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4-H clover 4-H'ers make the news, learn from the experience

4-H youth make for great news stories. While 4-H'ers are used to being interviewed and presenting to groups in their project work, news media can feel like a high-stakes game. Fortunately, University of Minnesota Extension puts the youth development experience first.

Reporters appear at 4-H events all year and county fairs are a mainstay of local news. But the Minnesota State Fair attracts new reporters and even national media. Young people don't always know when they will be approached, sometimes until they have a camera and microphone in front of them.

As a youth development program, Extension 4-H ensures that adult staff are always nearby to coordinate media, and in those roving reporter instances, to be a lifeline for support. Sometimes that means saying "no," or "not right now." But often, careful management of the situation leads to a story for the reporter and a positive learning experience for the young person.

"Developing the skills and confidence of each young person is our priority," says Jacquie Lonning, Extension youth development civic engagement and leadership director. "We prepare each participant ahead of time on what to expect in an interview, and youth in our Ambassador programs receive training on how to articulate their stories of belonging and growth in 4-H."

Making it a conversation

Lonning, along with communications staff, provide training on how to handle a news media request, practicing different scenarios and ways that they too can achieve something meaningful from their efforts.

For example, Evelyn Otto aimed to promote the lamb and wool industry with her project, a red wool dress she sewed from a vintage pattern and festooned with rhinestone buttons.


As a 4-H Ambassador in Wright County and a Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador, Evelyn is used to talking to both kids her own age and adults, but says the reporter's approach also makes a difference.

"With this last interview that I did, A.J. Hilton [WCCO-4] was really easy to talk to," she says. "He assured me with words like, 'Just pretend like we're having a conversation.' Being passionate and knowing a lot about my topic also makes it easy to discuss it with anyone."


Sharing knowledge and opportunity

Remembering that his leadership skills learned in 4-H were one reason he was selected to appear on WCCO-4 helped Jenovic Kadendula focus on the task at hand, to impart a little of the knowledge to the state fair audience that he and his Green Superheroes of Science team normally share with other youth.

"I was a little nervous at first, but my team had Zoom calls to talk about what we were going to do," he says. "I was fine once we got out there because we were really just teaching like we always do and it was also a chance to show people that they could do things like this in 4-H."

Next time you see a young person in a 4-H t-shirt in the news, you'll know — the story may come and go, but the skills and confidence they learn will last a lifetime. 

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