4-H Citizenship Washington Focus: Hands-on learning at the nation’s capitol

Youth ages 14-19 can be a part of the 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus to strengthen their communication and leadership skills at the national level.

4-H Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) has been a part of the Michigan 4-H leadership and civic engagement programming for almost 50 years.  CWF is a learning lab about our national government in Washington D.C., for young people between the ages of 14 and 19.  Held at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md., (one mile outside of Washington, D.C.) these week-long sessions run with the help of college aged program assistants throughout June and July.  Program assistants go through intensive training about the national government and the Washington D.C. sites. At the end of training they actually become licensed tour guides for the D.C. area.  They work with each of the delegations coordinators to provide the most meaningful experience for CWF delegates.

CWF provides opportunities for young people to:

  • Strengthen their communication, leadership and citizenship skills on a national level
  • Understand the importance of civic and social responsibilities as they relate to the development of better citizens and leaders
  • Exchange ideas, practice respect and form friendships with other youth from diverse backgrounds.
  • Experience hands-on learning using the historical backdrop of Washington D.C.

According to Michigan State University Extension, while at CWF, youth take part in several educational workshops, meet with legislators, visit historic sites in and around D.C., and take home an action plan to conduct activities to improve their communities. Workshops help youth learn about the issues on the national level and discuss the different viewpoints of the issues with other CWF participants from all over the country.  Other workshops help youth learn about bill writing and creating a strategy to passing the bill through consensus building, debate, lobbying and gathering support.  Sites visited while in D.C. include all of the monuments and memorials, the U.S. Capitol, visits with their representatives and senators, and the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.  Tours of Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon and the National Cathedral are also taken as well as other tours on “Delegation Day” where groups can choose to visit places like the Smithsonian Institution.

On a recent trip, a chaperone discovered that a store employee was a veteran.  During the trip, the chaperone spoke to the CWF delegation about the veteran and his service to our country.  A presentation was arranged to recognize the veteran during the returning trip.  The lesson was very meaningful for participants as well as the veteran.

Using experiential learning activities like 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus, Michigan 4-H continues to teach young people how to make an impact in government and their communities. This summer of 1,500 youth from 35 states will attend CWF!  Learn more about 4-H and leadership and civic engagement opportunities for youth like Citizenship Washington Focus by visiting MSU Extension or the Michigan 4-H website.

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