Detroit youth assist the homeless in their community

Each summer, thousands of youth from across the country visit Washington, D.C., to participate in the distinguished 4-H citizenship and leadership experience, Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF).

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Each summer, thousands of youth from across the country visit Washington, D.C., to participate in the distinguished 4-H citizenship and leadership experience, Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF). For more than 50 years, high school 4-H’ers have applied the leadership skills they learn by attending this weeklong event to address issues in their home communities.  This past June, 21 teens representing metro Detroit attended the event at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. These teens came from diverse backgrounds—including Hispanic, Arab-American, African American and Caucasian—and quickly learned that citizens their age have the necessary tools to help boost and support struggling members of their community.  Each participant received a $1200 scholarship funded by the New York Life Foundation.

“This trip has meant so much to me,” said Ashley Studstill. “It started with better leadership skills, but has evolved to learning how to interact with more people from diverse backgrounds to aid my own community.”

One of the numerous activities scheduled for 4-H members to over the week was to draft a step-by-step action plan that addressed an important issue in their community. The Detroit delegation chose the topic of homelessness in metro Detroit. Their idea was to make hygiene kits available for members of the community facing hardships such as homelessness. More than 18,000 homeless people in Detroit are in need of shelter on any given night, and 25 percent of those are children. Encompassing the true sense of what the 4-H Revolution of Responsibility stands for, these youth turned their idea into action. Michigan 4-H’ers received the necessary tools needed to tackle this issue from CWF such as tube socks and basic toiletries including toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant and combs.

“I’ll definitely be going back to Detroit as a leader and be a help to my community,” one Michigan delegate said.

Participants came up with an overall plan to not only prepare kits with these items but to host an “Inside Story Outside Smiles” (ISOS) rally for people in the community who could benefit from some of the items provided in the kits.

“This trip has taught me how to be more open-minded and now I can see things better and think things through better,” said participant Joseph Napier.

Although the teens may not have known what to expect as a result of this trip, they were able to come together to do things that others their age don’t always have the opportunity to do: to become leaders in their community and make an impact.

“I learned so much about being a citizen, leadership and responsibility,” said participant Ahsha Davis.

Because of their involvement at CWF, youth were able to bring their newly crafted skills back to Michigan to prepare their plan and witness it coming to life. Through the planning process, they used those skills to organize the best way to distribute their hygiene kits, came up with the necessary logistics including set-up, schedule and date, and created fliers and posters. Their main goal: to give back to the community, making the world a better place, and to prove that, although they are young members of their community, they can support their country and community by lending a helping hand to those in need.

In addition to the hygiene packs project, the youth showed interest in spreading the word about the 4-H organization and Michigan 4-H, and teaching other youth how they could become involved in 4-H and start their own Revolution of Responsibility service projects.

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