WASHINGTON, D.C. – University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s delegation to the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. has returned home from a week in which 200 youth and adults gathered to share ideas and recommendations to guide future national 4-H youth development programs across the country and at home.
Maine’s delegates who attended the conference from March 24-29, 2012, include: Charlene, Cumberland County and Colleen, Waldo County.
“For almost 100 years, USDA and 4-H have partnered to produce some of our nation’s best and brightest, including farmers and ranchers who have supported the American economy and put food on our tables,” Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, which oversees 4-H programs through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture, told the conference. “You all are tomorrow’s leaders. We need you to think big, innovate and help tackle the important challenges standing between us, a stronger middle class and a stronger nation.”
Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States and a longtime educator, spoke to conference participants about Joining Forces, the initiative she started with First Lady Michelle Obama to encourage all Americans to support military families. Biden encouraged 4-H members to not only continue their longtime support of military families, but to continue to act as role models and mentors in their communities.
“These 4-H members are extraordinary role models and mentors in their communities,” Biden announced recently. “Just as our military men and women serve our country on the battlefield, these young people lead in our communities. Over the next few decades, one of the tasks that will define their generation will be their support for our returning veterans and our military families.”
Participants at this year’s conference took part in personal development experiences to increase their knowledge, resources and skills on issues, such as Veteran Affairs and Health Eating & Living, that matter most to them. As in previous years, delegates participated in roundtable discussions with partnering federal agencies about topics specific to issues affecting youth and communities nationwide and the role 4-H can play in addressing those issues. Topics for this year’s conference included alcohol and drug use prevention, youth suicide prevention, healthy eating and living, equal education for under-represented groups, integration of veteran and military families into local communities, and using science and technology to improve local communities.
Delegates also learned about a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security focused on cyber security. The Stop.Think.Connect Campaign will provide 4-H with tools and resources to help raise awareness among teens and young adults about emerging online threats and the importance of cyber security. That partnership builds on the campaign’s efforts to highlight curriculum resources available to schools and communities, as well as to promote cyber awareness and educate America’s youth about safe online practices.
Since the first conference in 1927, the National 4-H Conference — known as the “Secretary’s Conference” — continues to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s premier youth development opportunity for engaging youth in creating recommendations for the 4-H Youth Development Program.
4-H National Headquarters seeks to promote positive youth development, facilitate learning and engage young people in the efforts of USDA and land grant universities to enhance quality of life. Nearly 6 million young people, ages 5-19, participate in 4-H programs in all 50 states, territories and military installations worldwide.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.
Image Description: (Left to Right) UMaine Extension Educator Ellie Libby, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and 4-H youth Colleen and Charlene.