Nineteen Iowa youth delegates returned from National 4-H Congress inspired to make a difference, more culturally aware of the ethnic diversity around the world and in their local communities and having made friendships that will last a lifetime.
On Thanksgiving weekend delegates from throughout the United States and its territories traveled to Atlanta, Ga., to participate in the 92nd National 4-H Congress. The event provides a mix of educational, leadership, service and recreational opportunities for 4-H youth.
"National 4-H Congress was the trip of a lifetime," said Matt Staley, National 4-H Congress delegate from Crawford County. "Never again will I have the opportunity to join 1,000 of the best and brightest 4-H'ers from across the country at one time." Staley met 4-H'ers from New Mexico, Maryland, Puerto Rico and Hawaii and developed strong friendships with members of the Iowa delegation.
National 4-H Congress is planned by a group of youth and adults who serve on the national design team. Emily Dickinson of Harrison County had such a positive experience attending National 4-H Congress last year that she applied and was selected to serve as a member of the 2013 youth design team. The team met and worked throughout the year to plan the educational workshops, tours, entertainment and community service and theme, "Passport to Excellence," for the 2013 program.
"It was both fun and challenging to give input and ideas on how to enhance the National 4-H Congress event," said Dickinson. "I had to work closely with the seven other youth design team members from across the U.S. We learned to get along, work well together and became close friends."
As a result of her experiences serving on the design team, Dickinson gained a great deal of independence and teamwork skills as she travelled to Atlanta for design team meetings by herself and worked with team members who were located across the country. She also learned how the 4-H organization differs in each state.
"I was proud to represent the Iowa 4-H program on the design team and learned what a strong 4-H program we have here in Iowa," said Dickinson.
"The leadership skills and experiences I've gained through 4-H have given me the ambition to pursue other advance leadership opportunities now in college," she added. Dickinson is a freshman at Midland University in Fremont, Neb. She is pursuing a degree in biology and hopes to become a physician assistant.
Benton County 4-H'er Kristen Lowe stated, "It was such an honor to travel with Iowa 4-H down to Georgia, Atlanta for the 2013 National 4-H Congress. Along with becoming friends with the great people also representing Iowa, I got the opportunity to meet 4-Hers from all over the country! Throughout the five day conference we were inspired by keynote speakers, experienced cultural traditions, toured the city of Atlanta, and learned how to be better leaders in our own 4-H programs. I particularly enjoyed attending a service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the International Dinner and Dance, and learning new ways to meet and connect with people. As the conference went by and as I met more people, I came to realize the different traditions that make 4-H great across the nation. But even though we all came from different places, there seemed to be many similarities between our clubs; 4-Hers across America have dedicated themselves to serving others with their time and talents and have gained the respect of a nation by doing so. I recommend this opportunity to every Iowa 4-H member; it went by so quickly, I made countless new friends, and it was an experience I will never forget."
"If anyone gets the chance to attend Congress, take it! This is without a doubt one of the most eye-opening and exciting experiences I have ever had," said Matt Staley, 2013 National 4-H Congress delegate.
Iowa 4-H'ers in grades 10-11 are encouraged to apply to attend the 2014 National 4-H Congress. Applications are due Feb. 1, 2014 to the Iowa State 4-H Office.
For more information on 4-H National Congress and application materials, visitwww.extension.iastate.edu/4h/national4hcongress.