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Youth ready to train 6,000 peers in ag innovation

URBANA, Ill. – 4-H youth from six states convened at the 2022 National 4-H Council Ag Innovators Experience on the University of Illinois campus Feb. 4-6. Illinois 4-H staff and University of Illinois faculty led hands-on training, tours, and educational sessions.

Youth leaders from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas were able to apply for this opportunity to learn more about ag innovation and how to teach about the topic.

“I’m excited because I can learn a lot more about how agriculture has changed and how I can help change it,” says Illinois youth delegate Gauri Venkatraman of DuPage County. “I took part in the experience last year and enjoyed teaching other kids and teens, and I also learned a lot.”

group of youth gathered outside

Delegates heard from leading researchers in the field of crop sciences and had the opportunity to receive hands-on experiences with University of Illinois faculty.

“My favorite part was being in a crop sciences genetics lab and experiencing how it actually is in the field,” says Illinois youth delegate Matias Habib of Kendall County. “We were able to pick out an untested strand of popcorn and begin testing to see if it would be viable to sell.”

Teens are empowered to take what they’ve learned back to their states with a teen facilitator guide. Each teen facilitator will each train 20 or more youth in their home state, who will go out across their home state teaching additional youth, with the goal of reaching at least 6,000 youth across the Midwest.

While the focus is youth-led education, preparing youth for future careers is a focus of this initiative as well as the 4-H program.

“It’s exciting to educate participants about the future of ag innovation,” says Alcha Corban University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development educator. “There are so many ag career opportunities now and in the future. There truly is a place for everyone in the field of ag.”

Students who want to learn more about University of Illinois agriculture majors and related fields can visit the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACES) future students page. 

“When we look to the future of ag innovation, we’re training the youth of today for careers we don’t even know about” says Katie Buckley, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development educator. “We are so grateful to be a part of a college campus that has the resources to support the youth programming that drives home ag innovation.”

This conference was developed in collaboration with the Siebel Center for Design, University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering, and the Center for Digital Agriculture at the University of Illinois. Funding was provided by Bayer through National 4-H Council.

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agricultural, 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. 

Source: Katie Buckley, University of Illinois 4-H Youth Development Educator,

               Alcha Corban, University of Illinois 4-H Youth Development Educator,

Writer:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office,