By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia
"Having international participants is a first for National 4-H Congress," said Susan Stewart, executive director of National 4- H Congress. "We routinely have participants from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, but never from other countries. This year, we got a letter from these two countries, asking if they could come and observe. And we were delighted to have them."
National 4-H Congress brings together representatives from states across the nation to participate in leadership, service learning and educational programs. Each state sets different criteria for being selected to attend the event.
"Georgia's representatives are the winners from our State 4-H Congress project achievement process," said Bo Ryles, state leader for Georgia 4-H, a unit of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "This year we will send 66 Georgia students to National Congress to represent our 198,000 Georgia 4-H'ers and to host the visiting 4-H'ers."
Living wellDuring their five days in Atlanta, the 1,100 delegates will hear from a variety of speakers, including Miss America Deidre Downs. They will attend educational workshops, too, on living healthy lifestyles.
"The workshops will include leadership skills, facing eating disorders, teenage depression and how to avoid it, healthy foods with preventative properties, and sport nutrition," Stewart said. "We will also have an Alpharetta, Ga., policeman on hand to teach a class on personal safety. And instructors will take the delegates through classes in Pilates and yoga."
Giving backService learning is a major part of what 4-H is all about. During this conference, the delegates will take a class in baking as a gift and learn how it can be used for community service. They will also get out and help Atlanta.
"During the week, each teen participates in a community service activity," Stewart said. "Some will assist at the Festival of Trees set up. Others will help record oral histories from senior citizens. Some will help clean up local parks and Zoo Atlanta as a part of the second-largest day of community service for Hands on Atlanta."
Since 4-H celebrated its centennial in 2003, the students began bringing a dime for each year 4-H has been in existence. "This year, each 4-H'er will bring 103 dimes," Stewart explained. "The money goes to a savings account. And when we have enough, we will partner with Habitat for Humanity to build Clover House in Atlanta."
4-H is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It's administered in every state by the land-grant university. The organization has more than 7 million members nationwide. It's offered in every county in Georgia through the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office. To find a 4-H program near you, call 1-800-ASK-UGA1, or visit on-line at ugaextension.com.
(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)