National 4-H Council recently welcomed several youth leaders and adult mentors as they took part in the week-long 4-H National Mentoring Capstone Program. The new initiative, coordinated with funding provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), incorporated elements of Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF)—an annual national citizenship and leadership program for 4-H members— with a direct focus on mentoring and training activities for both youth and adult mentors.
The ninety-five participants included 73 high school youth and 22 adult mentors, site coordinators, and chaperones, representing 12 states, who have participated in the 4-H National Mentoring Program in their local communities throughout the year. The young people, who participated in either 4-H Mentoring: Youth & Families with Promise (YFP) or the 4-H Tech Wizards program, were selected to attend the Capstone program, which was the culmination of their program year. 4-H Tech Wizards uses technology training as the content and basis of the program while YFP includes weekly mentoring for youth and adults, paired with family activities that focus on strengthening family bonds and communication.
From July 14 to July 20, the Capstone incorporated a full, energetic schedule that included workshops on interactive peer and adult mentoring, Bill writing, and discussing top Congressional issues; as well as educational visits to Capitol Hill and the Smithsonian.
As part of the Capstone program, the youth developed an action plan with their respective delegation for issues of high importance in their community—including bullying, domestic violence, suicide prevention, and how to provide services, including increased mentoring services, to impact these issues.
During their time on Capitol Hill, several of the delegations met with Members of Congress, including the Nevada delegation’s visit with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Iowa delegation’s visit with Senator Chuck Grassley. The Michigan delegation even got an opportunity to hear from Senator Debbie Stabenow, who as a young 4-Her was key to opening the Lansing chapter of 4-H.
“The 4-H National Mentoring Capstone Program brings together youth and adult mentors to build plans that leverage what they learned throughout the year and put it to use within their local communities,” said Donald T. Floyd, Jr., president & CEO, National 4-H Council. “Youth and adult partnerships are the key to the success of 4-H programs. These mentoring relationships are pivotal in helping young people reach their greatest potential.”
Delegation Day rounded out the week with a trip to the Smithsonian where the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships arranged a panel for the youth on the importance of mentoring throughout education and into professional life. The panel, including staff and fellows of the Smithsonian, shared important advice on finding mentors and making the most of mentoring opportunities.
The 4-H National Mentoring Capstone Program engaged youth to develop innovative solutions to issues that impact their community. The experience gave them an opportunity to develop leadership, advocacy, policymaking, and citizenship skills to make a difference and build opportunities for their own future careers.
“The overall Capstone experience has taught me how to be a better leader and citizen,” said Rachel Nielsen of the Nevada 4-H delegation. “One major highlight was talking to Senator Reid about his personal stories on being mentored, which was very inspiring.
4-H is a community of seven million young people across the globe learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills. National 4-H Council is the private sector, nonprofit partner of 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within USDA. In the U.S., 4-H programs are implemented by the 109 land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension System through their 3,100 local Extension offices across the country. Overseas, 4-H programs are active in more than 50 countries on six continents around the world.