Deborah Hurlbert, Morgan, Johnny W.
The LSU AgCenter and the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center recently teamed up to host the 2004 Southern Regional 4-H Biennial Conference in New Orleans.
Fourteen southern states were represented at the conference last week, which was designed to improve collaboration and partnerships among organizations serving young people and to allow professionals to share their best practices with colleagues within the region.
Debbie Hurlbert, LSU AgCenter instructor, said more than 130 participants were involved in the three-day conference.
"What we wanted to do was to bring together not only 4-H staff members from the different states, but also organizations within our state that are youth-serving agencies," Hurlbert said.
The conference’s keynote speaker was Dr. Crystal Kuykendall, who emphasized the need for all youth-serving organizations and agencies to come to the aid of today’s youth.
Kuykendall related her first-hand experiences as a volunteer in the Washington, D.C., area with youth in crisis. She applauded the programming offered through 4-H as assisting youth with communication skills, a feeling of belonging to a group, positive youth and adult partnerships and career exploration. Kuykendall also conducted a workshop after her address that was attended by state 4-H representatives and representatives of other agencies such as I Care from East Baton Rouge Parish, FFA, Volunteers of America, Ciaccio Center, VIET, Great Expectations and the state Attorney General’s Office.
Hurlbert explained that while 4-H youth development programs are operated by land-grant universities like the LSU AgCenter, other agencies were invited to participate in the conference so all could see how they may work together – yet still retain their identities and still help the youth in their communities.
Among the other workshops offered at the conference were such topics as after-school programming and youth and adult partnerships.
"We had a tour as part of the conference, and one of the stops was at one of the after-school programs in Terrebonne Parish," Hurlbert said, explaining, "Terrebonne is one of three parishes that received a grant for after-school programming three years ago."
Washington and DeSoto parishes also received similar grants.
Another of the conference speakers was Sally-Ann Roberts, news anchor at WWL-TV in New Orleans. She shared how adults can make a difference in the lives of children and even the children of those children – by telling of a woman, Wilma Schneg, who inspired Roberts’ mother to do well in school and how the stories her mother told also inspired her to do well.
Roberts also stressed how youth-serving organizations can help to break the cycle of young people dying violently in larger cities like New Orleans, as well as other areas across the country.
"When I look at the obituary section and read the ages of the deceased, I see the older people but then there are the young ones," Roberts said, adding, "I’m so happy that 4-H is making a difference in the young lives of this city."
Roberts, who is the host of Each One Save One, a weekly television program in New Orleans, said that she got the name of the program from a saying from her mom, "If I could just save one." She also applauded all conference participants for their work in showing young people that there is a better way.
Hurlbert said the next biennial conference for the group will be held in 2006 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.