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4-H clover 4-H'ers find a place at the table in nation's capital

University of Minnesota Extension's 4-H Youth Development program sends seven youth to the National 4-H Conference

Can you imagine being a teenager and finding yourself at a round table discussion with leaders from the Smithsonian Institution or the U.S. Department of Justice? That's what these 4-H'ers did at the National 4-H Conference in April 2023. 

Youth delegates prepared for the round table discussions, using skills they have developed through 4-H civic engagement and leadership projects, as well as their leadership experiences in their clubs and counties. They also presented to federal partner agencies and engaged with their U.S. senators and representatives.

If you would like to support these experiences, please consider making a donation to the 4-H Youth Leadership Program Fund.
Ellie Sauder, 4-H'er in Dodge County

National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Accurate and inclusive history education

Schools and communities across the country are struggling over how to tell accurate and inclusive history in classrooms. In his “Talk to Teachers,” James Baldwin said in 1963, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” 

Ellie Sauder, Dodge County, participated in this round table to share her perspectives on how to tell a more accurate and inclusive history in our classrooms and communities. Using skills honed as the Dodge County Youth Leadership Council president and through her passion as a communicator and a writer, she presented arguments on why it is important to take on this task and how it can help us all know each other better. 

Ellie is a senior in Pine Island. She has been a 4-H agriculture ambassador for the past three years. Through this role and as a Dodge County dairy princess, she enjoys representing 4-H at the state fair, FarmFest, classroom visits and conferences. In 2022, Ellie was selected to represent Minnesota 4-H and the agriculture ambassador program at the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta. Outside of 4-H, Ellie has worked in a local restaurant and at a youth camp, and enjoys reading, writing and needle arts.

Emilea Johnson, 4-H'er in Pennington County

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Youth leadership

USAID Missions wants to apply meaningful youth engagement and leadership to international development projects but needs insights on how to be more inclusive of the wide range of youth perspectives. 

Emilea Johnson, Pennington County, shared recommendations on how USAID can ensure that young people’s ideas, perspectives, skills and strengths are valued. Kim Fox, Extension 4-H youth development educator, also participated in this round table and helped lead the conference trip.

Emilea is interested in psychology and law, and believes 4-H has allowed her to also discover an interest in political science. With these many interests, she contributed considerations on equity and systemic barriers to participation. A junior at Goodridge Public School, Emiliea plays basketball and is on the student council. Her favorite 4-H project is health and wellness, and she is currently a club president. Last year, Emilea traveled with 4-H for the Citizenship Washington Focus conference.

Evan Meyer, 4-H'er in St. Louis County

Smithsonian Institution, Office of the Under Secretary for Education

Inclusive internships 

The Smithsonian Institution wants to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds, schools and places, but many individuals are not aware of museum careers and opportunities.

Evan Meyer, St. Louis County,  shared insights on what interns can bring to the museum community. With other youth and adults, he helped identify pathways to Smithsonian internships and determine the most important components of an internship. Evan's roles as a 4-H STEM ambassador and a volunteer for the 4-H incredible exchange program have helped him learn to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds. 

Evan was a founding member of the Riptide Spies 4-H Club and has also participated in Extension's water watchers program. He attends Duluth East High School as a junior and is on the soccer, Nordic Skiing and track teams. He runs the lift at a local ski hill, teaches skiing and snowboarding, and is pursuing his private pilot license.

Jocelyn Horn, 4-H'er in Nobles County

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Social media, connectedness and health impact

How does social media impact attitudes, health-related choices and participation in school or community? There is much conversation on this topic, but SAMHSA needed youth perspectives and recommendations on how social media can contribute to positive emotional and mental wellbeing.  

Jocelyn Horn, Nobles County, contributed her experience and knowledge on the positive impacts and risks of social media. As a performing artist, competitor and active volunteer, she gathered input from many friends to share on which recommendations are best handled by SAMHSA, schools, parents or peers, as well as which recommendations young people are most likely to support and act upon. 

A junior at Adrian High School, Jocelyn is a speaker, musician and dancer. The president of her 4-H club for two years, her favorite experience to date was when her 4-H-sponsored robotics team made it to an international competition held in Arkansas, which was "a crazy and surreal experience."

Nalani Vang, 4-H'er in Ramsey County

U.S. Department of Justice

Safe communities 

What makes you feel safe in your schools and communities? The U.S. Department of Justice asked 4-H delegates about their top concerns and how they believe young people and adults can solve these concerns together.

Nalani Vang, Ramsey County, prepared discussion points on her top five concerns related to health and safety and helped facilitate the conversation. As a 4-H state ambassador, Nalani has experience leading icebreakers, breakout sessions and workshops. 

Nalani is a senior at the Math and Science Academy and has been a member of the Northern Lights 4-H Club for nine years. A particular passion of hers is creating healing spaces where youth can reflect and engage in understanding racism, along with strong training to do this work in a supportive and helpful way for all. Outside of 4-H, she likes to ride bikes with her family of eight, write in her journal and participate in a program called ThreeSixty Journalism.

Sophia Gaul, 4-H'er in Murray County

Executive Office of the President, Council on Environmental Quality

Intergenerational collaboration for environmental justice

The Council on Environmental Quality was looking for creative ways that they and their federal agency partners could work with young people to advance the environmental justice agenda of the current presidential administration.

Sophia Gaul, Murray County, is involved in the 4-H horse project and is considering a career in journalism because she loves "other people's stories." In the same vein, she loves a good book and is always recommending her favorites to others. 

Her favorite part of 4-H is making connections and friendships, which was a benefit of participating in the National 4-H Conference and a valuable asset in engaging with others at the national level. A high school junior at Marshall High School, she's involved in speech, soccer and music.

Vivian Mayers, 4-H'er in Carver County

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Campaign to prevent food waste

One-third of all food in the United States goes uneaten, generating greenhouse gas emissions and wasting money and natural resources. A large portion of this waste happens at the household and consumer level. 

Vivian Mayers, Carver County, helped the EPA understand how they could improve outreach to young people about the environmental and economic impacts of food waste. She shared what types of outreach would motivate her and her peers to take action at home and at school, as well as which messages and platforms would make the most impact. 

Vivian is a 4-H state ambassador and lives in Corcoran, where she is a high school senior at Delano High School. She enjoys working outside on her family farm, caring for her horses and exploring all of the different types of agriculture.

Jacquie Lonning, U of M Extension 4-H civic engagement and leadership director

U.S. Department of State

International exchanges

Even Extension's 4-H civic engagement and leadership director was invited to contribute to a round table discussion. Jacquie Lonning, who led this conference experience for Minnesota 4-H youth, joined a discussion on how the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs can best spread the word about youth, volunteer and academic exchanges. 

Her experience was especially relevant to the topic of reaching youth with opportunities, such as scholarships to study abroad while living with volunteer host families, sharing their cultures and promoting mutual understanding.

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