AMES, Iowa - Over 200 4-H youth from across Iowa gathered on the Iowa State University campus June 30 for the 2021 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, “Quest to Be Your Best.” The one-day event consisted of educational workshops led by Iowa State faculty and staff; cultural exploration sessions covering the countries of Kenya, India, Senegal, Argentina and Japan; a service-learning project for the foster care system in Iowa; team building; college and career exploration; and messages from Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen and keynote speaker Deadra Stanton.
The annual conference, organized and facilitated by the State 4-H Council, took on a new look this year as the typical three-day event was adjusted to a one-day event to accommodate COVID-19 regulations.
“The conference is organized by the State 4-H Council, a group of leadership-driven high school youth,” said Haley Jones, conference coordinator and 4-H youth program specialist. “Everything from the theme to keynote speakers, service project, decorations and schedule of events is determined by the State 4-H Council members. They consider their own experiences and interests and those of their peers during the planning process, making the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference a truly unique experience as it is planned for youth, by youth.”
Following the cancellation of the 2020 conference due to the pandemic, the State 4-H Council needed to think creatively beginning in October 2020 to plan an event for 2021 that allowed for social distancing and other COVID-19 regulations.
“Planning an event from scratch allowed us to be creative and incorporate everyone’s ideas in some way into the conference,” said Aneisha Sritharan, State 4-H Council member from Humboldt County. “We formed many relationships and created numerous memories with each other while working hard for the same goal. Seeing the conference finally come together after months of planning was unforgettable.”
Service learning is a key component of the conference and the State 4-H Council members chose to serve the foster care youth in Iowa at this year’s event. Prior to the event, council members collected nearly 5,000 donations of travel-sized hygiene products from local businesses and generous donors from across the state. In partnership with Achieving Maximum Potential, a youth-driven, statewide group that seeks to unleash the full potential for personal growth among foster and adoptive children in Iowa, conference delegates created four assembly lines and stuffed 450 care bags with hygiene products and a note of encouragement for youth who enter the foster care system.
“During the conference I attended the AMP presentation, which was dedicated to learning about the foster care system,” said Clint Nelson, conference attendee from Polk County. “The presentation made me realize I take many things I have in my home and in my family for granted. I plan to be more appreciative of what I have. The presentation made me want to learn more about foster care from the youth perspective.”
Youth who attended the conference dove into their passions, discovered career opportunities and learned about life on a college campus, in addition to meeting other youth from across the state. With 20 workshop topics to choose from, delegates were seen cooking healthy recipes, caring for the MidAmerican Jack Trice football field, decoding data, researching diseases, learning about mental and emotional health, and much more.
“My favorite part of the youth conference was experiencing Iowa State University’s campus and making new friends! I have two new pen pals from the event,” explained Margaret Roberts, conference attendee from Fremont County.
All youth who have completed eighth grade are invited to attend the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference each year. 4-H members, as well as youth who have not participated in 4-H, are encouraged to participate. Registration for the 2022 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference will open in March 2022, with conference dates set for June 28-30, 2022, at Iowa State University.
For more information regarding the Iowa 4-H Youth Conference, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/iowa4hyouthconference.
Shareable photos and captions
[PHOTO] Christian White of Union County writes a note of encouragement as part of the foster care service learning session during the 2021 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference.
[PHOTO] The 2020-21 State 4-H Council poses after a successful 2021 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference.