Nearly 75 seventh and eighth grade youth learned ways to improve their leadership skills at the 2021 “Game of Leadership” 4-H Junior Leadership Conference held Oct. 17-19 at the Decatur Hotel and Conference Center in Decatur.
Youth leadership Team members planned and led the conference with the goal of helping youth feeling empowered to go back to their clubs with stronger leadership skills.
“It’s so fun to see the Youth Leadership Team plan this conference and watch the junior high students blossom over the course of even one day,” says Katie Duitsman, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist. “They get pushed a little out of the comfort zone which is a big part of the growth process.”
Local youth attending the conference included Katrina Wahl of Walnut Winners 4-H Club.
Michelle Wang, a Youth Leadership Team member from Jackson County, inspired youth to take flight with 4-H with a game-based drones activity that used block coding to command the drones around a dance floor-sized game board.
“Even the youth that had never done block coding before caught on really fast,” says Michelle. “It was so great to see them learning and building skills and saying ‘I did it!’ ”
The one-day conference put leadership skill-building into action with game-themed workshops that helped to build public speaking skills, learn how to effectively overcome obstacles, and how to be community leader. Team mixing and team building activities helped youth forge new friendships and build their 4-H network.
“For some youth, especially in pandemic times, this is their first time interacting with 4-H members from across the state,” says Duitsman. “This is a great opportunity for them to make new friends and build connections that make them feel empowered to go back to their clubs as a leader.”
The delegates also learned about the loneliness some self-isolating seniors have felt throughout the pandemic. As a team, the group hand-wrote colorful, uplifting notes that will be distributed to senior citizens in Illinois through the Letters Against Loneliness non-profit.
The conference was organized and taught by members of the Illinois 4-H Youth Leadership Team, a team of uniquely-trained high school and college-aged 4-H members and young adult 4-H alumni.
A portion of the conference expenses was covered by the Illinois 4-H Foundation which raises private funds to support the Illinois 4-H program. Additional sponsors included Growmark FS.
For more information about the 4-H program, call University of Illinois Extension – Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall, Putnam Unit Office at 815-875-2878. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please indicate when registering or contact the Extension office. Extension offices are located in Princeton, Ottawa, Henry and in Oglesby on the IVCC campus.
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