Texas 4-H members skip Thanksgiving to attend National 4-H Congress

Event held Nov. 24-28 in Atlanta

Contact: Dr. Darlene Locke, 979-845-6535, dlocke@ag.tamu.edu

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — Thirty-four high school-aged Texas 4-H members passed up being with family and friends this Thanksgiving to participate in National 4-H Congress Nov. 23-28 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Participants earned the opportunity to attend by submitting an application and going through an interview process, said coordinators. The trip was financed through participant registration fees and, in some cases, private or corporate scholarships solicited by individual 4-H members.

This year’s youth participants included Casey Lay, Bandera County; Christopher Roman, Bastrop County; Hannah Czajkowski, Brazos County; Ashley Fuqua and Presley Wirebaugh, Comal County; Mary Moerman and Kaitlyn Glass, Comanche County; Carson Millican, Gaines County; Taylor Maberry, Guadalupe County; Marcee Cooke, Kylie Sawyer and Madelyn Sawyer, Hemphill County; Kristen Massingill, Hamilton County; Christopher Albus and Kennedy Wood, Hockley County; Isaac Stecher, Ryan Rattan and Reuben Stecher, Kaufman County; Anna Lockwood, Kerr County; Micah Trull, McCulloch County; Coltin Walton, Montgomery County; Jayna Grove, Hannah Cayford, Molly May and Ashley Richardson, Nueces County; Ashley Byrom, Taylor County; William Whitaker and Colby Warwick, Travis County; Martha Dolliver and Eulalia Haddox, Waller County; Caroline Schulze, Washington County; Clayton Elbel and Ryan Williamson, Wharton County; and Payton Holcomb, Williamson County.

“The congress is a five-day event that engages high school-aged 4-H members in leadership, citizenship, global awareness and inclusion,” said Dr. Darlene Locke, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 4-H youth development specialist in College Station. “Participants not only have the opportunity to participate in state-of-the-art educational workshops and hear from world-renowned speakers, they also have the opportunity to network with other 4-H members from across the United States.”

4-H’ers with Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor.  (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Tanya Holloway)

She said the Texas 4-H program is administered by AgriLife Extension, an educational outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System.

Locke said National 4-H Congress brings in keynote speakers from across the country to share their wisdom and to inspire 4-H members to be their best. This year’s speakers included U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and holocaust survivor Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld.

“Secretary Purdue had the unique experience of growing up in a farm family and is now overseeing policy for the country’s agricultural communities,” she said. “And Dr. Schoenfeld discussed the gradual influence of anti-Semitism in his native Czechoslovakia and his later transfer to, life in and liberation from a Nazi concentration camp.”

The group arrived in Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day, with their first activity being to navigate the Atlanta commuter rail system, Locke said.

“Many of the Texas youth had very limited experience with mass transportation, so that was an education in itself,” she said.

4-H’ers also participated in various workshops on topics from agriculture in the classroom to service learning to Pilates. Additional workshop sessions included instruction on zoonotic diseases, stem cells, increasing independence and quality of life for individuals with disabilities, healthy eating, drones and virtual reality.

“Through these workshops, members are encouraged to take the information back to their counties to either start or enhance existing 4-H project work,” Locke said.

Locke said through an interactive workshop 4-H members also learned about group development and engagement through directed activities. They also participated in activities focused on decision-making, respect for diversity and effective communications facilitated by Georgia College’s department of outdoor education.

Each participant was assigned to a community service project and was transported by bus to the location. Activities ranged from reading to elementary school children to sorting food at the Atlanta Food Bank.

“Some youth helped rake leaves and spread mulch at Piedmont Park Conservancy, a 200-acre green space in the middle of Atlanta,” Locke noted. “Still others helped sort and pack books for the Books for Africa project.”

Hawaiian dancers perform during International Night as part of National 4-H Congress activities. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Tanya Holloway)

She said Atlanta has hosted the National 4-H Congress for several years and through service activities such as these, 4-H members “experience what it is like to be a catalyst for positive change.”

Locke said other activities included opportunities to network with 4-H members from across the nation.

“The delegations from Hawaii and Puerto Rico shared cultural dances while the hotel staff staged a most-impressive International Night complete with costumes, food and scenes from 20 different countries,” she said.

The closing assembly was highlighted with a visit from Miss America 2018, Cara Mund, who at age 14 founded North Dakota’s Annual Make-A-Wish Fashion Show and has raised over $78,500 for Make-A-Wish.

“The week was an educational and inspirational experience for everyone who participated,” Locke said.


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