Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion Explore Future Career Opportunities during Midyear Retreat

March 1, 2022, 8:53 am | Anindita Das, Nichol Kleespies, Lisa Green

Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers tour VRAC.AMES, Iowa – Members of the Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion toured the Iowa State University campus to explore potential career opportunities, network with peers and increase their awareness of available programs. The midyear retreat, held Feb. 21, focused on creating a spark among the participants with hand-on learning activities in various educational and research centers on the Iowa State campus.

The Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion bring together seventh through 11th grade youth and adult mentors from across the state to promote mutual understanding, increase leadership skills and prepare youth to make a difference in their communities.

The teens visited several faculty and staff from the colleges of Engineering, Business, and Design; School of Education; and the affiliated research centers. Ehthadah Htoo enjoyed the experience, saying, “I can’t believe we got to meet and talk with so many faculty!”

Teens toured the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship in the ISU Research Park, where they learned about the center and created a business model. They also visited the Student Innovation Center and participated in solving a design thinking challenge around food insecurity for college students. The teens enjoyed the challenge to observe where a problem exists and generate creative solutions to help solve it.

“I never thought about food insecurity as a problem for college students,” said participant Shreya Srinath. “The design thinking process helped us explore the problem.”

Teens also visited the Virtual Reality Applications Center, met with faculty and staff, and tried virtual and augmented reality headsets.

“The simulations in the VRAC lab were so fun – you could really touch and feel things with the simulated graphics!” said participant Ma Sha Hser.

Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers use the makerspace.The retreat ended with a tour of the makerspace in the School of Education’s Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching. Teens created their own keychain to reflect on the day and how youth could begin to bridge the interrelationships and networks in their community.

The Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion program helps young people discover that there is an opportunity to build capital through the different aspects of the community, said Ani Das, diversity and inclusion professional development specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach’s 4-H Youth Development program.

“The midyear retreat focused on human capital. A big takeaway was that there needs to be significant investment in individual knowledge and skills along with the inter-relationships and networks to build human capital,” Das explained. “The midyear retreat was planned around this opportunity of building and bridging the interrelationships and networks along with an opportunity for youth to educate themselves on career possibilities and see how research is implemented to understand and solve issues at the local level.”

To learn more about the Iowa 4-H Teen Influencers for Equity and Inclusion, please contact Das at

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