Youth leaders ready to meet ag challenges today and tomorrow

URBANA, Ill. -- High school students developed the skills and knowledge needed to face challenges in agriculture both as teen leaders today and as future careers tomorrow at the recent National 4‑H Youth Summit on Agri-Science. Students worked with each other and experts in the agricultural community, in a collaborative, hands-on educational setting, with teen teachers playing a large role in the summit. 

Teens gained knowledge on topics including food science, environmental science, ag literacy and advocacy, ag production, and ag technology as well as how to use this knowledge to become changemakers in their community.  

"I think that we got to see the best and the brightest of 4-H, but what I'm always impressed with is how the students want to use their knowledge to become changemakers,” says Megan Dailey, director of Metropolitan Food & Environmental Systems and summit career panelist. “We can absolutely trust the youth with our future.” 

A focus of this year’s Summit was increasing awareness of available career opportunities and pathways in agriculture. “I thought it was really beneficial that so much of the information was career focused,” says Donna Nuger, University of Illinois Extension educator in 4-H Youth Development.  “Speakers were frank about how they got started and the path they took.  That focus was something that you can’t usually get from a traditional conference speaker.”

The career panel format also provided value to the panelists. “When you hear the questions they asked about educational and career opportunities they are so great,” says Dailey. “4-H youth in particular, if we follow what they want out of the world, we will be just fine.”

Despite the virtual format, teens were able to connect and network as well as gain knowledge and skills. “They used the chat to network with kids around the country.” Nuger says. “Those chances to connect even virtually did make a difference.”

The National 4-H Youth Summit on Agri-Science is part of the 4-H National Youth Summit Series, a series of nationwide conferences that bring together high school students for hands-on activities and workshops, led by leaders and educators in these fields.

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. 

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