Karol Osborne | 7/30/2018 4:24:14 PM
(07/30/18) NATCHITOCHES, La. — Members of six elite state 4-H teen leadership boards gathered at the WeLEAD Conference to begin putting plans in motion for the upcoming year.
“Our goal is to engage youth in highly effective youth-adult partnerships, learning with and from each other, in a way that strengthens the 4-H program by helping to identify needs to better serve Louisiana youth,” said LSU AgCenter 4-H program leader Toby Lepley.
Held July 17-19 at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, the conference drew more than 130 teens and adult volunteers from across the state.
“The state 4-H leadership boards engage youth in opportunities to explore their passion for learning while developing critical teambuilding and communication skills that they apply to serve others,” said Janet Fox, head of the AgCenter 4-H Youth Development Department.
The event brought together members of the state 4-H Executive Board and the state leadership boards for citizenship, fashion, food and fitness, shooting sports ambassadors, and science, engineering and technology.
State 4-H leadership boards are supported through the LSU AgCenter and are responsible for planning one or more youth-led statewide events throughout the year, said AgCenter 4-H extension associate Leslie Moran.
“Each board has a specific focus, but all the board members serve as ambassadors for the 4-H program,” Moran said.
Jacob Ellis, a former Claiborne Parish 4-H member now serving as Northwestern State University Student Government Association president, welcomed the group, saying much of his interest in state government and involvement in campus organizations began in 4-H.
“Serving on a leadership board is about teamwork and gaining new perspectives," he said.
“It’s been an amazing week and everyone is really meshing together,” said 4-H state president Westin Cobb, a senior attending Walker High School in Livingston Parish.
The Executive Board plans several events, including the 4-H Junior Leadership Conference, 4-H University and Tiger Tailgate Day, Cobb said.
Adam McFatter, a Cameron Parish senior and first-time Citizenship Board member, said the summer board experience was more than he expected.
“We started growing as a team right away,” McFatter said.
Besides planning youth activities like the annual 4-H Day at the Capitol, the Citizenship Board promotes the statewide service-learning project, which is currently a two-year focus on cancer awareness, he said.
Kathy Landry, an adult volunteer from St. Mary Parish working with the 4-H Food and Fitness Board, said the teens are developing a statewide teen health advocate training day camp to promote healthy living through fitness, nutrition and teaching activities.
The training is designed to teach others how to promote healthy living in their parishes and region, said Lafayette Parish 4-H’er Emily Fontenot.
“Through activities like cooking or knife skills, exercise and teambuilding, we can show others how to make healthy living fun,” Fontenot said.
Calcasieu Parish 4-H’er Chloé Litteral and teammate Anna Little, of Winn Parish, said the 4-H Fashion Board is planning the annual 4-H Fashion Camp, which targets younger youth, as well finalizing details for the state fashion show, a popular event at 4-H University that showcases student clothing project competition.
“We are like a big family, all pitching in and getting it done,” Litteral said.
Saige Pellerin, an Iberia Parish sophomore, said serving on the SET board was more than she could have imagined.
Pellerin is looking forward to taking part in the Operation Military Kids camp for youth from military families sponsored by the SET board.
“It is a family-oriented camp with a lot of science, engineering and technology activities, like kitchen chemistry, computer circuitry and a scavenger hunt,” she said.
Alexis Bearden, a Bossier Parish 4-H’er, said becoming a shooting sports ambassador has offered her a chance to give back to her community and her 4-H family.
“I’m most excited about our shooting sports camp for younger youth, teaching them about some of the lesser-known disciplines, like hunting skills, BB guns and muzzle loaders, and exposing more people to the program,” Bearden said.
Hosting the conference in the northwest region has opened opportunities to potentially rotate the summer board meeting to other parts of the state, exposing more youth and adult volunteers to the unique cultural diversity Louisiana offers, said 4-H regional coordinator Karen Martin.
“We want students to have a chance to showcase their region and show people from all parts of the state the many leadership opportunities offered through the 4-H program,” she said.
Cameron Parish senior Adam McFatter shares ideas for upcoming statewide events with other members of the 4-H Citizenship Board at the recent 4-H WeLEAD Conference held in Natchitoches. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter
During the 4-H WeLEAD Conference held recently at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, members of the state 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology Board try out new teambuilding activities in preparation for an Operation Military Kids camp set for this fall. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter