Thirty-four Texas 4-H members passed on the turkey and dressing and family time to participate in National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Georgia November 23 to 28.  Youth participants earned this opportunity by submitting and application and completing an interview. 

The youth participants included Casey Lay, Bastrop County; Taylor Maberry, Guadalupe County; Carson Millican, Gaines County: Marcee Cooke, Kylie Sawyer and Madelyn Sawyer of Hemphill County; Christopher Roman, Bastrop County; Hannah Czajkowski, Brazos County; Clayton Elbel, Ashley Fuqua and Presley Wirebaugh of Comal County; Mary Moerman and Kaitlyn Glass of Comanche County; Ryan Williamson, Wharton County; Payton Holcomb, Williamson County; Eulalia Haddox, Waller County; Kristen Massingill, Hamilton County; Christopher Albus and Kennedy Wood of Hockley County; Isaac Stecher, Ryan Rattan and Reuben Stecher of Kaufman County; Anna Lockwood, Kerr County; Micah Trull, McCulloch County; Coltin Walton, Montgomery County; Jayna Grove, Hannah Cayford, Molly May and Ashley Richardson of Nueces County; Ashley Byrom, Taylor County; Martha Dolliver, William Whitaker and Colby Warwick of Travis County; and Caroline Schulze, Washington County. Chaperones included Ms. Megan Logan, Mr. Garry Branham and Tanya and Andy Holloway.

The group arrived in Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day with the first adventure was to navigate the Atlanta commuter rail system. Many of the Texas youth had very limited experience with mass transportation. That was an education.

National 4-H Congress is a five-day event that engages high school aged 4-H members in leadership, citizenship, global awareness, and inclusion.  Participants not only have the opportunity to participate in state-of-the-art educational workshops and hear from world-renowned speakers, they also have the opportunity to network with other 4-H members from across the United States. 

National 4-H Congress brings in keynote speakers from across the country to share their wisdom and to inspire 4-H members to be their best. Notable speakers included United States Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Sonny Perdue who has the unique experience of growing up in a farm family to now overseeing policy for United States agricultural communities. Holocaust survivor Dr. Eugen Schoenfeld who discussed the gradual influence of anti-Semitism in his Czechoslovakian community and the transfer to, life in and liberation from a concentration camp.

Congress participants experienced many different workshops from Ag in the Classroom and Service Learning to Pilates. Through these workshops, members are encouraged to take the information back to their counties to either start or enhance existing 4-H project work. Additional workshop sessions included Zoonotic Disease Detective, Yoga, Stem Cells, Increasing Independence and Quality of Life for Individuals with Disabilities, the Healthy Gourmet, and Drones and Virtual Reality. Through an interactive workshop, members learned about group development and engagement through intentional activities. Facilitated by the Georgia College’s Department of Outdoor Education, youth participated in ‘games’ that focused on decision-making, respect for diversity, and effective communication.

Each participant was assigned to a community service project and was transported by bus to the location. Activities ranged from reading to elementary school children to sorting food at the Atlanta Food Bank. Some youth helped rake leaves and spread mulch at Piedmont Park Conservancy, a 200 acre green space in the middle of Atlanta. Others helped sort and pack books for the ‘Books for Africa’ project. Atlanta has hosted National 4-H Congress for several years and through these service activities, 4-H members experience what it is like to be a catalyst for positive change.

Finally, there were many opportunities to network with 4-H members from across the nation. The delegations from Hawaii and Puerto Rico shared cultural dances while the hotel staff stage a most impressive International Night complete with costumes, food and scenes from twenty different countries. The closing assembly was highlighted with a visit from Miss America 2018, Cara Mund who at age 14 founded North Dakota’s Annual Make-A-Wish Fashion Show and has raised over $78,500 for Make-A-Wish.