The Illinois 4-H Leadership Conference was held on February 27 and 28 in Champaign, Ill. The 4-H foundation is a youth enrichment organization which is partnered with 110 universities and offers camps, clubs, and much more in every county in the United States. The organization aims to empower teens and pre-teens by introducing them to their communities and giving their members opportunities to grow both academically and socially. The 4 H’s stand for head, heart, hands, and health, and the motives are summarized by thinking, caring, working, and living.
The Illinois 4-H Conference is an overnight event, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and continues to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. It is open to 7th and 8th graders who are members of the 4-H as well as members of Operation Military Kids (OMK). Around 100 children attended. The Conference is sponsored by the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team, which is made up of 15-22 year old 4-H members and recent alumni. As such, one of the main focuses of the Leadership Conference is teaching young people useful leadership skills. Some of the programs were themed, such as “Swinging in the Wind,” a group effort aimed at creating a turbine, and “Taking Care of Monkey Business,” a workshop dedicated to communication.
Anne Becker, a 4-H member and resident of Jacksonville, attended the Leadership Conference two weekends ago. She told me of the Conference and the different experiences she had there, one being a group roleplay in which students were paired up and blindfolded. The designated leaders would demonstrate and improve their skills by guiding their partners through various situations, one being an obstacle course.
The Conference is not only dedicated to bettering the children, but also their communities in general. In the workshop “Hunting Hunger to Extinction,” the attendees created easy meals which they sent off to food pantries. For Anne Becker, this was the most exciting part of the experience. All in all, 282 meals were created. Each meal contained meat (usually chicken, as well as rice, beans, and dried vegetables. All of these meals were put in bags and shipped to those who need them in the counties of each attendee. In this exercise, young people were informed about social problems and were also led to make a positive impact in their communities.
Over two days, many seventh and eighth graders learned valuable life skills and contributed to their home communities while having fun at the 4-H Leadership Conference. Hopefully these skills will be demonstrated in the coming years and young people will remember the values they acquired while involved with the 4-H Foundation.