 4-H Leadership Education Adventure for Pre-Teens

Support Increased Economic Opportunities and Improved Quality of Life in Rural America
Research Year: 

Because adolescents are often testing boundaries and their role in the adult world, they may leave behind the groups in which they were previously involved. If they don’t find a suitable replacement niche, they may succumb to the temptations of gangs and drug and alcohol abuse. Arizona 4-H camping activities have typically been limited to teens over the age of 14. Providing alternative opportunities not only give pre-teens a sense of belonging (thus promoting 4-H youth development and helping to ensure membership as an older teen) but also offers valuable life skills development.

Description of Action: 

Project LEAP (Leadership Education Adventure for Pre-teens) was created for southern Arizona youth aged 11-13 to give them the chance to take part in activities that enhance leadership skills, boost self-esteem and improve their decision-making skills. Workshops, activities and demonstrations that were held for this age group in 2004 under the name “Tweeners Camp” included horse care, GPS training, archery, hiking, and arts and crafts. Outside demonstrations included experiences with Army dogs, challenge games, and an Army simulated “boot camp.” In addition, more than 40 4-H youth performed community service projects, including preparing holiday baskets for needy families; rebuilding an archery site and refurbishing trash cans at a local facility rented for LEAP activities.

Overall, youth participants were taught numerous physical activities to encourage productive, healthy lifestyles, and were trained to identify current activities and skills needed to avoid risky behaviors. They had opportunities to interact with people of diverse cultures, to make new friends, and to learn safe camping practices in preparation for the time when they are old enough to attend 4-H teen and leadership camps.


The first LEAP Camp utilized the new Arizona Life Skills Evaluation tool available online. Forty-four (44) participants were surveyed with 100 percent responding; 14 questions were asked and were scored on a 4 point scale (1=no, 2=sometimes, 3=usually, 4=yes). Life skills that were tested included wise use of resources, communication, accepting differences, useful/marketable skills, and self-responsibility. Average for all indicators showed a pre-test total of 3.28 and a post-test total of 3.75. Overall, the percent of participants who made gains from pre-program to post-program was more than 84 percent.

As a result, middle schooler (pre-teen) involvement in 4-H activities has expanded to include nearly 50 percent of all Cochise County Teen/Pre-Teen Council events within the past 6 months of implementation. Previously, these youth were not allowed to become a part of this group. During this past year, some events would have been cancelled because of a lack of interest had it not been for the involvement of this population of young pre-teens. Teen Council typically presents all of the Achievement Night awards, but this year two pre-teens also spoke to the nearly 200 attendees. The addition of a dessert auction allowed more than 30 pre-teens and younger youth to participate in the program.

“We've never had anything for us [pre-teens] before. You have always had to be 13 to do anything fun in 4-H. Tweeners Camp was the greatest weekend of my life. Now I get to do all the stuff the teens get to!” –pre-teen participant

“The best part of LEAP Camp was that I made friends with younger kids. I'm a better role model, now!" –11-year-old participant

“This program is very [much] needed for this age of children. The kids were willing to help, participate and enjoy each other. There were no cliques, no ‘problem children’, and great enthusiasm. Counselors were educated in every way. LEAP was planned out great. Hope to see you next year and many years to come!” –adult chaperone for LEAP program

Funding Agencies: 

Arizona Cooperative Extension

Conact Name: 
Darcy Tessman
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

The University of Arizona

1140 N. Colombo, Sierra Vista, AZ 85635

(520) 458-8278 ext. 2140 office (520) 458-5823 fax