AMES, Iowa — With increased challenges facing our communities and the agriculture industry, it is essential to provide young people with the necessary tools and resources to foster more welcoming and inclusive environments to champion equity-related projects that will grow 4-H in their communities.
During the True Leaders in Equity Institute on Sept. 10-12, Anika Shrotriya, Shreya Srinath and Sivani Manimaran from Story County participated in a variety of sessions on topics focused on participants’ willingness to have courageous conversations to cultivate awareness, inclusion and understanding. They will return for a third day of training on Oct. 9.
The True Leaders in Equity Institute will prepare up to 20 teams to be change agents within the Cooperative Extension System to create more welcoming and inclusive environments.
“In our equity mapping project, we aim to create a resource that will serve as a snapshot to highlight differences between levels of belonging across Iowa 4-H,” said Sivani Manimaran. “We are collecting qualitative observations and asking follow-up questions to better understand personal journeys of youth. We seek to understand, then to be understood. This is one of my biggest takeaways from the TLEI session and I now strive to make it a part of my daily life.”
“Some of the main things I learned from the workshop were recognizing and addressing issues that aren’t always apparent on the ‘surface level’ such as implicit bias,” explained Anika Shrotriya.
In a thought-provoking presentation, Dionardo Pizaña, diversity, equity and inclusion specialist at Michigan State University, inspired youth to explore their unique background, interests and skills to explain why they were participating in the institute and committed to working for equity.
Other program topics explored the concepts of having courageous conversations and developing emotional intelligence. A workshop on high impact story telling was facilitated by Ann Christiano, 4-H alumni and the Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications and director of the Center of Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida.
“I really enjoyed the course I did on emotional intelligence,” said Shreya Srinath. “I think that it was interesting and engaging to sit through that presentation and I learned a lot. In particular, I remember learning about looking at things through a different lens.”
“My favorite session was the storytelling session,” added Anika Shrotriya. “I learned so much about different narratives and modes of communicating a story.”
Ani Das, Iowa 4-H stakeholder and partnership development program coordinator, also attended the True Leaders in Equity Institute. “I enjoyed listening to the young people and their determination to make 4-H accessible to all,” said Das. “I was empowered hearing participants’ stories about the meaning of their names, and how names were connected to their cultural and family history, and identity.”
The 2021 National 4-H Youth True Leaders in Equity Institute was sponsored by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
— Valyn Bodensteiner and Anindita Das, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
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