URBANA, Ill. ­– For many teens, deciding where they want to attend college and what they may want to study is challenging. Some may even be the first in their family to attend college.

Illinois 4-H makes college and career exploration easier for teens in the state by hosting a five-day conference with University of Illinois faculty where youth can explore fields of study before committing to one path.

The long-standing conference will be virtual for 2021. After a 2020 cancellation due to COVID, Illini Summer Academies is getting a redesign to provide a virtual program that will provide teens the opportunity to explore future careers while working with Illinois professors.

University of Illinois Extension, the parent organization of 4-H, typically brings more than 300 teens to campus to work in different academic fields of study with elite university professors and graduate students. This year, teens will get a lot of the same experiences with hands-on training in a virtual format.

“This is such a powerful experience for teens that we knew we had to deliver on an updated format this year,” said Cindy Ogwal, Extension 4-H youth development specialist. “I was so excited by the response and innovation we received from the campus departments. We have some exciting new additions to the academies, and I think teens will be excited by the hands-on experience the conference can still provide even in a virtual format.”

This year, participants may choose one from the following academies of study: electrical and computer engineering, veterinary medicine, honeybees and beekeeping, media and communications, animal sciences, food production, future teacher academy, save the world with agricultural, consumer and environmental sciences, business academy, environmental sciences, and family and relationship studies.

“We’re so excited by the challenge reimagine what Illini Summer Academies can be and provide a positive youth development experience for teens,” Ogwal said.

Illinois 4-H has offered a summer teen leadership program for more than 50 years, although this will be the first time the conference will be held virtually. Cost varies depending on the academy selected. The conference runs June 27 – July 1. One may get information and register online at go.illinois.edu/illini4H. Registration closes March 24, though some academies may fill prior to the close of registration.

The conference is supported financially by the Illinois 4-H Foundation, which provides scholarships to delegates.

About 4-H: Illinois 4-H helps youth learn skills for living. University of Illinois Extension provides 4-H programs in every county in Illinois. Illinois 4-H impacts the lives of 200,000 youth each year through sustained learning clubs and groups and short-term programming.

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.  

Source: Cindy Ogwal, U of I Extension 4-H Youth Development Specialist, College and Career Readiness 217-300-3313
News Writer: Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, carissa7@illinois.edu