A group of Alabama 4-H members is in Washington, D.C. for the Citizenship Washington Focus. Alabama 4-H has been sending students to this once-in-a-lifetime experience since it began more than 50 years ago. CWF is a citizenship program conducted by the National 4-H Council for high school youth.
Alabama's 4-H state council president, Olivia Byrd, is excited about the trip and to share the experience with nine of her fellow 4-H'ers.
"I hope that through this experience I will be able to learn new things about the history of our country and learn what to expect for the future of our country," Byrd says. "I hope the others are prepared to learn some of these exciting new things as well."
Every summer, the National 4-H Council invites 4-H groups from all over the countryto attend a week long program geared toward helping youth improve their communities and strengthen their communication skills.
Alabama 4-H'ers attending this year include:
Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional agents are guiding the group. Lauren Chapman works in Tuscaloosa and Hale counties, while Kristen Roberson serves Marshall and DeKalb counties.
They set off Friday bypicking up the 4-H youth in a bus. They made stops in Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland.
"The youth have been able to communicate with each other through Facebook and conference calls to talk about planning and any other questions they have," says Joy Maxwell, Extension specialist for 4-H and youth development. "This is a great alternative from a face-to-face meeting."
Maxwell adds the young people will form lifelong friendships."This is an experience they will never forget."
Byrd is grateful of the opportunity 4-H has provided and how it has impacted her life.
"4-H has given me the opportunity to improve, find and develop important characteristics that I feel will help carry me through life," she says.
The main focus of this program is Capitol Hill Day, where the youth meet with representatives and have strategy workshops. They will meet with legislators to discuss issues they believe need to be addressed in their county, such as drug abuseand violence. The goal is to identify solutions and to increase positive activities in their county.
They willmeet with Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is an Alabama 4-H alumnus and Sen. Richard Shelby. In addition to meeting with the senators, they will meetAlabama house delegates on Capital Hill for strategy workshops.
They will also visit Mount Vernon and participate in workshops, including a bill writing workshop and a joint congressional issue workshop. A talent showwill allow them to showcase their talents, and there will also be a nighttour of Washington, D.C., that includesvarious monuments.
"It is important for them to see the history and have lots of hands-on activities to learn from," Maxwell says.
Throughout the week, they will participate in other workshops, committees, field trips and social events to help foster their communication, leadership and citizenship skills on a national level.
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