4-H youth represent Michigan at National 4-H Congress

Michigan 4-H’ers continue their leadership journey at a national experience.

Michigan delegates to the 2017 National 4-H Congress enjoy the Congress Gala. Photo by Matt Newman.
Michigan delegates to the 2017 National 4-H Congress enjoy the Congress Gala. Photo by Matt Newman.

Just after Thanksgiving, 20 4-H youth from all over Michigan traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, for the National 4-H Congress. This is a leadership experience for older teens from around the nation; the 2017 conference included over 900 delegates from 44 states and one territory. At the conference, delegates listened to inspirational speakers, attended workshops, performed community service and learned about Atlanta through tours and exploration.

Many delegates this year referred to this experience as the best 4-H event they have attended. They enjoyed meeting other students from around the country, from a speed meeting workshop (learning about other delegates in short facilitated interactions), to interacting with participants in their workshops (smaller groups learning about a specific topic), to meeting delegates who performed a talent (singing, dancing, playing music). Delegates felt impacted by their conversations and inspired by learning from others. They also appreciated the diversity of 4-H experiences from across the nation.

They greatly enjoyed the speakers who came to inspire them. One of their favorites was a Holocaust survivor named Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld, who invited participants to not just be human, but also to be humane. As he told his story, a room full of 900 teenagers sat captivated by his every word. The stories of how he endured unimaginable horrors were powerful, but also how he chose to live his life after the war. He always believed he could change his future, and this was encouraging to teenagers who sometimes feel caught up in situations beyond their control. He brought the assembly to its feet when he finished, advising delegates to “be strong, be fearless and have faith.”

Delegates this year have some advice for those who are thinking of attending this event in the future.

  • Challenge yourself to be open-minded.
  • This is a great opportunity and an unforgettable experience.
  • This amazing, wonderful experience will help you grow.
  • The trip packs a ton of activities into a few short days.
  • Stay positive and take all the opportunities you can get.
  • Be true, and be you!

National 4-H Congress is an annual leadership experience. Many participants plan for several years for this trip, fundraising and finding sponsors, as well as applying for county scholarships. Talk to your local 4-H program coordinator if you are interested in adding this experience to your leadership journey.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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