Get your passport to excellence at National 4-H Congress

National 4-H Congress - considered 4-H's capstone event - is an extraordinary leadership, citizenship and community-service opportunity for youth aged 14 to 19.

Do you feel the youth voice is important and that as a young person you should be allowed to make a bigger impact on the world you live in? Do you feel you can make a difference or you would like to find out how you can make a difference? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you need to attend 2013 National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Georgia from November 29 to December 3.

This year’s National 4-H Congress theme is ”Passport to Excellence!” As the web site suggests, grab your passport and join other 4-H’ers and go on an adventure around the world through National 4-H Congress. Unlike any other 4-H event, National 4-H Congress allows you to experience the world, through varied opportunities such as workshops, culture experiences, speakers, and meet-and-greets!

Listen to Extension Educator Roxanne Turner, as she reflects on her experience:

Last year, I had the pleasure of taking 15 youth from Michigan to Atlanta, with my colleague, Frank Cox. The event began the day after Thanksgiving so I was somewhat apprehensive because I had to leave my family during a time that we have a lot of events planned. However, Community service in a daycare centerduring the time in the airport, before even leaving Michigan, I could already tell this was going to be a special trip. This feeling was confirmed as soon as we arrived at the event. I never changed my opinion but just became more energized and more excited with every event we participated in. National 4-H Congress confirmed the reason that I love my job as a 4-H educator. I watched youth, who were already strong leaders, run a conference seemingly by themselves. However, more important, I watched these youth empower other young people who didn’t realize they, too, could be a strong leader to become one. It was an exciting and moving experience. Although I could go on about the wonderful things I observed and participated in, it would just be an adult’s opinion.Therefore, I asked our 2012 youth delegate advisor to share her experience.

Here is what Morgan Bruce, a Marquette County4-H member, had to say about the event:

This past November I had the good fortune of attending National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Georgia. I was also very honored to represent Michigan as the youth delegate advisor. The trip had many highlights including a heartwarming community-service project but most of all being surrounded by thousands of other youth who all had one thing in common, a love for 4-H. The most inspiring part of the event is that National 4-H Congress is completely run by youth for youth. It goes to show that we really are tomorrow's leaders and that we can make a difference.Hyatt Regency Atlanta, site of National 4-H Congress

For my service project, I was selected to spend an afternoon volunteering at a daycare in the inner city of Atlanta. Throughout the afternoon, several other volunteers and I aided the teachers as they cared for the students. Originally, we were told we would simply be reading to the kids and playing with them. However, right away, I knew it meant a whole lot more to them than just having random guests. When we walked into the room, the students immediately hugged us and hung on our arms. At that moment I was feeling what 4-H was really all about, being a positive influence on other youth. I could tell in an instant how much our presence meant to the kids. They all wanted us at the same time and they always had something to show us. The greatest reward of the day was to see the smiles on their faces and know just how much we helped to brighten their day.

National 4-H Congress served as a great learning experience for me. Many leadership and team-building opportunities were available. The event was organized and completely put on by 4-H youth, and it’s no secret that 4-Hers know how to have fun, so of course, there was never a dull moment. During the day, there were multiple sessions to choose from. The classes varied from cooking classes to team building, Pilates or dance classes. The evening activities varied from an international dinner to a trip to the Atlanta History Museum and, of course, there were dances. Every activity put me in a different situation with friends I had only met an hour before. The atmosphere was so positive from breakfast Congress delegates at Georgia Aquariumto curfew, we never had the chance to be bored.

Speaking for all youth, we tend to feel as if our voices aren’t always heard. But, that thought lost all relevance for me after I attended National 4-H Congress. When all 1,000 people stood up to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and followed it with the 4-H Pledge, a feeling of relief washed over me. That was when the realization hit me; that moment told me that we (the more than 1,000 4-Hers sitting in that room) are tomorrow's leaders. We are the ones who have a chance to make a difference. We are always told to do everything we can to “make our best better,” but it’s hard to know where to start. At National 4-H Congress, there was no doubt in my mind that all of the youth in attendance were making their best better. Even months later, I am still in touch with many of the people I met in Atlanta.

I am very thankful for the opportunity I was given to attend National 4-H Congress and if I had the chance to go back, I would in a second. The best part about the event is being able to come back and share the experience with others. The leadership skills and the memories will last forever, and knowing that I am a part of something so massive and powerful as 4-H is a feeling that will never fade.

Join the 2013 Michigan delegation to National 4-H Congress and experience 4-H at its best! For more information about this event see the web site and for registration materials or scholarship opportunities, contact your local MSU Extension 4-H staff.

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