AMES, Iowa - Fifty youth in grades 8-11 came from different parts of the state April 29 - May 1 to gather at the Iowa 4-H Connect Retreat. The annual event, held at the Y-Camp in Boone, promoted college and career exploration, meaningful connections with multicultural youth, outdoor fun and a safe place for participants to foster a sense of belonging.
The 4-H Connect program is a three-day retreat designed to use cultural strengths to introduce untapped and underserved youth to their local 4-H program, introduce volunteers and staff to culturally based leadership development best practices, and connect youth to post-secondary educational opportunities and resources available through Iowa State University.
The opening session of the 4-H Connect Retreat began with keynote speaker Sam Gabriel, the founder of the Genesis Foundation in Iowa. His talk focused on leveling the playing field for immigrant/refugee youth and sharing his story, and featured youth from the Genesis Foundation performing traditional African dances.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was Jordan W. Brooks, creator and owner of KNWSLF (Knowledge, Wisdom, Self-Love and Fellowship). His art and research explore how Black, Indigenous and People of Color engage with BIPOC art to develop their racial/ethnic identity. Brooks is a doctoral student at Iowa State University in the social and cultural studies of education program and director of equity and inclusion in the College of Design.
Young people also participated in fun and educational activities and presentations on topics ranging from resume writing and leadership to lifestyle budgeting, personality styles, teamwork and communication, dancing, soccer and art.
“4-H Connect helped me come out of my comfort zone and learn how to work with new people,” said participant Bethany Espinoza.
Youth also shared that they learned more about the importance of speaking up for themselves and how to achieve their goals by listening to experiences from those of differing cultures.
“The youth who attended this retreat are full of energy and inspire me to continue reaching all youth in the state through 4-H programming,” said Lorena Dorado-Robles, 4-H recruitment, retention and engagement specialist.
Participants left the experience feeling positive and encouraging others to attend the program in the future.
“If opportunities like this come, don’t be afraid to grab them, it’s all about connecting with other youth that look like us,” said participant Leverny Loanis.
Shareable photo and caption: Iowa 4-H Connect Retreat participants show their event shirts.