COLUMBIA, Mo. – Leadership skills were in focus for Phelps County youth who attended last weekend’s 4-H Teen Conference in Columbia. They joined over 270 of their peers, ages 11-13 from 62 Missouri counties, for workshops and activities on the Mizzou Campus and beyond. For many, it is their first big trip away from home. They enjoy leadership workshops led by older teen role models, fun activities, and the many new friends they meet along the way.

 Teen Conference is planned each year by the State 4-H Council, an elected group of teen 4-H ambassadors, who design the workshops and play leadership roles throughout the event.  “4-H offers youth a positive life trajectory that includes people to look up to and ways to help your community,” said Bradd Anderson, State 4-H Youth Specialist.  “When they watch these older teens in active leadership roles at Teen Conference, it sends a powerful message about what they can choose for their own futures.  The message is resonating, and Anderson notes that Teen Conference has grown to the point that only one hotel in Columbia has the capacity to hold it.

Attending the two-day Teen Conference were Braxtyn Cirder, Walker Cutsinger, Lane Engelmeier, Caige Kiser, Jacob McDonald, Savannah Salts, Bailey Parker, State Council Member Ethan Walker and Chaperone Shawn McDonald.  Leadership skills help build a solid foundation for success. Teen Conference brings the thrill of independence in a safe, inclusive atmosphere, and there is a confidence that comes from that.

The 11-13 year old delegates also interacted with top leadership from MU Extension.  Dr. Alison Copeland, State 4-H Program Leader, and Dr. Jo Britt-Rankin, MU Extension Youth and Families Senior Program Leader, both engaged with youth during portions of Teen Conference. At the final assembly, Dr. Marshall Stewart, Vice-Chancellor of Extension and Engagement, provided a closing message through an interactive capnote address.  Walking among the youth, Stewart challenged them to consider the deeper meaning of the 4-H Pledge as they make life choices: ‘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.’

Missouri 4-H is open to all children ages 5-18.  For more information, visit http://4h.missouri.edu or contact your local MU Extension Center at 573-458-6260.