Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Andrea Stairs-Davenport, PhD

Second Advisor

Angela Atkinson-Duina, EdD

Third Advisor

Hannah S. Carter, PhD


Informal education programs like 4-H have the potential to expose young people to opportunities and experiences which may lead to increased social and educational capital. Previous research has consistently found that young people thrive within the 4-H Youth Development program.

The study identified commonalities throughout the multiple modes of participation and identified the ways in which participants are indeed on a thriving trajectory. It involved 12 first-generation 4-H members in Maine between the ages of 14-19. Through the use of in-depth interviews and the creation of ecomaps, this qualitative case study uncovered participants’ perspectives of the Maine 4-H program. This case study suggests that 4-H provides connections and opportunities for young people that they would not normally access. In addition, 4-H staff and volunteers play critical roles in creating capital for the young people. Thus, the adults must understand each youth and suggest experiences that meet that young person's goals and potential.

This dissertation promotes including 4-H and Positive Youth Development programs to support Social Emotional Learning within the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) legislation. Policymakers at all levels should look to form stronger Youth Adult Partnerships when creating policy. The findings of this study suggest that the role of Extension educators and staff is critical in the exploration, strengthening, and cultivation of youth sparks. Intention should be at the core of how programmatic decisions are made.


© 2021 Kristy Lee Ouellette

All Rights Reserved



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.