More than 500 teens, volunteer leaders, and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents will gather on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus this week for the 94th annual 4-H State Congress.
This year’s theme, “Celebrating the Past, Making It Last,” draws on the history of 4-H and demonstrates the power of 4-H to assist teens in developing leadership, citizenship, and life skills through hands-on educational programs.
Special this year, State 4-H Congress will host a Centennial Celebration Luncheon to honor the 100-year anniversary of Cooperative Extension. Delegates will deepen their understanding of 4-H and Extension by viewing displays, a slideshow, and interviews of people whose lives have been impacted by 4-H. Special guest speakers, as well as 4-H alumni, retirees, and former employees, will join the luncheon.
“I think the most exciting thing we’re incorporating this year is a centennial celebration. Although 4-H is more than 100 years old, we have an exciting opportunity to celebrate 100 years of Extension, which is being celebrated nationally,” said Mike Martin, Extension 4-H specialist. “4-H is the youth development organization of Cooperative Extension and has served an important role in the history of Extension.”
During the Congress, 4-H delegates will also participate in the Great Summer Showcase — a series of fun and innovative educational workshops taught by Virginia Tech faculty members covering topics such as animal science, communications and expressive arts, healthy living, environmental education, technology, engineering, and math.
Participants will have exciting, hands-on workshops to choose from, including fashion merchandizing and horticulture. Another workshop will let 4-H’ers explore art and computer graphics while working at the DREAMS Lab on campus, which houses a 3-D printing station. The workshops are designed to introduce the students to interesting subjects and engender a love of learning.
4-H Congress will continue a program introduced in 2013 that gives participants the opportunity to explore college and career tracks at Virginia Tech; Virginia State University, the commonwealth’s other land-grant university; and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine with an in-depth look at their departments and programs.
The service learning project this year benefits the nonprofit Project Linus, an organization that donates new, handmade blankets to children in need. Delegates are encouraged to bring two yards of fleece fabric to Congress. Finished blankets will be sent home with local units to distribute to area chapters of Project Linus.
Congress participants will also have an opportunity to compete for awards in dozens of areas, such as culinary arts, forestry, soil and plant science, and drama. In some competitions, winners will advance to regional and national contests.
Delegates will also enjoy a welcome picnic and mixer, dances, a carnival, a mid-week pizza party, and an All-Star ice cream social hosted by the 4-H All Stars.
“State 4-H Congress provides teens the opportunity to build on positive experiences in their county programs. Through structured interactions, teens gain new skills, provide service to the community, and have the opportunity to expand their vision for their future, whether they choose to go to college or enter the workforce,” said Cathy Sutphin, associate director of 4-H youth development.
As the youth development service for Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia 4-H engages youths ages 5 to 19 in hands-on educational programs and activities designed to help them gain the knowledge, life skills, and attitudes needed to further their development as self-directing, contributing, productive members of society.
For information about 4-H State Congress or other 4-H activities in your community, locate your county or city office on the Virginia Cooperative Extension website.