LEXINGTON, Ky. — Hundreds of young Kentuckians got the opportunity to fine tune their leadership skills and caught a glimpse of college life during the 94th annual Kentucky 4-H Teen Conference.
The weeklong event held on the University of Kentucky campus allows young people to get an up-close look at campus and college life as they earn 4-H educational hours in a major area of their choosing. Their major options align with their potential college major or career option and include fields such as health, communications, science, engineering and technology.
“4-H agents and others at our Cooperative Extension Service offices across Kentucky work tirelessly to ensure that we are recruiting students to visit the University of Kentucky for Teen Conference and recruiting them for 4-H, because they know the valuable experiences that youth can engage in while they are here on campus,” said Rachel Noble, extension specialist for 4-H youth development in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
Teens also have a leadership minor, which helps define their leadership style and ways they can most effectively use their talents to give back to their communities. This year, the young people also had the opportunity to give back to the Lexington-Fayette County area by participating in a community service project at one of more than 30 area nonprofit organizations.
4-H Teen Conference started in 1924 as 4-H Week. Back then, students brought their 4-H projects to campus to compete with others across the state. While the focus has changed from competitions to college and career preparation, there are some aspects of the event that have not changed.
“Back then, it was a really awesome opportunity to come to Lexington, and that remains the same today,” Noble said. “This is the first time for many youth to ever visit Lexington, visit a college campus and visit the University of Kentucky.”
4-H’ers Debbie Myers of Campbell County and Dylan Gentry of Green County have come to campus for 4-H Teen Conference for several years and have used 4-H to strengthen their leadership skills. Both said the event and their experience with 4-H and the UK Cooperative Extension Service were huge factors in their decisions to attend UK as incoming freshman this fall.
“Through 4-H, I have already been surrounded by the UK family and seen how vast and expansive UK is,” said Myers, the 2017-2018 Kentucky 4-H president. “When I started thinking about where I was going to college, it only felt right that I would go to UK.”
Myers received a prestigious 2018 Coca-Cola scholarship and UK’s Kentucky’s Governor Scholar Presidential scholarship. She will major in agricultural economics and plans to work in the agribusiness industry after graduation.
“There’s such a partnership between UK and 4-H that I knew UK was the only place that I could call home,” said Gentry, the 2018-2019 state 4-H treasurer. “This is a tremendous opportunity to get used to campus life and the layout of things.”
Gentry is the recipient of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Ralph Winchester scholarship and a Farm Credit Mid-America scholarship. He will major in agricultural and medical biotechnology and plans to go to medical school or become a county extension agent upon graduation.
4-H Teen Conference was sponsored by Farm Credit Mid-America. The community service project was made possible through a Bluegrass Community Foundation grant.
— Katie Pratt, University of Kentucky Ag News
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