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Nevada 4-H goes to Washington

Posted 10/24/2011

Jessie at last year’s Lyon County 4-H Awards Ceremony.

Jessie at last year’s Lyon County 4-H Awards Ceremony.

Nevada delegation gets first-hand look at nation’s capital and its workings

Each year, thousands of 4-H youth across the nation converge on Washington, D.C., in June to participate in the Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF), an annual 4-H leadership conference. This year, their number included 14 Nevada youth from Mason Valley, Smith Valley, and the Yerington Paiute Tribe, the first delegation sent from Nevada in more than five years.

For more than 50 years, CWF has invited 4-H members age 14-19 to participate in civic workshops, committees, and field trips before returning home to make positive changes in their own communities. In addition to civic and leadership training, participants prepare information about their respective states and learn about 4-H’ers from other regions as well.

"The ultimate goal of CWF is to strengthen youths’ understanding of government’s civic process, and supplement their leadership skills, communication skills and overall confidence," said Lyon County 4-H Special Programs Manager Jessica Angle.

During CWF, the Nevada delegation was able to gain a behind-the-scenes look at the nation’s capital and its operations. The delegation also met with their Nevada congressmen to learn more about how their government works. For Jessie Johnston, a junior at Smith Valley School, Nevada’s participation in the conference was a way to show legislators how youth are concerned with state issues.

"It was important for Nevada to be represented at CWF because it shows our state officials that we, as youth, are concerned with what they decide and how it will affect our future," said Johnston.

At the end of the program, the delegation took the teachings of CWF and developed strategies to address important issues in their communities. Jessica Ramirez, a current freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno, plans on using her experience in the program to help target youth in the community.

"I will apply what I learned by helping out kids younger than I am and encouraging them to be active," said Ramirez. "I will help in any way that I can because I want other kids to be able to experience our nation’s capital."

According to Angle, the former delegates have become increasingly active in community service programs in their areas. Following the conference, many youth have participated in the Youth 4 Health Bookworms Program as teen mentors and have also attended traditional 4-H meetings for the first time.

"Prior to the conference, many of the Nevada delegates had very little involvement in 4-H," Angle said. "This conference has opened the door of opportunity for nontraditional 4-H members to be a part of and learn about 4-H through nontraditional activities."

Ramirez said that the conference was also an opportunity to challenge stereotypes about Nevada, and demonstrate to other delegates the diversity of the state.

"It often seems that on a national scale Nevada is made fun of and ridiculed," said Ramirez. "I feel that the only reason this is true is because we’re not preparing Nevada’s kids to compete at a national level. By putting ourselves out there and seeing how other kids live, even in just a different state, allows us to be better educated and helps others see what Nevada is truly like."

Ramirez also feels that her experience at CWF has shaped her outlook on her future and career.

"The lessons I learned in CWF have already helped my future," said Ramirez. "I’ve learned that one day I want to be and will be one of the people in D.C. making those differences."

4-H is a community of 6 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of National 4-H Headquarters (USDA). The 4-H programs are implemented by the 106 Land Grant Universities and the Cooperative Extension System through their 3,100 local Extension offices across the country.

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