Amy Peyton was in eighth grade when she attended her first 4-H Day at the Legislature and heard high school seniors talk about their experience as pages at the state Capitol. This year, she is one of those pages. Serving as a page is only one of many opportunities that 4-H’ers learn about during ISU Extension’s 4-H Day at the Legislature. Nearly 200 4-H’ers participated in the annual event March 26 that increases awareness of and involvement in 4-H out-of-county experiences.
“The more they know about tech team, state council or the national conference, the more they are likely to participate,” said Tricia Rew, 4-H alum and ISU Extension intern in charge of organizing the youth leadership event. “Our overarching goal is to show them how others have been involved in their communities and how they can bring those same things back to their own county and be involved.”
The first 4-H legislative day was held in 2002. Over the next four years, the event grew rapidly to almost 600 participants in 2006. To keep the event manageable, counties were split into two groups, with each group attending the event in alternating years.
Initially, the event concentrated on government and career opportunities. Over time, it has shifted to helping youth become civically involved and increasingly aware of emerging issues in their community and state.
But the focus is squarely on the kids. “That’s where the impact always was,” said Becky Nibe, program coordinator with ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development. “Kids are becoming legislative pages, coming back and understanding that the legislators in Des Moines are just like their parents going to work everyday. It’s real for them.”