Youth Advocates for Health (YA4-H!)

Youth Advocates for Health, or YA4-H!, is a positive youth development program in WSU Extension’s Youth and Family Unit. YA4-H! develops teens as leaders and advocates for health within their communities. This program was led by Dr. Elizabeth Weybright and is now led by Dr. Ashley Hernandez-Hall in collaboration with county Extension faculty across the state. Built on a foundation of positive youth development and the 4-H Essential Elements of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity, YA4-H! provides opportunities to teens to develop skills to successfully navigate the transition to adulthood. YA4-H! is flexible in that it can be used to promote a variety of health behaviors. This means that in addition to positive youth development outcomes, teens and the youth they teach are exposed to healthy lifestyle content.

Since 2013, YA4-H! has received $575,000 in extramural funding from National 4-H Council and partners including ConAgra Foods, United Health Care, and Walmart Foundation. These funds have been used to engage 13,000 youth, 300 teens, and countless family and community members.

WSU Extension YA4-H! is implemented in three components of:

  1. youth-adult partnerships,
  2. teens as teachers, and
  3. youth participatory action research.

Youth-Adult Partnerships

Developmental relationships between youth and adults are consistently identified as critical for effective youth programming. Youth-adult partnerships consist of two main features including youth voice in decision making and supportive adult relationships. Prior research indicates youth who participate in youth-adult partnerships experience greater empowerment, psychological agency, and community connectedness while developing problem solving and decision-making skills.

Teens as Teachers

Teens as teachers uses a cross-age peer teaching model which is a relationship between two peers of the same generation where one peer is slightly older. Teen teachers not only promote positive outcomes among those they teach but also “learn by doing,” which is a 4-H tradition. Research finds teens demonstrate greater internalization of content delivered (e.g., nutrition education) but also develop life skills such as communication, leadership, and teaching skills.

Teen as teachers (TAT) is being implemented as part of our Healthy Habits programming funded by National 4-H Council.

Youth Participatory Action Research

Participatory action research empowers youth with the skills to identify and research health concerns in their communities and take action to address them. This process is associated with greater civic engagement and youth empowerment.

Youth participatory action research (YPAR) is being implemented as part of programming within the Center for Rural Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery (CROP+TR)


Weybright, E., White, A., Greer, M., Fees ,J., & Watters, C. (2023). Youth Engagement Resource Guide. Washington State University Extension.

The purpose of this resource guide is to provide background information and related research to support decision making for adults working with youth.

Weybright, E. H., Martinez, A. D., Varrella, G., Deen, M., & Wright, K. (2018). Teens as teachers: Positive outcomes and recommendations for promoting healthy nutrition in adolescents [Special Issue]. Journal of Youth Development, 13(3), 37-54. doi:10.5195/jyd.2018.595.

Summary of findings: Increased nutrition knowledge and improved healthy eating behaviors such as greater ability to read food labels and reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. We concluded youth demonstrated greater internalization of nutrition content as a result of learning and teaching the curriculum to others.

Weybright, E. H., Trauntvein, N., & Deen, M. (2017). “It was like we were all equal”: Maximizing youth development using youth-adult partnerships [Special Issue]. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 35(1), 5-19. doi:10.18666/JPRA-2017-V35-I1-7246.

Summary of findings: We translated the YA4-H! approach to other youth-serving organizations by providing a framework for disseminating youth-adult partnerships into communities.

Weybright, E. H., Hrncirik, L., White, A., Cummins, M., Deen, M., & Calodich, S. (2016). “I felt really respected and I know she felt respected too”: Using youth-adult partnerships to promote positive youth development in 4-H youth (PDF). Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 4(3), 93-110.

Summary of findings: Greater skills related to teaching, communication, and leadership useful in school and work settings. This included skills related to classroom management, public speaking, and teamwork. We concluded youth experienced a sense of psychological engagement with the program and, in turn, developed personal and life skills.

Presentations and Trainings


“I Never Realized How Hard Recovery Is.” Evaluation of a Youth Participatory Action Research Project for Opioid Misuse Prevention: Society for Research on Adolescence

Youth engagement training for Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery


  • Youth Participatory Action Research for Substance Use Prevention: Associations with Youth Empowerment; Society for Research on Adolescence.




  • Inspiring Healthy Change among Adolescents – The Teens as Teaching Model for Nutrition Education; National Association of Extension 4-H Agents