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82nd National 4-H Congress convenes in Atlanta

By Cat Holmes
University of Georgia

Thanksgiving weekend will be about more than turkey and football for the more than 1,200 U.S. teens who are headed to Atlanta for the 82nd National 4-H Congress.

The youths, ages 14-19, will attend a variety of educational programs and cultural events during the five-day congress Nov. 28-Dec. 2.

Highlights of the program include performances by Miss America 2004, Ericka Dunlap; the U.S. Army Ground Forces Band; and Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, author and former 4-H'er Rick Bragg.

"'Growing Into the Future,' is the theme of this year's Congress, and the big focus is environmental awareness," said Susan Stewart, director of National 4-H Congress.

"These kids come because they've excelled in the 4-H program at home," Stewart said. "They come from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and they're coming to Atlanta to learn more."

The delegates will have a range of educational programs to choose from. Some will tour the earth-friendly, sustainable home at Southface Energy Institute. The educational staff from the Atlanta Aquarium will present a program, "One world, one ocean." Lonice Barrett, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, will conduct a session on "Gettin' involved and makin' a difference."

Delegates will also do community service projects. On Monday, 300 4-H'ers and Miss America will set up and decorate trees for Atlanta's Festival of Trees, which benefits Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Other delegates will get involved in service projects at Zoo Atlanta, Grant Park, five area public schools, Goodwill Industries, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Big Trees Forest Preserve and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

"Since National 4-H Congress came to Atlanta in 1998, delegates have participated in a wide variety of community projects," Stewart said. "They are encouraged to start similar service projects when they return to their own communities."

The idea of the congress is to teach skills that delegates can use in their own communities.

"4-H emphasizes leadership skills, youth empowerment and cultural diversity," Stewart said. "Congress delegates will return home prepared to 'grow into the future' in their own communities. Atlanta provides an excellent backdrop for the diversity of cultural experiences National 4-H Congress offers."

(Cat Holmes is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Cat Holmes was a science writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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