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University of Illinois Extension

Dozens of Kane County Youth Shadow Local Officials for the 22nd Annual 4-H Government Day

March 12, 2014

ST. CHARLES, Ill. – Thirty-six Kane County 4-H members gained first-hand knowledge of the important roles local government officials play during the 22nd annual 4-H Government Day on Tuesday, March 11.

The 4-H youth, ages 13 to 18, shadowed more than 30 county officials, experiencing the inside of a County Board meeting, courtroom proceedings, or other government departments and offices.

"This program is a wonderful educational opportunity for our 4-H youth," said Doris Braddock, 4-H Program Coordinator in Kane County. "We thank our officials for supporting this annual event and for taking the time to work and talk with our 4-H members. They leave this day with a better understanding of local government and exposure to new career possibilities."

State's Attorney Joseph McMahon, who has participated for four years, said he looks forward to meeting with the 4-H members each time.

"This program gives them insight into the buildings that they drive by every day, and the opportunity to sit with us and see what happens, why it happens and how we serve the county," McMahon said. "We usually work with a victim or a defendant, seeing people at their worst moments in life. It's enjoyable to spend time with these productive youth who have great goals and bright futures."

Sherriff Patrick Perez is in his eighth year with the program, and echoed McMahon's sentiments.

"It allows youth from 4-H to experience what we do, and the services we provide in local government, but it also gives us an appreciation of them as well. Seeing youth on this basis, rather than those we see in court or in jail," he said. "In the eight years 4-H'ers have shadowed me, every time they are polite and professional youth. They ask pertinent questions and represent the organization well."

Brothers Nicholas and Nathan Holmer of Burlington signed up for the Government Day project for the fifth and third time, respectively. They were assigned to follow Perez and McMahon this year.

"It is a different experience every year, so we are always learning something new," said Nathan, 15. "I was able to sit in on a court case this year."

Nicholas, 18, agreed. "It's interesting to see the many jobs in our government and judicial system. I've shadowed county board members, the treasurer, a judge and the sheriff. Every year I learn more."

First-time participant Hollyann Stanley, 16, of St. Charles, said she now plans to become a repeat participant as well. She was inspired by the passion and views of the County Board members.

"It's more exciting than I expected," she said after shadowing County Board member T.R. Smith. "This is something I'd think about doing – standing for the people and sharing my opinion. When we talk about government, I always think of Washington, D.C. It was nice to experience it on a local level, see how local government works and how it impacts our lives.

"We are grateful the officials share their time," she added. "I wouldn't have known so much about how our local government works without this day."

That is just one of many reasons why County Board member Mike Kenyon has supported the program for his 10 years in office.

"I think it is important that everybody take an interest in government and be a part of the process," he said. "One thing they learned this morning was if they have a problem, it is important to know where to go and who to talk to about it. Government is for the people and young people need to learn that."

The long-time program, now in its 22nd year, continues to be popular, Braddock said.

"Most of our 4-H'ers are repeat participants for multiple years, and many officials participate year after year as well," she said. "4-H Youth Development programs strive to develop critical skills, such as decision making, communicating, and goal setting, and we want our youth to learn and practice life skills to lead a productive life, contribute to society, and function effectively in an ever-changing world. This Government Day program is a prime example of that experience."

"4-H'ers are outstanding young people, and head and shoulders above many of their peers," said Kenyon. "They want to improve themselves and learn, and they are excited to do it."

A Tufts University study found that 4-H'ers are five times more likely to graduate from college, and they are three times more likely to actively contribute to their community when compared with non-4-H youth.

In addition, more than half of Illinois 4-H members who were entering college said their 4-H experiences helped them choose a major, according to the 2012 Illinois 4-H Survey.

"Through 4-H, I get to meet new people, get to know my community and have new opportunities, like Government Day," Stanley said. "The skills we learn can apply later in life. I'm learning leadership and how to better myself, and that makes you feel good about yourself."

4-H Youth Development programs include 4-H Clubs, Learning Enrichment, and other Youth Outreach activities. These positive youth development programs provide opportunities for youth to feel a sense of belonging, develop independence, practice generosity, and experience mastery. For more information on the 4-H program in Kane County, contact Program Coordinator Doris Braddock at dbraddoc@illinois.edu or visit web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/.

University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems. To learn more about University of Illinois Extension in Kane County and all the programs they offer, please visit their website at web.extension.illinois.edu/dkk/.


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