Community

4-H leadership opportunities teach lifelong skills

For Wesley Kemp of Cavalier, attending the 2015 National 4-H Conference in Chevy Chase, Md., was a life-changing experience.
During the civic engagement conference, delegates ages 15 to 19 from throughout the U.S., U.S. territories and Canada participate in round-table discussions to help address a challenge that a federal agency poses. Then the youth make presentations to the agency.
Kemp’s round-table group tackled how to inspire more youth to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and presented suggestions to NASA and the National Science Foundation.
“I learned that everyone’s voice is important and that I can succeed in presenting to any audience,” he says. “Who could be more intimidating than NASA!”
Conference delegates also attend workshops on improving their civic knowledge and skills, and visit their state’s congressional delegation.
The conference is one of several national and statewide leadership development opportunities available to North Dakota youth through 4-H, according to Rachelle Vettern, leadership and volunteer development specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Center for 4-H Youth Development. Others include national programs such as National 4-H Congress and Citizenship Washington Focus, and statewide programs such as the Extension Youth Conference and 4-H Ambassadors.
Each year, four youth from North Dakota attend the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Ga. The 4-H’ers join more than 900 youth from across the U.S. in workshops that help them improve their leadership skills. They also hear from nationally and internationally recognized speakers, take part in a service learning project and experience local culture through visits to locations such as the Carter Presidential Library and the Atlanta Zoo.
When Marit Wang of Devils Lake heard about the program from staff in NDSU Extension’s Ramsey County office, she knew she wanted to be a delegate.
“I make it my goal to take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to me that would help me improve my youth leadership ability and fuel my passion for 4-H,” she says. “I learned how big of an impact 4-H has on my generation and all of the positive opportunities it presents youth around the world, no matter what your interests and talents are.”
For 4-H volunteer Cindy Olson of Devils Lake, chaperoning the North Dakota delegates at the 2016 National 4-H Congress was an enlightening experience.
“It was so high energy and positive, you couldn’t help but feel excited and motivated about 4-H, the future and the world in general,” she says.
After returning from these two programs, the delegates are required to promote them across the state and carry out other leadership roles, such as speak about 4-H to boards and organizations, serve on a committee to select future delegates, help plan 4-H programs and events, and volunteer at the state and county fairs.
“We really ask them to step up,” Vettern says. “I’ve never been disappointed. We have some amazing 4-H’ers in North Dakota.”
Some youth apply to become 4-H Ambassadors. The Ambassadors, who are ages 16 to 22, plan and facilitate 4-H activities and events, such as the Extension Youth Conference (EYC). The conference brings together youth from across the state to listen to speakers, participate in a service learning project and attend workshops on a variety of educational topics.
“Ambassadors do most of the planning for EYC,” says 4-H youth development specialist and Ambassadors co-adviser Sue Quamme. “They set it up. They decide what they want to do.”
Anne Brien of Rolla applied to become a 4-H Ambassador after attending her first EYC.
“The 4-H program has helped me to grow so much as a person and has helped me to achieve a lot of my goals, so having the opportunity to give back to 4-H was something that really drew me to the program,” she says.
Dalyce Leslie of Deering has attended the EYC the past four years.
“The best part is making new friends while building your leadership skills,” she says. “I am now more confident in myself and my abilities. I would recommend this program to others because it is a great way to learn while being supported by others around you.”
Citizenship Washington Focus, which gives youth ages 15 to 19 a behind-the-scenes look at the nation’s capital, is another excellent leadership program for youth, according to Karla Meikle, an agent in NDSU Extension’s Morton County office. She has accompanied youth on this opportunity.
“The experience youth have at Citizenship Washington Focus encourages civic responsibility, provides an opportunity for discussion on current issues and is a great opportunity to learn about government operations,” Meikle says.
These experiences also can lead to other opportunities, as past National 4-H Conference attendee Billie Lentz of Rolla discovered in July when she attended the Global 4-H Network Summit in Ottawa, Canada. It encourages youth to network with industry leaders.
“It was incredible to walk into a room with people of every background and know that the thread that connected us all was 4-H,” she says. “4-H has taught me skills that will last me a lifetime, including interview skills, professionalism, persistence, hard work, leadership, how to improve from failure, how to step up to new challenges and how to make a difference.”
Visit www.ndsu. edu/4h/programs_events/ to learn more about leadership development opportunities for youth.


Post Comment