Youth perspective shared on Capitol Hill

Michigan 4-H’ers attended the 2015 National 4-H Conference and presented a youth perspective on water conservation education to a federal agency.

A National 4-H Conference roundtable group presents to the U.S. Department of Energy.

A National 4-H Conference roundtable group presents to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In April 2015, two Michigan 4-H youth traveled to Washington D.C. to represent Michigan 4-H at the National 4-H Conference. As founding members of the newly launched Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council, 19-year-old Erin Washburn and 18-year-old Davis Fettes, both of Branch County, stepped outside of their comfort zone, met peers from across the United States, honed their leadership skills and presented a youth perspective to a federal agency.

As part of the National 4-H Conference experience, youth are assigned to “roundtable” groups around a specific issue that is overseen by a federal agency. Some participating federal agencies included the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S Department of Agriculture, Smithsonian Institute, Peace Corps, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. National Guard and NASA. Each roundtable worked to understand the issues the agencies are currently tackling and developed a presentation in order to provide a youth perspective on the issues at hand. From their presentations, agency staff gained insight into how to get youth involved in solving problems, the best ways to communicate with youth and marketing strategies that speak to youth perspectives.

Both Michigan youth presented to the Smithsonian Waterways group. Their group’s purpose was, “Through a youth perspective, we hope to increase understanding, take action and make a difference in our own communities by offering tools and resources to formal and informal educators,” around water conservation education. Participating in a diverse group composed of youth from across the United States, the Michigan youth worked to understand perspectives of youth from parts of the country challenged by drought, perspectives that they might only otherwise distantly understand from news reports.

Washburn said, “National 4-H Conference was an eye-opener to what it’s really like across the nation. Connecting with others and coming together on one topic in two days, it was an experience that changed my view of things.”

When not busy preparing their presentation, youth listened to motivational speakers, attended workshops and met with U.S. senators and representatives on Capitol Hill. Michigan youth navigated a new city, public transportation, visited memorials and toured the Pentagon.

4-H members ages 15-19 involved in the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council (SYLC) are invited to participate in National 4-H Conference. For more information about SYLC, contact Michigan State University Extension’s Jackie Martin at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)