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.
Despite a tornado warning that sent kids, youth counselors and adults to the basement of the Branch County Fair Office the first day, the FRIENDS Day Camp was a success.
According to Suzanne Pish, Michigan State University Extension educator, FRIENDS Day Camp is a great collaboration among partners in the community and among the different staff members within the MSU Extension Branch County Office. This health, nutrition and “4-H awareness” camp is sponsored by the Health and Nutrition Institute and Children and Youth Institute in cooperation with the Branch County 4-H Foundation, Branch County Dairy Producers, Community Health Center of Branch County Physical Therapy, Branch County Michigan Works! WIA Youth Program and the Branch County Fair Board with help from a Branch County Community Foundation–Youth Advisory Council (YAC) grant. It took the cooperation of all of these organizations to host 58 children aged 7 to 11, who are living in limited-income situations, for this weeklong event at the Branch County Fairgrounds July 11–15.
This year’s theme, “Color Me Healthy,” focused on eating fruits and vegetables. The kids took part in a wide range of activities. Val Albright, MSUE Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education (SNAP-ED) program associate, held “In the Kitchen” sessions that included a lesson on fruits and vegetables. Sarah Johnson, MSUE SNAP-ED program associate, led a session each day using OrganWise Guys, an interactive science-based curriculum. Connie Lange, Extension 4-H educator, led the children in craft activities that make the kids aware of 4‑H and the kinds of opportunities 4-H offers. Suzanne presented a session on friendships that encourages social-emotional health. In fact, FRIENDS Day Camp is spelled with all caps to emphasize that the camp is about meeting and making new friends.
Several adult volunteers led other sessions throughout the week and 20 youth volunteers acted as camp counselors. One of the volunteer-led sessions focused on teaching the kids about agriculture, learning where the food they eat actually comes from. Campers got physically active through the Jump Into Foods and Fitness curriculum.
The kids enjoyed the final day at camp by taking a field trip to Sugar Bush Farms in Allen, which is a farmers market as well as a working farm. State Senator Bruce Caswell and Branch County administrator Bud Norman joined the group for a picnic lunch.
Read more here: http://www.thedailyreporter.com/features/x1256647815/MSU-holds-Friends-Camp
In March, Connie Lange, Michigan State University Extension 4-H educator, organized a Dale Carnegie Training course for youth in grades seven to 12 as part of the Branch County Youth Leadership Development Project. Phil Zeller of the Ralph Nichols Dale Carnegie Program taught the sessions in Lansing each Saturday in March.
Connie not only served as facilitator and coordinator of the program, but also played a key role in securing scholarships for the youth participants. The Dale Carnegie program was offered for $800 (a $200 discount), and in coordination with The Dearth Estate in Coldwater, eight Branch County youth were given a full scholarship while 28 were able to attend for only $75. Of those 28, the 24 participants with perfect attendance were refunded the $75 fee through the Branch County 4-H Foundation.
A graduation was held the evening of Tuesday, March 29, in which participants were asked to share what they learned about themselves, about leadership, and about changes in their lives as a result of participating in the program. According to Brad Neumann, District 13 coordinator, participant after participant shared, with nearly 100 family members and perfect strangers in the room, how the program helped them foster more positive relationships in school and within their families, become more comfortable with themselves and appreciative of the differences of others, improve public speaking skills, and develop aspirations of leadership.
It is evident that Connie is a driving force behind youth leadership development in Branch County. She and the Branch County Youth Leadership Development Committee also developed and conducted the Take the Lead leadership training program. The Take the Lead and the Dale Carnegie Training Course are programs offered an alternating yearly basis. Take the Lead helps youth in grades six to eight develop skills and personal attributes around character, challenge, communication and community. Great work, Connie!