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Ten Minnesota youth built skills in legislative advocacy in Washington D.C.

May 8, 2019

Washington, D.C. – From April 7 to the 13, ten 4-H youth, along with two chaperones, left their snowy, then sunny, then snowy again home state to attend the National 4-H Conference – an annual event hosted by the USDA/NIFA National 4-H Headquarters. 

Delegates pose in front of conference center

The conference engaged teams of youth in a collaborative decision-making process to develop and present briefings to federal agencies. Youth participants also attended skill-building workshops, listened to inspirational speakers, and networked with other youth.

There were nearly 230 youth from 46 different delegations, including from U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Canada. Minnesota’s youth delegation included:

  • Eileen Otto, Wright County –presented Safe Driving to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Eliza Meyer, Polk County –presented Cyber Bullying with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Bureau of Consumer Protection, Division of Consumer & Business Education
  • Gigi Otten, Freeborn County –presented Employment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau
  • Jacob Welch, Fillmore County –presented Future of Agriculture to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture
  • Josie Scholten, Rock County –presented Mental Health to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health
  • Mara Goihl, Wabasha County –presented Youth Policy to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
  • Mary Larson, Big Stone County –presented Future of Agriculture to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
  • McKayla Carlson-Hughes, Isanti County –presented Next Generation Agriculture to the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary, Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement
  • Nolan Hanson, Roseau County, - presented Safe Driving to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Catherine McComas-Bussa of Scott County, a delegate last year, was selected to be on the Youth Leadership Team that plans the conference


On the last full day of the conference, the youth met with the Minnesota Congressional delegation, including in-person meetings with Representatives Nolan, Emmer, Stauber, Craig, & Hagedorn.  They also met Senator Tina Smith and connected with staffers from Senator Amy Klobuchar's office.


Delegates engaging with Senator Tina Smith
Delegates engage with Senator Tina Smith


In addition to the conference activities, members of the Minnesota delegation had the opportunity to meet Stephen Censkey, the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, who is a Jackson County 4-H alum, and a former Minnesota 4-H State President/State Ambassador.


Delegates with Deputy Secretary of Ag
Delegates with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephan Censkey


Many supporters of youth development provide financial backing for this impactful learning experience. They include the University of Minnesota Foundation, proceeds from the 4-H State Ambassador Clovermart customers, the Extension Center for Youth Development, local 4-H federations, parents, families and friends.

University of Minnesota Extension staff Jacquie Lonning and Karen Beranek provided leadership for this year’s delegation. 
“I learned how to navigate a situation when there are contrasting viewpoints on a team”, one youth shared. The delegates learned to truly listen to each other, realize their perspectives were valid but different, and still come together for a common goal (developing their briefing). 


Delegates pose in front of conference center sign


Are you a youth interested in attending next year’s conference? Applications haven’t opened yet, but you can learn more about the conference on our website.

By Bailey Ruen
University of Minnesota student
Fillmore County 4-H member


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