4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy hosts two read aloud events

Altoona, Iowa (April 28, 2022) – The Polk County 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy, comprised of 20 teens representing eight Des Moines public middle and high schools, will host two public read aloud events for elementary aged children and their families at the Des Moines Central Library on May 23 and 24. The first twenty families at each event will also receive a free book thanks to a grant from John Deere and the Iowa 4-H Foundation. 

The Academy teens identified two issues facing their peers and community – bullying and the lack of multicultural representation in education – and will help address these issues in an age-appropriate manner through stories and hands-on activities. The read aloud events are service capstone projects to demonstrate the skills and knowledge acquired through participating in the Polk County 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy.  

The first event will be held Monday, May 23 from 5:30-6:00 p.m. at the Central Library and will focus on bullying. Academy teens will read Sharky McShark by Alison Murray and Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds. Following the story time, youth participants will do a hands-on activity that empowers them to use their voice against bullying.

The second event will be Tuesday, May 24 from 6:00-6:30 p.m. at the Central Library. Participating families will hear an excerpt from The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah Jones and Renee Watson. After the story, the Academy teens will lead an art project that connects all participants to one another and to their ancestors. 

These two events are the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work and learning for Academy participants.

“Since October, the teens in the 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy have been exploring topics of leadership and service learning,” said Madisen Gaskin county youth coordinator for Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach in Polk County. “The Academy is all about empowering the leadership skills these youth already possess and helping them to build a network so they can accomplish their goals of being change makers! It’s been really great seeing the youth utilizing the strategies we’ve explored throughout the year to develop their service projects.”

4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy
The 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy is a yearlong, leadership program for urban youth in grades 8-11, and was re-launched this past fall in partnership with the Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families. This experience provides youth participants rigorous leadership development and training through monthly workshops, networking opportunities, and completion of a group capstone service project.

“The 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy began as a vision to engage more young leaders in the 4-H,” Gaskin said. “The program continues to ensure that when students graduate, they feel confident in their abilities to take on more leadership roles within 4-H, schools, and their communities. Alumni have gone on to serve on the Polk County 4-H Youth Council and utilize 4-H as a means to prepare them for post-high school graduation.”

All twenty students in the 2021-2022 class are on track to graduate from the Academy with a celebratory event planned for June 8 at the Evelyn K Davis Center in Des Moines. 

Polk County 4-H is now accepting applications for the 2022-2023 class. To nominate or encourage youth to apply for next year’s 4-H Urban Youth Leadership class visit www.tinyurl.com/UYLAapplication, or to learn more about Polk County 4-H please visit www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/4h or call (515) 957-5760.


About Polk County 4-H
Polk County 4-H is part of America’s largest youth development organization where collectively we empower nearly six million young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime. At Polk County 4-H we offer youth research-based experiences that include a mentor, a hands-on project, and a meaningful leadership opportunity. Our programs encourage youth to build leadership, citizenship, communication, and life skills while giving them a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines.

Last year, Polk County 4-H served nearly 3,000 youth through:
•    4-H and Clover Kids Clubs: 
•    Afterschool programs
•    Summer camps
•    Leadership conferences and retreats

4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy May 23 Story Time


4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy May 24 Story Time