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National 4-H Conference Promotes Civic Engagement

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BURLINGTON – The 2024 National 4-H Conference provided a platform for 4-H teens to engage in conversation with federal agencies on important issues that can impact their future from climate change and clean energy to promoting inclusivity, improving mobility safety and paying for college.

photo by Molly McFaun
UVM Extension 4-H Vermont delegates to the National 4-H Conference, April 19-24 in Washington, D.C. (left to right) Caitlin Packer of Barre Town, Emma Rowell of Greensboro Bend, Erin Whipple of Bridport and Ella McAllister of Morrisville.

The conference, from April 19 to 24 in Arlington, Va., was at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel.

More than 300 delegates, ages 15 to 19, from most of the U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Italy and Japan attended, including four from Vermont.

The conference focused on empowering youth to speak up about issues facing the country by researching, brainstorming and preparing briefings to present to federal partner agencies on the conference’s final day.

For several of the agencies, this event is among the few ways that they get youth feedback, and for others, the only time that they have youth interaction.

Each delegate was assigned a topic for these roundtable discussions and final presentation, based on their interests.

Local delegate Emma Rowell of Greensboro Bend’s Caspian Critters 4-H Club was given the roundtable topic “Supporting Connectiveness as a Protective Factor” to present to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Conference attendees attended a performance of the Coyaba Dance Theatre, took a guided bus tour of Washington, D.C. monuments at night and mingled with other delegates at a farewell dance.

The Youth Career Fair, held in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, offered an opportunity for delegates to meet with representatives from businesses, government agencies and non-profits to learn about different career pathways, internships, fellowships and volunteer opportunities.

They also heard from U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and participated in a special 4-H flag raising ceremony at the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) headquarters dressed in their conference T-shirts.

The Vermont delegation enjoyed a special tour by Sen. Peter Welch’s office staff, visited the other Vermont Congressional delegations offices and spent time exploring some of the many historical sites and museums around Capitol Hill.

USDA has hosted the National 4-H Conference since 1927 as a way of encouraging youths to find their voice and discuss issues with federal government officials in the nation’s capital with the goal of fostering change in the country.

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