4-H youth get lessons on government, leadership at conference

On Feb. 19, 97 4-H and FFA members came together at Northeastern Junior College for the “Becoming the Leader You Wish to Be” youth conference. This conference focused on helping members gain experience in leadership in their state, community, club and chapter. Participants from Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Philips, Sedgwick, Yuma, and Washington counties expanded their knowledge of local government, developed skills as an officer of an organization, learned how to utilize effective parliamentary procedure, and took a lesson in line dancing.

The conference kicked off with a great keynote speaker, Landan Schaffert. Schaffert grew up on a farm and ranch operation near the small town of Otis, Colorado. In 2008, during his senior year in high school, he served as the Student Body President. That same year, he received the full-ride Boettcher Scholarship-the most prestigious, merit-based scholarship in the State of Colorado.

As a passionate member of the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America Organization, Schaffert became highly involved in FFA leadership roles. From 2009 to 2010, he served as a State Officer on the Colorado FFA Officer Team. From 2010 to 2011, he served as the National FFA Secretary as one of the six National FFA Officers elected from across the nation to serve the more than half million members of FFA. As the National FFA Secretary, Schaffert traveled approximately 120,000 miles, visited most of the United States and Japan, and had the chance to speak to approximately 100,000 people in public speeches.

During Schaffert’s 45-minute opening address, he spoke to the kids about what makes a good leader. One of the key takeaways from Schaffert’s speech was “Learning how to become a leader has its obstacles, but if we learn from those obstacles anything is possible.” He had the kids share about an embarrassing moment in their life that they learned a valuable life lesson from. Schaffert also shared one of his embarrassing moments as well giving all the kids a good perspective of making sure you know where you are.

After Schaffert’s speech, the 97 youth were split up based on their age: 8-10, 11-13 and 14 and older. The 51 8- to 13-year-olds learned the same topics, with a few different teaching strategies. The first session for these 4-H’ers was learning about the local government structure. During this workshop youth learned what the state, county and municipal government roles are. After learning about each department and the role of county commissioners and city managers, youth were given scenarios of concerns from the community. The youth were to act as if they were the county commissioner or city manager and let the concerned community member know what departments within the government would be able to help them. The youth were given the chance to act out six scenarios based around county and six based around city. After each scenario the youth discussed why they chose the departments that they did.

The second session for the 8- to 13-year-olds involved learning about the role of being an organizations officer. Youth first learned in what order a business meeting should be run. Participants broke up into five groups of 12 and were given the following cards in no particular order (Call to Order, Pledges, Roll Call, Secretary’s Report, Treasurer’s Report, Correspondence, Committee Reports, Old Business, New Business, Announcements, Program, and Adjourn). The objective of the exercise was to have the youth organize a business meeting in the order they thought would be best. After about five minutes the groups came back together and discussed what order would be best. After this activity youth then played a connect-four officer characteristic game. This game taught the youth who in the room would make the best President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasure, Reporter etc… Once the youth understood what characteristics would make a good officer, they learned what the role was for each office. To finish out this session the youth broke back up into their five groups and played another scenario game; this time they had to raise up a sign that corresponded to the correct officer that would carry out each scenario. For instance, who calls the meeting to order? The youth would raise up the Presidents sign.

The third session included all 97 youth learning about parliamentary procedure. The participants split up into four groups and were lead by the NJC Associated Student Government (ASG) students on how to use proper parliamentary procedure to create their own trail mix. During the activity youth were given choses of trail mix ingredient. The objective of the lesson was to teach them how to be recognized by the chairperson, make a proper motion, second the motion and have open discussion while selecting each ingredient to be added. The members also learned how to make an amendment to a main motion when they didn’t like an ingredient choice. At the end of the workshop youth enjoyed the trail mix that they created using Parliamentary Procedures.

The last session for the 8- to 13-year-olds included a dance workshop put on by older youth from Sedgwick County. During this time youth learned how to line dance to songs such as Cotton Eye Joe, Electric Slide, and others. This was a fun workshop to end out the day before listening to the ending keynote speaker, Dr. Temple Grandin.

Meanwhile during the morning sessions, the 14 and older youth were deep in conversation with three panel discussions with our current government leaders. These panel discussions were led by the NJC ASG students President Brandon Melnikoff and 2nd Vice President Jayce Maker. Timothy Stahley, the ASG coordinator, was very helpful as well in getting all the rooms set up and ready for our conference. Starting off the panel discussions was Senator Jerry Sonnenberg and House Representative Rod Pelton. Some of the questions from the youth included:

“What are some things we can be doing right now to set ourselves up for success?”

“What is being done right now to improve agriculture? What can we do to help?”

“What do you think about when making decisions for your community?”

“How are we ensuring groups with diversity are being included in state, county, and city planning (disabilities, minorities, LGBTQ…)?”

The two speakers did a great job in explaining to the youth how they are helping keep rural Colorado moving forward and fighting for what we believe in.

The second session for the older youth after lunch included the local government. Two county commissioners joined the panel Byron Pelton, Logan County; and Terry Hofmeister, Phillips County. The focus stayed on the topics of agriculture and sustainably of rural life. A few of the questions from the day included:

“What do you believe is the biggest issue/problem the agriculture industry is facing, and what is your idea on solving/helping that problem?”

“Does money from the city/county get put back into agriculture communities in Colorado?”

“What are you currently trying to do to make sure there is enough water getting to farms and homes?” How will the lawsuit with Nebraska affect our way of life?”

“Why are some counties in eastern Colorado open to having wind turbines and others not?”

Again, the panelists didn’t stray away from answering these questions and gave the youth things to think about as they become the future leaders in our community.

The last session for the older youth before heading up to the ballroom to listen to Grandin, was learning how to become involved in ASG or other related student government organizations. Melnikoff and Maker presented what they have accomplished at NJC since becoming part of ASG. One of their main points was to listen to everyone before making a final decision that will affect everyone. They also challenged all the youth to see what leadership roles they can play right now in their schools, clubs, and chapters.

The day was ended with the words of Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin shared a little bit of her background with autism before talking about the subject — livestock — most of the youth were interested in.

Dr. Grandin didn’t talk until she was three and half years old. She was fortunate to get early speech therapy. Her teachers also taught her how to wait and take turns when playing board games. She was mainstreamed into a normal kindergarten at age five. Oliver Sacks wrote in the forward of “Thinking in Pictures” that her first book “Emergence: Labeled Autistic” was “unprecedented because there had never before been an inside narrative of autism.” Dr. Sacks profiled Dr. Grandin in his best-selling book “Anthropologist on Mars.”

Dr. Grandin became a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior. Today she is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She also has a successful career consulting on both livestock handling equipment design and animal welfare. Dr. Grandin shared about her high school career that she was bullied because she was different. She found solitude and friends when she went to her horse activities. She spent most of her time with her horses. Grandin shared with all the participants that it’s ok that you don’t fit in all the time, and that those experiences sometimes help shape our lives.

She talked about her passion to make a change in how our beef industry handled their facilities. Today half the cattle in the United States are handled in facilities she has designed. Temple encouraged all the youth to find that passion and make a change in their lives and those around them.

Out of the 97 participants 72 filled out a post survey of knowledge gained from each session listed, with the surveys divided into two groups based on age and topics covered. For the 14 and older youth, 35 out of the 45 that attended filled out these surveys. The question asked was “Because of this workshop, my knowledge has increased about: Parliamentary Procedures, Associated Student Government, how to get involved in government, and what our legislators are doing.” The second set of data collected was from the 8- to 13-year-olds; out of the 52 youth 37 returned a survey. They were asked the same question with the following topics: Meeting structure, parliamentary procedures, role of officers, and structure of local government.

Participants ages 8-13 shared what they learned from the various sessions at the 4-H youth conference through a survey. (Courtesy photo)
Survey results for the 14 and older youth about what they learned in the sessions at the 4-H youth conference Feb. 19, 2022 at NJC. (Courtesy photo)

All 97 youth really enjoyed each aspect of this conference and are looking forward to the next one. A few of comments from the youth included: “I learned more about leadership and becoming involved,” “It was fun and educational, I learned how to be respectful and kind during a business meeting using parliamentary procedures,” and “I learned a lot about leadership that has inspired me to run for office this fall in my 4-H club.”

Colorado District-One 4-H would like to say thank you again to all our presenters: Landan Schaffert, Jerry Sonnenberg, Rod Pelton, Brandon Melnikoff, Jayce Maker, Rebecca Lock, Natasha Coggin, Byron Pelton, Terry Hofmeister, Kyle Brandt, Brian Kailey, and Dr. Temple Grandin. We also would like to thank our development team, Jessie Stewart, Jusilyn Lutze, Jamie Axtell, and Brian Kailey. Colorado District-One 4-H will look at the calendars and begin the scheduling of the next youth conference. If you are interested in becoming part of 4-H or FFA get ahold of your local Extension office or FFA advisor. A complete directory of the Extension office in Colorado can be found here https://extension.colostate.edu/staff-directory/.

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