Iowa 4-H Career Pathways Youth Collaborate on 'Lead to Change' Action Plans at Ignite Summit


May 28, 2024, 1:48 pm | Sydney Peterson, Cayla Taylor

AMES, Iowa – Twelve youth from West Pottawattamie, Buena Vista, Marshall and Wapello counties, all members of the 4-H Career Pathways Academy, participated in the national Ignite by 4-H Conference – developing action plans, sharing ideas and connecting with peers from other states.

They were among 37 4-H youth in grades 7-12 who were selected to represent Iowa at the teen summit, held March 13-17 in Washington, D.C. Over 1,200 youth from throughout the United States participated in the event, which aimed to help teens find their spark and learn the skills they need to create a positive impact.

Collaborating to lead change

The delegates who represented Career Pathways Academy were Daniel Regalado-Madrigal and Jaslene Alejandra Valdovinos of Marshall County; Daisy Sanchez-Lopez and Paloma Baeza of Wapello County; Evelyn Reyes, Ashley Zelaya-Sambrano, Juliette Perez-Zavala, Jeremy Sercy, Sharenni Garcia and Monica David, all from Buena Vista County; and Rae Pallat and Joanna Cook of West Pottawattamie County.

These youth participated in the summit’s healthy living, agriscience and STEM tracks. They also had the opportunity to speak to a variety of professionals in diverse fields during a Career Connection breakfast featuring more than 75 industry leaders.

4-H youth with Lead to Change action plan.“Ignite by 4-H is an experience that I will not forget. I felt connected to the other youth and was thrilled to make relationships with them,” reflected Garcia. “I learned many things from our guest speakers, like following your dreams and encouraging words from the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.”

Their offsite education experience was visiting South Mountain Creamery, where the youth learned about and saw first-hand the process of creating fresh dairy products and interacted with farm animals.

“I had an excellent Ignite by 4-H experience. Meeting new people required me to step outside of my comfort zone, but it was rewarding. I made a lot of incredible friends that I still keep in contact with now that the experience is over,” said Zelaya-Sambrano. “I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I know that it taught youth lifelong lessons alongside being fun and enjoyable.”

The Career Pathways delegates collaborated on three Lead to Change action plans. The Buena Vista area youths’ plan was on youth advocacy, intending to target middle school youth by partnering with local organizations to create informative resources for that audience.

The Wapello and Marshall County youths’ Lead to Change plan was based on mental health and making youth feel heard and understood. Their idea was to work with students once a month after school and facilitate activities to encourage understanding and belonging.

Rae Pallat and Joanna Cook from West Pottawattamie County worked on a Lead to Change action plan titled “Care for Foster Care,” recognizing a population of foster or adopted youth in one of their county’s 4-H clubs. They brainstormed ways to help support the parents and youth through activity kits for parents to use during scheduled visits.

"Ignite by 4-H was a fun event to meet people from all around [the country.] Most people I met were really fond of what they do in their 4-H community – from livestock, pageants, to volunteering,” explained Baeza. “It was very eventful, and it'd be nice to go back next year and share more stories about what others do back home with 4-H."

About the Ignite Summit

The four-day summit included inspiring and engaging panels, hands-on workshop sessions and entertainment, along with opportunities for career exploration, youth voice and building connections with teens from across the country. The high-impact programming included speakers, such as national experts, with opportunities to hone leadership skills.

Career Pathways Academy youth participate in salsa-making activity during Ignite by 4-H Summit.This is the second year the event was held as a super summit, combining all interest tracks: STEM, agriscience, healthy living, career readiness and emotional well-being. In previous years, the event was split into four different summits. Before leaving Iowa, each delegate selected the track in which they were most interested.

Youth also heard from innovative keynote speakers Gitanjali Rao, a young inventor, author and Time Magazine’s First “Kid of the Year,” and Daniel Mac, a content creator with over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

In addition, in partnership with adult mentors, Ignite youth participants developed and presented various 4-H Lead to Change projects during the conference. These projects challenged the delegates to brainstorm and act on an issue they care about, become catalysts for others, foster real change in their home communities, and, therefore, contribute to stronger, healthier communities.

After delegates returned to Iowa from the summit, they could submit these action plans to vie for a grant. Up to 13 Ignite Lead to Change project teams will later receive a $2,000 grant to implement their project, with one possible $5,000 grant.

Many teams plan to continue developing and implementing their Lead to Change project, demonstrating their commitment to positively impacting their communities and beyond.

Experiencing Washington, D.C.

Besides attending the summit, the delegation engaged in sightseeing. One evening, participants took a night bus tour of the national monuments. They walked around the Jefferson Memorial, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Many delegates had never been to Washington, D.C., and reported that visiting all the memorials and history there was a cherished experience.

The teens also engaged in entertainment opportunities, including a pin trade, a celebration event featuring DJ Lela Brown, a prodigy and former teen Radio Disney show host and a YouTube creator panel and dinner.

Stephanie Alanis, northwest region program assistant for ISU Extension and Outreach, was one of the chaperones who accompanied local 4-H members on the trip. She said the summit was a fantastic opportunity for the students and the adults who attended, as they connected with other students and extension staff members from Iowa and across the country.

“One of my favorite parts about the Ignite by 4-H Summit is being able to watch youth come out of their shells and interact with other 4-H’ers from across the country,” Alanis said. “Ignite by 4-H has been an event that genuinely tries to create a positive and welcoming environment for all youth in 4-H.”

Participation in the Ignite by 4-H Summit was made possible through funding from the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program, National 4-H Council, Walmart Foundation, Google and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For more information on the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, please contact your local county ISU Extension and Outreach office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at www.extension.iastate.edu/4h.

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