Citizenship Washington Focus: Leadership, citizenship, U.S. history and more!

Youth learn to use their voice while sharing important issues with others as well as their legislators while enjoying learning about our nation’s history.

Michigan delegates at CWF
Michigan delegation on the steps of the Capitol prior to meeting with their legislators.

Citizenship Washington Focus is an amazing 4-H program for youth around Michigan. This weeklong event takes places in Washington, D.C. every year, with multiple program dates for youth to choose from. Although youth can choose to attend Citizenship Washington Focus individually, Michigan 4-H coordinates a trip to take up to 45 youth each year and adds additional components that broaden the learning opportunities of the program. In 2019, that trip will take place June 22–30.

Taking part in Citizenship Washington Focus with the Michigan delegation allows for many more learning opportunities than if a youth was to go on their own. The Michigan youth travel by bus with the first stop being Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. While on the bus, the youth spend time getting to know each other, teambuilding and having fun, which makes the bus trip seem much faster since there are so many things to do. In addition, participants work on finding their youth voice and harnessing good leadership skills that they will use for the entire trip.

Once the youth arrive in Gettysburg, they already have met more than half of the youth and have at least been introduced to the other half. This process helps them to feel more comfortable and creates a sense of belonging for their first leadership opportunities. The youth then get checked into the hotel and head out for dinner in Gettysburg, passing townspeople in period clothing and seeing landmarks throughout the town.

The next day, the youth head to the Cyclorama Museum and then a guided tour of the battlefields. This day is full of adventure and sometimes heavy content, helping the youth bond. From Gettysburg, the group heads to the National 4-H Center located outside of Washington, D.C.

For the rest of the time on this trip, the youth stay at the 4-H Center. During their stay, they work together around current issues to develop bills and take the mock bill through a process that is similar to what the government does. In addition, the youth have opportunities to meet with their Representatives and Senators. During this time, the youth take the lead in introducing the groups, present issues that concern them and ask questions of our legislators and their staff. It is an opportunity for the youth to use their leadership skills and youth voice that they were previously practicing on the bus to Washington, D.C.

Group at CWF
Michigan delegation ready to head out for Cultural Heritage Night, where they attended a dinner theater.

The youth also have an opportunity to see many of the monuments and memorials around the capital, take a Capitol tour, visit the Library of Congress and see some of the Smithsonian Museums, Mount Vernon, Arlington Cemetery, the National Cathedral and much more.

Every year, the staff who take youth on this trip see them grow and change in many positive ways. They begin to see things differently as the trip effects each youth in in their own way, but Citizenship Washington Focus is always an amazingly positive program to experience.

A few of the youth who traveled in 2018 shared a few words about their experience below.

“Citizenship Washington Focus was one of the best trips I ever went on! It was so much fun! I got to meet so many new people from all over and experience so much. All the places we went were so pretty and we got to learn about all the history of them, which was really cool. This trip was a 10 out 10, it was so awesome and amazing, I'd totally do it again,” said Hanna Buning, Barry County 4-H.

“The part I was looking forward to the most was the history; I couldn’t wait to see and hear about Gettysburg, the monuments and memorials. They were as amazing as I had hoped for, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the rest of the trip as well. Meeting Representatives, Senators, and having them really take an interest in what the youth had to say, making great new friends from around the state and being pushed outside of my comfort zone allowed me to really grow and find my voice. I would recommend this trip to all youth and would go again myself if time would allow,” said Morgyn Muck, Livingston County 4-H.

"Older 4-H members always told me that the Citizenship Washington Focus trip would be life-changing, but I'm not sure I believed them until I actually went! I learned so much about myself through this trip that I can honestly say I will never be the same,” said Abby McNamara, St. Joseph County, Michigan.

“Citizenship Washington Focus impacted the way I saw our nation’s history, capitol city, legislative process and even myself. I learned that making a difference in my community is possible, and that I can start now,” said Grace Schmidt, Livingston County 4-H.

The youth testimonies say it all. Encourage youth in your life to attend 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus. For more information about the trip or to sign up, call your local MSU Extension office and talk to the 4-H staff or email 4-HLeadership@msu.edu.

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