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The AGgregator

From the Field: 4-H CWF Builds New Generation of Ag Leaders

Mikayla Bodey is currently a sophomore at The Ohio State University, pursuing a degree in public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit administration. Mikayla grew up on a small family farm in Ohio where she raised Clydesdale horses and market hogs during her time in 4-H and FFA.

This summer, nearly 1,400 young people participated in Citizenship Washington Focus (CFW) – a week-long citizenship program at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, just minutes outside of Washington, D.C. 4-H’ers are known for their supreme leadership and citizenship skills, and the CWF program allows these young people to hone and exercise these abilities in our nation’s capital. As a program assistant, I had the great honor of guiding and educating delegates the entire summer, as they participated in workshops, committees and field trips.

Delegates spend their week exchanging ideas and forming friendships with other 4-H youth from across the country. Valuable discussions regarding norms, regional differences, and 4-H traditions provide a new perspective for delegates as they return home. However, the hands-on learning experience within the historical backdrop of Washington, D.C. delivers real life lessons on leadership from memorialized leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and many more.

The informal learning environment of CWF begins with workshop groups in which delegates are charged with the task of writing a bill for relevant government topics. Once delegates have completed the bill writing process, they must present, debate and vote on the bills in our Congressional Session. Learning first-hand the difficulties of creating and passing effective legislation leaves the delegates with a new appreciation for the job of Congress, democracy and teamwork.

This summer one of those topics was federal crop insurance through subsidies and direct payments. I had the opportunity to work with the delegates focusing on this topic. This issue was relevant to the youth for its connection to agriculture, but also helping the youth understand the role of government in agriculture. This helped delegates engage with their Senators and Representatives on Capitol Hill Day, about agriculture and understanding the power of their voice.

Each week delegates receive a committee assignment, which encourages delegates to use their personal strengths. Committees include Healthy Living, Open-Mindedness, Government, Responsibility, Talent, and Communications, and each committee is focused on various topic-specific activities to inspire further positive growth in their areas of interest.

Farm Credit has played a pivotal role in the success of this year’s CWF program. Farm Credit’s support provided scholarships for 70 delegates and Cooperative Extension personnel from 1890 and 1994 land-grant universities from across the U.S. to attend CWF. Watching these delegates experience Washington, D.C. while broadening their knowledge and understanding of our federal government was rewarding and inspiring.

Technology has become a platform for young people to share their experiences, and Farm Credit also provided all of the 2014 CWF delegates the tools and training to do just that. Farm Credit donated 11 iPad minis at the beginning of the summer to encourage photography, blogging, and social networking among delegates during their time at CWF. As the Program Assistant heading up the Communications Committee, I used the iPads as a teaching tool when discussing social media best practices and pitfalls, and while helping delegates produce a weekly slideshow for our closing ceremony. Delegates also had the opportunity to participate in the #CWFHunt Social Media Scavenger Hunt on Twitter and Instagram during their week in D.C.

Because of Farm Credit’s commitment to positive youth development through CWF, countless young people have walked away with a greater sense of value and purpose. Understanding the importance of civic and social responsibilities at a young age prepares young people not only for the future, but helps them see the difference they can make now. 4-Hers have endless potential to better our country’s future. I couldn’t be more excited to see their successes long after their experience at CWF through online community building, social networking and connecting again at future events.

For more information regarding Citizenship Washington Focus, click here.