Since its beginning, Illinois 4-H has believed in the importance of young people being engaged, well-informed citizens. By connecting to their communities and leaders, youth understand their role in civic affairs and are able to expand their role in decision-making processes. Citizenship is one of the core components of Illinois 4-H. It's one of only three areas we find so important, we call them "mission mandates." One key way we fulfill that mandate is through a two-day real-life engagement with state legislators--4-H Legislative Connection.

It's easy to tell friends and family about 4-H. Now, imagine you're a teenager and you're telling your story at the Illinois State Capitol.

This spring, 49 4-H members did just that. The youth were specifically trained, either through the Speaking for Illinois 4-H educational program or as members of the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team.

Kane County 4-H members gained first-hand knowledge of the important roles local government officials play during the 22nd annual 4-H Government Day. The 4-H youth shadowed more than 30 county officials, experiencing the inside of a County Board meeting, courtroom proceedings, and other government departments and offices.

State's Attorney Joseph McMahon, who has participated for four years, said he looks forward to meeting with the 4-H members each time.

Thirty years ago, a young man job-shadowed a Grundy County judge as part of University of Illinois Extension's Local Government Day. That young man is now the 41-year-old deputy sheriff for the county. He told his story during this year's Local Government Day and encouraged youth to make the most of their time visiting local officials. To date, the program has impacted the lives of 22,000 youth in its 35-year history.