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 southeastern 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 2004-2006 included horse care, GPS training, entomology, ham radio operations, rappelling, 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 have 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.

As a service project for Cochise County, Teen/Pre-Teen Council members collaboratively wrote two grants to the county health department for projects that would encourage physical activity and include mini-lessons on diabetes and asthma. The council sponsored three community service events fostering health and fitness for Cochise County 4-H members and leaders. A "Plan & Play" was held for teens and pre-teens from Cochise, Fort Huachuca and Santa Cruz counties, allowing youth ages 11-18 to identify needs, plan programs and events, and practice leadership skills. 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.


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. In 2004, 50 percent of youth involved were pre-teens. In 2005, evaluation data revealed that pre-teen involvement increased from half to roughly two-thirds of the Teen/Pre-Teen Council and their activities. By 2006, nearly three-fourths of youth involved were pre-teens-their enrollment had more than doubled, from 44 youth in 2004 to 86 in 2006. Surveys conducted using the online Arizona Life Skills Evaluation tool focused on wise use of resources, communication, accepting differences, useful/marketable skills, and self-responsibility. Specifically, youth were evaluated in areas such as "assisting a group in meeting its goals by showing or directing along the way; using personal influence to guide a group in reaching its goal, organizing a group to reach its goal, and contributing as a member of the team." According to evaluations for 86 participants, the percent of participants who made gains from pre-program to post-program was 66 percent.

"We've never had anything for us [pre-teens] before. You have always had to be 13 to do anything fun in 4-H. LEAP 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: 


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