4-H Teen Conference Encourages Youth to Become Diverse Leaders
LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 20, 2019) — More than 500 of the state’s most promising young people recently came to the University of Kentucky to polish their leadership skills during the Kentucky 4-H Teen Conference.
Each year, conference participants choose an area of interest to explore further. This area is known as their major. All delegates also participate in a leadership minor. This year’s minor focused on diversity and inclusion and was taught by 4-H youth development agents using curriculum from Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences.
“In Kentucky 4-H, we really believe there is something for everyone here,” said Rachel Noble, extension specialist for 4-H youth development. “We wanted to challenge our members to think outside the box, to think about ways they can include others from diverse backgrounds in 4-H and to be role models to others.”
The minor was made possible through a partnership between Kentucky 4-H and the Office of Diversity in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
“We want young people to understand we all have similarities,” said Mia Farrell, interim director of diversity. “This workshop was an opportunity for them to examine their experiences and to share those with their peers who may or may not look like them.”
That is exactly what Clay Comer, a State 4-H Teen Council member from Clark County got out of the minor.
“This conference helps put you in a situation where you are a little uncomfortable at first, but you learn a whole lot,” Comer said. “It has helped me be more comfortable around people who may seem different at first. I’ve also learned that I’m very lucky, because there are a lot of people in the world who don’t have the advantages that I do.”
Breanna Burkhead is an at-large State 4-H Teen Council member from Garrard County. At-large members help diversify the council and represent an underrepresented audience. Burkhead represents her Native American heritage. In addition to serving on the council, Burkhead also enjoys learning about other cultures and participates in 4-H International Programs, serving as a host for a Japanese 4-H’er last year and traveling to South Korea this year. While diversity is nothing new to her, she gained valuable insight from the training.
“I learned that sometimes we don’t see eye to eye on things,” she said. “This workshop taught me that it’s ok to be different and it’s ok to accept that. Leaders should be able to include everyone and be respectful of their differences.”
As part of the training, leaders from the college’s MANRRS organization spoke to the 4-H’ers about the Jr. MANNRS organization. Currently, 4-H has five Jr. MANRRS clubs throughout the state. Jr. MANRRS helps young people from diverse backgrounds learn about career opportunities in agricultural industries and provides many career preparation skills.
“Through MANRRS, I have learned my purpose and passion of helping others, and I want to take those passions and empower individuals to reach their fullest potential,” said Persia Woodard, vice president of UK MANRRS and a senior merchandising, apparel and textiles major. “I am excited to be here today, because I love working with youth. I believe it is important to be a leader in your community and give back to others, just as my advisor Ms. Antomia Farrell has done for our community and chapter.”