Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to Iowa State University with 11 Jackson County 4-H’ers for the State 4-H Conference. Some of the goals of conference are to make new friends, reconnect with old friends, be open to new experiences and, you guessed it… have fun. 

A main part of the conference is the opportunity for youth to attend workshops of their choosing. It’s amazing to see what everyone’s interests are. 

This year, there were options ranging from horticulture, a CyRide scavenger hunt, clothing, food science and more. I had the chance to help facilitate the CyRide scavenger hunt. CyRide is a partnership between the city of Ames, Iowa State University, and ISU student government, and it provides public transportation around the Ames area. I had a blast, but I think I’ll skip public transportation and stick to walking.

The state 4-H council has tried to look at issues that today’s teens care about and use the resources of the university to develop the workshop offerings. I’d say they did a great job. Everyone was always talking about what they learned and got to do in their workshops. 

On Tuesday evening, the group had an all-Iowa picnic at the Campanile (bell tower) and got a chance to meet new people during teambuilding activities. That night, everyone converged at the Memorial Union for a dance.

As a chaperone, this is one of my favorite times. It’s a blast getting to watch all the youth have the time of their lives. 

Wednesday night is the night to dress up and look your best while you attend the formal banquet at Hilton Coliseum. After the meal, we were entertained with a violin-playing duo, B2wins, attended the awards ceremony, then danced the night away. 

As a 4-H member, we always pledge our hands to larger service at all levels. The state 4-H council’s goal was for the delegates to become involved in a service project so they can bring back ideas to their own community and further carry out this pledge. 

This year, there was a rotation of three different service opportunities. First was a mock caucus hosted by the Secretary of State’s office. This was so much fun and brought out a bunch of boastful youth caucusing for their favorite pizza toppings. 

Second was a culture fair hosted by numerous groups and organizations throughout Iowa. Youth learned about cultures from Uganda, Mexico and more. We even had a chance to learn salsa dancing.

The third rotation was time to serve at Reiman Gardens. We were able to help mulch, weed, clean out the greenhouse, and prep supplies for next year. It’s always fun to get behind the scenes and not only get an education about the history of the gardens, but get a glimpse into its future plans. 

Each day we also were able to listen to keynote speakers and presenters. This year, there were three awesome people. John Beede opened the conference, telling us how we can climb to our highest levels of peak performance and leadership. Did you know he has climbed the tallest mountain on every continent?

We also heard speaker John Nolter. He is an award-winning photographer and has traveled more than 40,000 miles across the United States sharing his belief that art and storytelling have the power to transform our hearts and our communities. 

The last presenter we had the opportunity to see was Peggy Whitson. Whitson is a NASA astronaut (and Iowa 4-H alum!) who flew on Expedition 50/51 and also has participated in four spacewalks!

A part of state conference is also the Animal Science Round-Up. 4-H Animal Science Round-Up is a gathering for those with an interest in livestock. 

The event is conducted by the ISU Department of Animal Science, Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development and state commodity groups. Round-Up activities are conducted at the Animal Science Department facilities on the ISU campus and the nearby research farms. 

Round-Up consists primarily of hands-on, experiential learning activities that cover a wide array of animal science-related topics. 

Workshops include computer simulations to develop feed rations and breeding programs, artificial insemination training, ultrasound determination of carcass composition in the live animal, equine training techniques, lessons in cardiovascular physiology using a treadmill with horses and much more.

I think this is a wonderful opportunity for youth that are wanting to get more hands-on experience in their livestock field of interest. 

So, you guessed it. We had fun, and lots of it. State conference is always a reminder that summer is already almost half over, and the county fair is right around the corner, July 23-28. I hope to see you at the fair, encouraging our 4-H’ers in their projects.

I know how much effort and hard work it takes to prepare, and one of the best things that we can do is support our county youth in their projects and passions.