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National leadership super summit gives teens new pathways

Ignite youth gather in front of banner.

Washington, D.C.. – Eighteen teen leaders from across Illinois were chosen to represent Illinois 4-H at the Ignite by 4-H Summit to be held Mar. 13-17 in Washington D.C.

Teens experienced four days of inspiring and engaging panels, respected speakers, workshop sessions, entertainment and creating amazing connections. The event was previously held as four different summits, with last year as the inaugural year as a “super” summit, combining interest tracks to bring more teens together in one larger combined conference.

“There are things for everyone,” said delegate Mackenzie Goff of Knox County, who also covered the event as part of her role on the 4-H Influencers Team. “The keynote speakers not only motivate you, but will spread wisdom from their lives. The workshops will not only get you diving into something you love, but have you branching out to new pathways. And finally, the people are some of the nicest, creative, inspiring teens you will ever meet. Just you and a bunch of people trying to make the best better!”

Youth were able to form connections with fellow state delegates as well as new national connections.

“I've always been a little shy, so I was kind of nervous that I wouldn't fit in, or just be alone for five days, but it was the complete opposite,” says Mackenzie. “I never expected signing up for this that I would make some of my closest friends through this conference. I now have friends from California, Iowa, Connecticut, Arkansas, and so many more. It's crazy how those few days would bring so many amazing people together. But, it happened, and it will continue to happen year after year.” 

Youth explored exciting career paths and create an actionable plan to help create real change in in their communities. The high-impact programming will include speakers featuring national experts and leaders with opportunities to hone their leadership skills while building connections with teens from across the country.

1300 teens from across the US were chosen for this event, including the Illinois delegation of:

Agriscience: Kaden Ambers, Cook County; Carmen Jackson, Cook County; Kiryn, Schaer, Marshall-Putnam County; Davis Howell, DeWitt County; and Saralynn Joiner, Macoupin County.

STEM: Natalie Royer, Macoupin County; Lydia Heren, Champaign County; Daniel Surowka, Vermilion County; Maddy Lettow, Fulton County; Julia Gergen, DuPage County, Olivia Passig, Coles County; and Jonathan Royer, Macoupin County.

Healthy Living: Sydney Molander, Boone County; Mackenzie Goff, Knox County; Bella Brinkley, McLean County; Allison Sewell, McLean County; Lilah Bonny, Shelby County; and Katelyn Marley, Montgomery County.

“My favorite part about Ignite was meeting so many different people,” says Mackenzie. “Not only did I learn so much about opportunities in 4-H and bettering my community, living your best life, science, agriculture, and so much more, but the knowledge I got from my fellow 4-H'ers was the greatest experience.”

In addition to teen delegates, two presentations by Illinois 4-H members were also chosen for inclusion as part of this national conference.

Brain Builders: Shaping Minds for Lifelong Health was presented by Lilah Bonny of Shelby County, Katelyn Marley of Montgomery County, and Allison Sewell of McLean County.

Youth presenters led attendees in teams to explore how the experiences you have early in life shape not only your brain but also your lifelong health and the well-being of your community.

Exploring Animal Science Career Paths by Engaging in Hands-on Activities was presented by Remington Curry of Pope County, Davis Howell of DeWitt County, Saralynn Joiner of Macoupin County, Jordi Oliver of Massac County, and Lauren Wolter of Clinton County. Youth presenters led attendees in glove-up, hands-on activities that emulated real world livestock skills and subsequent careers. Through the presentation, youth got a chance to suture and give injections, make rope halters, and get a taste of livestock skillathons. This session was supported by Bayer.

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities, two times more likely to make healthier choices, two times more likely to be civically active, and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

For Further Information Contact:

Source: Mackenzie Goff, Illinois 4-H delegate

News Writer: Carissa Nelson, 4-H Media Communications Manager, University of Illinois Extension,

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.