Missouri Youth Catch the Wave of Leadership at Teen Conference
Cape Girardeau County 4-H’ers discovered energy abounds when 366 people gather to help 11-13 year olds build leadership skills. "I had an absolute blast,” said professional speaker Camille Yameen, who spoke at the MU Extension 4-H Teen Conference. “Nothing is more inspiring for me than seeing youth excited about their own leadership potential.” Attending the two-day Teen Conference March 25-26 were Lauren Crutsinger and Micheal Kieninger of Cape Giardeau County 4-H. These young delegates joined youth from 66 other counties to build leadership, gain new skills, and learn ways they can help their community.
“Leadership skills are a solid foundation for success, even for careers that haven’t been invented yet,” said Bradd Anderson, State 4-H Youth Development Specialist for MU Extension who coordinates the event. “Teen Conference brings the thrill of independence in a safe, warm, and inclusive atmosphere, and there’s a confidence that comes from that.” The daytime schedule included festivities at the Columbia Expo Center and educational workshops on the MU campus, planned and led by the older teens of Missouri’s State 4-H Council. Workshops included making chew toys for homeless pets from discarded t-shirts, learning about the strengths of different personality types, and mastering new dance moves. Evening events included a dance, movie, and the opportunity to become “soil sleuths” through the 2017 National 4-H Ag Innovators Healthy Soils CSI project, sponsored by National 4-H Council and Monsanto. These sleuths studied soil composition, investigated the impact of tilling on the larger soil ecosystem and built scale model no-till planters to find solutions for keeping good soils from going bad.
Teen Conference is planned each year by the State 4-H Council, a group of 38 older teens who serve as ambassadors for the organization and play leadership roles throughout the event. “4-H offers young people a positive life trajectory that includes role models, citizenship, and lifelong learning,” said Lesley Meier, 4-H Youth Specialist “As Teen Conference delegates see these positive older teens in active leadership roles, they realize that they can be leaders too.” Several adults noted enthusiasm for the youth-led component of Teen Conference. “The students were energetic, eager to learn and loved participating in the program,” said Yameen. “With leaders like the ones in Missouri 4-H, the future is most definitely bright."