AMES, Iowa – Young people can lead action in their communities. That was the message of Youth Voice in Action, a day-long 4-H summit at Upper Iowa University led by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county and state youth outreach staff on Sept. 28.
During the event, 55 youth from nine area schools learned about using their voice for leadership and making an action plan for change in their community. They also heard from ISU Extension and Outreach specialists on various workshop topics. Participating schools were from Allamakee, Bremer, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties.
Learning to work with others based on leadership style is an important part of developing a community action plan, explained Angie Dougherty, 4-H youth program specialist. Youth took a short survey to determine their leadership style and see if they were more like a buffalo, eagle, mouse or beaver. This humorous activity grouped the youth based on their leadership style.
They reviewed their strengths and shared pointers others should know about working with their leadership style. Youth reported they feel confident in treating others fairly and equally when they oversee a group, Dougherty said.
Youth used a “5 Why’s” activity as a school team to define an issue in their school or community. Some topics identified included how to better welcome new students to their school, increase classroom involvement, youth service projects and community involvement. Led by a caring adult from their school, the youth began writing the first steps toward solving the issue.
To better equip youth with the tools needed to address community issues, county extension staff led workshops related to food science, financial literacy, communication and art, leadership, and mindfulness.
Peggy Schilling, Clayton County K-12 outreach coordinator, walked youth through a practical communication activity. Students quickly discovered the importance of clear and precise messaging when describing a new topic. Youth reported an increased awareness of the importance of being specific with various communication, such as verbal and posters.
In another workshop, Becky Rea, Allamakee County K-12 outreach coordinator, walked youth through a leadership activity to stress the importance of teamwork. One student commented, “This activity helped me practice leading others through hard situations.”
After leaving the event, youth will use their voice and leadership to implement their community action plan by the end of the current school year. An ISU Extension and Outreach county staff member will follow up with their schools on their action plan progress and other engaging leadership opportunities.
This event was made possible with funding from the Iowa 4-H Foundation, ISU Extension and Outreach county offices, and facilities support from Upper Iowa University.
“The annual Youth Voice in Action Summit has helped grow young leaders in our local communities, connected ISU Extension and Outreach to schools for further learning, and opened the door for youth to discover how powerful their voices in action can be,” Dougherty said.
ISU Extension and Outreach staff in northeast Iowa who planned and supported the event included Megan Rawlins, Patrick Dirks, Kathy Hennings, Diane Wolfe, Nicole Reynolds-Thimmesch, Ashley Horgen, Lori Dietzenbach, Becky Rea, Kendra Crooks, Peggy Schilling and Angie Dougherty.
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