Lincoln, Neb. —Three Nebraska 4-H members shared their voices with federal officials at the 96th annual National 4-H Conference, held April 14-19 in Arlington, Virginia. Nebraska's delegation included Lexi Johnson from Dawson County, Autumn Lindsley from Butler County, and Sarah Treffer from Dawson County.
During the Conference, federal partners presented Challenge Questions to delegates which were designed to provoke critical thinking about current issues. In roundtable groups, youth investigated and discussed the agency's current efforts and generated new ideas to bring about positive change. After working together for two days, the teams presented their recommendations to federal partners during 45-minute Youth Perspective Briefings.
"My favorite part of the Conference was the roundtable discussions where my group worked with the Smithsonian Institution," shared Autumn Lindsley. Lindsley and her team develop ideas for teaching more accurate and inclusive history education in classrooms and community settings. "I hope the suggestions my group made are able to help many people in the future," said Lindsley.
Lexi Johnson's group developed and presented recommendations for the 4-H program to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee of Agriculture, and Sarah Treffer's team presented a campaign against food waste to the Environmental Protection Agency. "They were very intrigued by the ideas that we presented to them and even talked about implementing some of our ideas as soon as they could," shared Treffer.
The experience empowers delegates to apply their learning and create positive change in their local communities. Treffer has already begun by informing her peers about food waste issues and challenging them to reduce waste. "Even though informing people about the issue will make a difference, I want to create a composting system at my school and do what I can to help prevent food waste," said Treffer.
"They have a unique opportunity to truly see how their voice matters, and even as young people, they can make a difference from their local club and community to our country and our world," said Dawn Lindsley, Nebraska Extension Educator who accompanied this year's delegation.
While at the National 4-H Conference, youth also made an impact through community service projects. Nebraska Delegates worked with the U.S Forest Service to plant over 400 native trees at the Woodend Sanctuary.
Nebraska Delegates had the opportunity to meet, listen, and speak with the Nebraska Congressional delegation during the Nebraska Breakfast and at the National 4-H Council Congressional Breakfast hosted on Capitol Hill. They also explored volunteer, internship, fellowship, and career opportunities across the federal government at the first-ever 4-H Youth Career Fair held in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution.
National 4-H Conference is the USDA's flagship youth development opportunity to develop the next generation of leaders. Each year, the event brings together over 300 young people, volunteer leaders, country and state Extension staff, Land-grant University faculty and administrators, and state and federal government officials from across the United States and its Territories.
The Conference serves as the premier civic engagement event for Nebraska 4-H members between the ages of 15 and 19. Nebraska delegates are selected through state-level Senior Achievement Applications and a thorough interview process. Delegates also receive funding for trip expenses through the Nebraska 4-H Foundation. For more information about National 4-H Conference, please visit 4h.unl.edu/conference.