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Wirt County 4-H'ers Attend National Conference

4-H youth are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and their communities. Four youth, two Wirt County and two Gilmer County 4-H’ers, traveled to the National 4-H Conference Center in hopes of accomplishing those two goals.

Brooklyn Smith, Kassandra Starcher, Macee Starsick, and McKinzie White attended the National Youth Agri-Science Summit from January 10 - 13, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. During the trip the group participated in workshops and career exploration, networked with other youth from around the Nation, and developed a community action plan for an issue they were passionate about.

Four youth 4-H girls stand in front of a painting at the National 4-H Conference Center

Smith and Starcher, Wirt County 4-H members, and Starsick and White, Gilmer County 4-H’ers, were accompanied by Callie Daugherty and Jamie Mullins, WVU Extension Service Agents. The trip was an opportunity for our local 4-H’ers to participate in a national event and explore their interests in Agri-Science. West Virginia 4-H is unique in many ways the trip gave participants an opportunity to share their experiences with others.

During the workshops, participants explored their own interests in agriculture and science. Some of the youth’s favorites were cheese making, animal digestion, exploring genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), food for the future, innovations in agri-science, and biosecurity.

The youth also participated in an interactive career fair where they were able to network with professionals in agriculture, government, science, and international relations. Through these activities youth gained skills and experience in community leadership and agricultural knowledge.

Four 4-H youth girls work on developing an action plan at the National Youth Agri-Science Summit

Throughout the weekend, the participants from both counties worked together to develop a community action plan to address a specific need facing our area. The youth considered all the challenges that face our area and the resources they had available. They also considered the impact they wanted to make on the community with their project. Using what they learned during the summit, the youth developed an outline of an action plan to address substance abuse in our area, called Teens Against Adversity. Smith, Starcher, Starsick, and White hope to implement the plan over the coming year in both Wirt and Gilmer County by providing positive and enriching youth activities involving agriculture and developing a strong support system within the community.

The trip gave the group a chance to learn more about each other as well. Starcher said, “I loved getting to know the Gilmer County 4-H’ers and even getting to know Brooklyn better. My favorite part about the conference was getting pushed outside of my comfort zone when it came to public speaking.  I was able to take on a leadership role in many of the activities we did.”

Smith said, “I have really enjoyed bonding with the other girls and getting to know each others’ strengths and weaknesses.  I think it has helped us develop a better action plan.”

Four youth 4-H girls stand on an overlook at the U.S. botanical gardens surrounded by diverse plant life.

In addition to learning about science, agriculture, and community leadership, the students also explored Washington, D.C. as part of the conference. The trip included a visit to the U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress, U.S. Botanical Gardens, and the National Mall. The group enjoyed learning about our Nation’s history and exploring monuments and memorials.

All youth participants at the 2019 National Youth Agri-Science Summit

The National Youth Agri-Science Summit is one of several youth events offered by the National 4-H Conference Center. This trip was made possible by a generous sponsor of the conference, Bayer, who provided scholarships to many of the attendees. In total the conference hosted 275 participants consisting of 196 youth and 79 adults from 27 different states. Our local participants enjoyed getting to meet other 4-H youth from around the country and share ideas about becoming leaders in their community.

Our youth are our future and their thoughts and opinions matter to the success of our community.  The 4-H program allows youth to take leadership positions within the community and help them realize the impact they can have.

Explore our Wirt County website for more information on the Wirt County 4-H program or contact the WVU Extension Service, Wirt County Office at 304-275-3101.