4-H youth conference connects students with government, politics

June 11, 2014 

Some of our kids attended the Washington State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Know Your Government Conference at the Red Lion Olympia Hotel earlier this year with more than 300 youth and adults from across Washington. They held one-on-one discussions with their state representatives and senators.

They learned Thomas Jefferson’s credo, “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

Now there’s food for thought!

Timmie and Caitlin Calhoun of Key Peninsula got to the conference by selling See’s candy bars at the Food Market in Key Center to raise funds for KYG members. All eight KYG sales force members thank candy buyers who helped them reach Olympia.

Fox Island’s Jim Braden, a retiree of Chevron and a strong 4-H supporter, agreed to be its representative at the 2013 conference.

“I found these young people and their accomplishments so uplifting I asked Chevron for the assignment again in 2014, and have since asked to be Chevron’s KYG representative indefinitely,” he said.

Jan Klein, an Adolescent Leadership specialist with the WSU Spokane Extension, said, “The 4-H KYG Conferences strengthen the connection between youth and our political and social networks through education, experience, application and inspiration.”

Braden explained how 4–H members in grades 9-12 learned about and participated in the three branches of government.

“This year they learned how to create a bill, lobby a bill, and to pass it,” he said. “They also watched legislators in session.”

“4-H means opportunities to learn new things in different projects,” Timmie Calhoun said. “4-H gives me opportunities to socialize with my peers.”

To his sister, Caitlin, “4-H means that I am able to learn about subjects that I am interested in. It has helped me with public speaking as well as increased my knowledge and skills with animal husbandry, archery and how our government works.”

“The conference is the perfect way to explore how our state government operates while having fun with your peers in an inspirational setting,” Braden said. “The annual conference is a four-year rotation allowing immersion in the legislative, executive and judicial branches along with understanding the media’s influence on our political system.”

“4-H means the world to me,” said South Kitsap High senior Alexander Dunbar. “It has given me a second family; people who are there for each other through ups and downs. It has been instrumental in shaping me into the man I am today. With 4-H I have learned valuable life skills, responsibility, effective leadership, acceptance and tolerance. The lessons I have learned, the skills I have developed, and the friendships I have built in 4-H will stay with me forever.”

The conference theme, “Lobbying for Change,” focused on the legislative process. Students learned parliamentary procedure, negotiation and persuasive speaking skills.

Mother Dianna Calhoun summed things up, “For me, as a volunteer leader, 4-H is a way I can connect with my children by being involved in projects, such as the cat project, the horse project, the archery project, etc., that interest them. As a parent, it is a safe environment for my children to grow in, both intellectually and socially.”

What more can you ask?

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