4-H delegates travel to Atlanta for Congress
By Andrew Church
Six Nevada 4-H members are in Atlanta this week serving as delegates at the National 4-H Congress.
The 2009 delegates include Maggie Gallagher of Pershing County, and Josh Colyer, Jessi Vega, Kayla Barkdull, Katrina Cumming and Zoe Urrizaga of Elko County. The Congress began Nov. 27 and lasts till Dec. 1.
Since 1922, the 4-H Congress has served as a forum for 4-H members nationwide to share ideas. This year, the Congress has adopted the slogan "Accept the Challenge," encouraging its representatives to learn and interact with other delegates. Members from across the United States will perform community service and develop life skills at the gathering.
"The Congress is nonstop," said Lisa Boldman, administrative assistant with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. "It’s action-packed with activities going on all the time."
Applicants for the position of delegate must first complete a senior 4-H record book and an application. The delegate candidates then complete an interview process before being selected as state representatives.
One of the major goals of the Congress is to allow 4-H delegates to network with representatives from other states. Delegates participate in a variety of activities ranging from leadership activities and dancing in order to form connections and learn information that might be brought back to Nevada.
"The delegates really enjoy the opportunity to network with students from other states," Boldman said. "The goal is to bring back information to share with Nevada 4-H members."
Callie Barkdull, a former delegate to the 2005 4-H Congress, felt that meeting 4-Hers from across the nation helped her understand the diversity of 4-H as a whole. Despite that diversity, the sense of 4-H spirit and values was universal.
"I loved visiting with other members and learning about where they came from and what 4-H was like in their town," Barkdull said. "It was eye opening to see how different 4-H was in other places, but still teaches the same concepts and allows for interaction with others and lasting friendships."
The 4-H pin exchange is the first activity the delegates participate in upon arrival. The pin exchange is a chance for delegates to meet one another by exchanging pins and other trinkets representative of their home state.
"Our delegates bring Nevada flag pins to exchange with others," Boldman said. "We also bring rolls of Nevada quarters and decks of cards."
Each day ends with an assembly where delegates reflect on the day’s activities, listen to guest speakers or enjoy entertainment.
"One assembly is an international night where delegates get to try food from all over the world," said Boldman
In addition to networking, delegates also participate in numerous service projects, working alongside fellow delegates.
"Each delegate is assigned a community service," Boldman said. "Previous delegates have volunteered at an at-risk elementary school where they assisted any teacher who needed help in the classroom."
A wide range of workshops are also held to encourage skill building.
"There are workshops on every imaginable 4-H discipline," said Boldman. "There are workshops from public speaking to yoga."
In addition to the developmental activities, there are many opportunities for delegates to experience the culture in the Atlanta area. 4-H delegates are taken on tours of attractions such as the Coca Cola factory and the CNN headquarters and are given the opportunity to sample Southern cuisine.
Nevada’s representatives will not only learn skills, participate in community service and have fun, but also teach others the true face of the Nevada 4-H program.
"People look at Nevada and think of gambling," said Boldman. "The Congress gives us a chance to show the true diversity Nevada has to offer."
More importantly, the Congress develops skills that can be applied to future careers. Barkdull, now a sophomore at the College of Southern Idaho, feels that her experiences at the Congress have helped her even in college.
"Being around people I didn’t know and having to work with them made it so much easier to move away to college and meet new people," Barkdull said. "Being forced out of my comfort zone made me more confident in myself to show people who I am and what I can do to help in any situation."
Despite the fatigue from a week’s worth of activities, Barkdull encourages future delegates to make the most of their experience.
"Even though you will be tired, you need to take advantage of every activity you get to participate in," Barkdull said. "Talk to other members, open up and make yourself step out of your comfort zone. And most of all enjoy being able to have the opportunity to go; many members don’t get the chance."