While some of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues and I were at the Public Issues Leadership Development conference April 12‒15, two 4-H’ers also traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent Michigan 4-H at the National 4-H Conference. with Jackelyn Martin, Extension educator. As founding members of the newly launched Michigan State 4-H Youth Leadership Council, Erin Washburn and Davis Fettes, both of Branch County, stepped outside of their comfort zones, met peers from across the U.S., honed their leadership skills and presented a youth perspective to a federal agency.
Youth at the conference are assigned to “roundtable” groups, designed to help members understand the issues that a specific federal agency is tackling and to allow them to give their youth-specific perspective to the issues. Both Michigan youth presented to the Smithsonian Waterways group to help provide their perspectives to the issue: “Through a youth perspective, we hope to increase understanding, take action, and make a difference in our own communities by offering tools and resources to formal and informal educators” around water conservation education. Participating in a diverse group composed of youth from across the U.S., the Michigan youth worked to understand perspectives of youth from parts of the country challenged by drought ‒ perspectives that they might otherwise only distantly understand from news reports.
Erin said, “(National 4-H Conference was an) eye-opener to what it’s really like across the nation. Connecting with others and coming together on one topic in two days, it was an experience that changed my view of things.”
When not busy preparing their presentation, youth listened to motivational speakers, attended workshops and met with U.S. senators and representatives on Capitol Hill. This was an exciting opportunity for our Michigan 4-H’ers to get real hands-on experience and encourage them to take leadership in their community.