Teens put leadership skills to the test as they meet with state legislators

Youth pose in front of statue

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois 4-H teens communicated the value and impact of Illinois 4-H with state legislators as a part of 4-H Legislative Connection on April 6.

Legislative Connection provides Illinois 4-H teens a unique opportunity to promote the Illinois 4-H program to elected state officials and learn about the state legislative process. Youth share their personal 4-H stories with legislators and discuss the benefits of 4-H and local University of Illinois Extension programming in their home communities.

The participating youth are between the ages of 14 and 19, have completed Speaking for Illinois 4-H training, and serve on a statewide leadership team.

“I was excited to have the opportunity in my last year in 4-H to be able to tell national representatives my 4-H story,” says first-time youth participant Lillian Kennedy of Ogle County. “Also getting the experience of talking to people of importance about what 4-H means to me and how it has impacted my life and career decisions.”

This year’s participants included: Caleb Grover, Christian County; Emma Hughes, Montgomery County; Elaan Bader, Montgomery County; Ross Vancil, Henderson County; Luke Wolff, Macoupin County; Lillian Kennedy, Ogle County; Megan Eppel, Lake County; Michelle Wong, Jackson County; and Gracie Prose, Ogle County.

Youth participant Caleb Grover of Christian County has taken part in the event six times and hopes to return again next year in an alumni capacity.

“I think Legislative Connection is an important event because it gives youth a voice,” says Caleb.  “I think a lot of times in our society we feel like we don’t have a voice because we’re just youth or just in high school, but coming to Legislative Connection actually gives us a voice so we’re able to promote what we believe in.”

Two girls pose with a senator

Youth book appointments with state leaders and communicate the value and impact of 4-H using persuasive public speaking techniques along with data and examples as they tell their 4-H story to legislators.

“This event is a great opportunity if you’re looking for things to do for community service at a higher level or if you’re looking into civic engagement, or political science,” says Lillian. “Even if you’re just looking at presenting grants to the state, it’s really important to be able to talk to people in state management.”

Those wishing to know more about the event may visit the Legislative Connection webpage.

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. 

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. 

Writer:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office, carissa7@illinois.edu