Janet Fox, Merrill, Thomas A., Morgan, Johnny W. | 11/22/2006 2:10:45 AM
Five Louisiana 4-H members attended the first Southern Region Teen Leadership Conference earlier this month at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, Ga.
The three-day conference Nov. 9-12 was hosted by the University of Florida’s 4-H program and marked the first time such an event had been held for youth from the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
All the Louisiana youth who attended the conference are members of the state 4-H Executive Committee. They were Jonas Augustine from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana state 4-H vice president and a 2006-2007 National 4-H Conference delegate; Lance Brewer, LaSalle Parish, Central Louisiana representative; Conrad Cable, Union Parish, North Central Louisiana representative; Keith Espadron, Plaquemines Parish, Crescent Region representative; and Lauren Ogles, Ouachita Parish, 2006-2007 National Conference delegate.
The Louisiana delegates, like those from other states, didn’t just attend the conference. They also were responsible for presenting a workshop titled "Leadership Skills You Won’t Outgrow."
Augustine said the workshop was based on Louisiana’s 4-H project book for teen youth and was designed to help youth develop their leadership skills.
"What we want them to do is help fellow 4-H’ers to develop their own leadership styles and to give them skills they can take back home and use to help younger members with their leadership skills," Augustine said.
The Louisiana project book is composed of a group of lessons to help the state’s 4-H’ers develop their leadership skills. Augustine said the book covers topics such as how to get along in groups and finding where you fit in groups.
Part of the workshop involved the participants working in groups to build a bridge from everyday items such as straws, candy, rulers, paperclips and paper. Espadron said the project shows how teens and adults can bridge the gap in communication and also shows how you can use the resources you have available to get the job done.
Vicki Mullins, the 4-H coordinator for Santa Rosa County in Florida, was one of the organizers the conference and said it definitely was a success.
Mullins said this conference was the result of an idea that one of their senior 4-H members had two years ago.
"One of our 4-H members got the idea to do this for senior 4-H members from listening to her mom talk about the 4-H adult leadership conference that occurs each year," Mullins said, adding that she’s not aware of any other region in the country having a conference like this.
Responses from the Louisiana 4-H’ers to this year’s conference indicated all of them came home with positive experiences.
"I think this conference has been a great help to me, especially the workshop on healthy living," said Espadron, who is from Boothville and lost his home and all of his possessions to Hurricane Katrina last year.
Espadron said 4-H has allowed him to meet people from all over the country and that it has helped him to be a leader and to care more about people.
"I think I can take the information from this workshop and apply it to my life as well as present it in my club," he said.
Likewise, Augustine said he thought more Louisiana youth could benefit from the conference and that he would like to see even more people participate in the event next year.
Each of the teenagers who attended cited specific workshops that had taught them something new. They also said 4-H has made a difference in their lives – with Brewer saying he was shy and timid before joining 4-H but he now is able to speak in front of groups and express his opinions without being nervous.
Cable said this conference helped him further develop his leadership skills and that at one of the round table discussions he had presented the idea for schools to plant gardens and use the foods they grow to serve in their cafeterias because it will be fresh and healthier.
"I don’t know if it could be adopted back home, but I’m going to present it to my school," he said.
Ogle said she really liked how the conference had interaction between the youth and the adults.
"You know, sometimes we think that the adults won’t go for an idea that we have, but they may be thinking that it’s a cool idea," she said. "So here we get to discuss things and hear adult and youth ideas."
In addition to the educational workshop, the 4-H’ers also got to participate in what were dubbed "funshops" – where they worked on crafts, played games and participated in other events that served as icebreakers.
LSU AgCenter 4-H youth development specialist Dr. Janet Fox said she was excited about this conference and that she also would like to see even more Louisiana
4-H’ers going to next year’s conference.
"We have a great group of kids in the 4-H program and any opportunity for them to get more leadership training is a plus for the state," she said.
4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant universities and is operated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. Its mission is to help young people develop skills and abilities that will benefit them, their families and their communities throughout their lives.
For additional information about 4-H and how you can get involved, contact your parish’s LSU AgCenter Extension Office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.