This July a Louisiana 4-H delegation was immersed in a comprehensive citizenship program sponsored by the National 4-H Council. Youth from seven parishes were part of the weeklong Citizenship Washington Focus, an annual leadership program held at the nation’s capital.
“They were able to learn the legislative process by working in committees, participating in workshops and discussing current issues,” said Xavier Bell, Citizenship Washington Focus trip coordinator for the LSU AgCenter state 4-H program. “Then they were able to write bills, debate them and, at the end of the week, vote on them at a mock Congress.”
Most of the 17 Louisiana delegates had neither been to Washington, D.C., nor flown on an airplane. When he found out about the program, Remy Lodrigues, an 18-year-old 4-H’er from St. James Parish, was excited.
“What? 4-H and political stuff in the same event?” asked Lodrigues, who enjoys politics. “Yeah, I’ve got to go!”
Other Louisiana 4-H’ers said they learned a great deal about the political process.
“There are lots of steps to passing a bill, and I learned this more in-depth in Washington than at school,” said Victoria Buckland, a 15-year-old 4-H’er from Ascension Parish.
Buckland was also impressed by the military memorials she saw during the nighttime monuments tour.
“My parents always wanted to visit Washington, D.C., but have never been able to,” said Buckland. “When we heard about this, they said, ‘Go,’ and it’s been a great experience for me to see things I would never have seen at home.”
Although 4-H’ers dedicated themselves to intensive citizenship activities at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, there was still time for other events. They took part in water sports; a talent show; museum tours in the National Mall; a visit to George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon; and meetings with their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill.
“It was an eye-opener to be in this atmosphere, and even people who didn’t like politics were saying it was a great mixture of activities,” said Lodrigues. “It made me ask myself, ‘How can I help my country and the civic process?’”
The event drew 270 delegates from 20 states, giving the Louisianans a chance to network with their peers.
“This is a vital experience, exposing youth to our nation’s governmental system and the capital,” said Janet Fox, LSU AgCenter 4-H department head. “Youth are inspired to get more involved civically and engage in current affairs.”
The Louisiana 4-H’ers were required to record journal entries about their experiences. There was plenty for them to write about.
“It was a jam-packed week where our alarms went off at 7 in the morning, and we wouldn’t get back to our rooms until 10:30 or 11,” said Lodrigues. “They kept us engaged every second, but every minute was worth it.”
—Story courtesy LSU AgCenter