"I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world." For those of us who are 4-H alumni, this is a pledge we will never forget and, hopefully, we never stop trying to implement.
Young people in the Alabama 4-H program spent the last week in June learning how to implement the pledge they love so much.
Nineteen 4-H members from across the state and four adults traveled to our nation’s capital, to experience Citizenship Washington Focus, or what is frequently called CWF.
CWF is a citizenship program conducted by the National 4-H Council for high school youth. For seven weeks during the summer, delegations of 14 to19-year-olds from across the country attend this six-day program at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, just outside Washington, D.C. This program gives participants hands-on opportunities to learn and practice skills promoting "Better Citizens Today, Better Leaders Tomorrow." Participants learn by attending workshops, committees, field trips and social events.
Program objectives of CWF include:
1. Strengthening your communication, leadership and other citizenship skills on a national level.
2. Understanding the importance of civic and social responsibilities as they relate to the development of better citizens and leaders.
3. Exchanging of ideas, practicing respect and forming friendships with other youth from diverse backgrounds across the country.
4. Experiencing hands-on learning using the historical backdrop of our nation’s Capital City, Washington, D.C.
The delegation got to experience some sightseeing as well. They traveled to Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon; the home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello; had a night view of Washington, D.C.; visited Capital Hill where they interacted with Alabama senators and representatives; toured the National Zoo; visited the Iwo Jima memorial where they had the pleasure of meeting a veteran who was at Iwo Jima and who was also a former 4-H’er himself; they toured Arlington National Cemetery and also the World War II memorial.
The young people also had to come up with action plans to take back to their individual communities to impact them in a meaningful way. Some of the important issues the Alabama youth focused on included substance abuse, unemployment and littering. When asked to describe her action plan for her community, Katie Tinney of Blount County stated: "My action plan was to lower the rate of unemployment in Alabama. We decided one way to lower unemployment was to encourage people to buy products produced in Alabama. As part of this action plan, I will be placing posters around the county." She urged Blount County residents to "support this effort by buying products made in Alabama" and asked them to learn more about Alabama-grown products at www.agi.alabama.gov.
Katie was not the only young person who had something positive to say about the experience.
Andrew Hornbuckle of Marshall County said, "It was like watching history happening before my eyes!"
Anna Montgomery, also of Marshall County, said, "CWF was a life-changing experience where we learned about history, made plans to better the future and grow closer to 4-H members in other states."
"I really enjoyed the experience," commented Candace Pardue of Choctaw County. "My favorite part was seeing the monuments. We got an amazing opportunity at the Iwo Jima Memorial. We met an older man who started to tell us about the battle of Iwo Jima. He was there when the flags went up, and he told us he fought at Iwo Jima and was a guard at Pearl Harbor. Hearing him tell about this really made history come alive for us. I’m so glad I got to go on this trip and learn about this great country. I hope we, as young people, will take what we learn about this country, past and present, and apply it to our lives to make a better future."
Other 4-H’ers in attendance included Howard Ivey of Bullock County, Michondria Land of Choctaw County, Brooke Nelson of Clarke County, Kat Johns of Cullman County, Hannah Richardson of Fayette County, Wesley Balch of Lawrence County, Hannah Wilson of Marengo County, Haley Hall of Marengo County, Alaron Hubbert of Montgomery County, Emily Melton of Pike County, Megan Davis of Pike County, Tiffany Smith of Shelby County, Ryan Moran of Tallapoosa County, Corey Robinson of Winston County and Marissa Miller of Elmore County. The delegation was chaperoned by 4-H Volunteers Zilpha Balch of Lawrence County, Sherri Tinney of Blount County and 4-H Regional Extension Agents, David Perry and Amy Burgess. The trip was sponsored by the Alabama 4-H Club Foundation.
These young people were able to see firsthand what a good citizen can do and were urged to find ways to make a difference in their own communities. I am certain they will all strive "To Make the Best Better" in their hometowns! Why not find ways to help them out?
Amy Payne Burgess is a 4-H Regional Extension Agent for DeKalb, Marshall and Cherokee Counties.