lutching white candles in one hand and the
U.S. flag in the other, nearly 300 young people
and leaders huddled one January evening on the historic State Capitol square.
Amid statues honoring North Carolinas great leaders of the past, theyd gathered together to mark yet another milestone in the nations history: 4-Hs 100th anniversary. But rather than adding yet another monument to the square, these delegates from 72 counties were instead celebrating 4-Hs heritage by working to shape public policy related to youth development.
Meeting in the
same rooms where General Assembly members create laws governing the
state, delegates to North Carolinas Conversation on Youth Development
for the 21st Century debated and developed 25 recommendations designed
to address challenges facing young people and their communities.
Demonstrating their dedication to community service, North Carolinians have already committed more than 110,000 hours worth of volunteer work through the nationwide Power of Youth campaign.
The state conversation meeting is part of a national 4-H centennial movement that began last fall. In each of the nations 3,067 counties, 4-Hers, adult leaders and community participants shared ideas about the needs of their communities young people and how to meet those needs.
Delegates from North Carolinas local conversations brought those suggestions to Raleigh, then developed an action agenda to share at a national conversation in Washington, D.C.
Delegates from all 50 states and five U.S. territories used those ideas to develop a national youth development report presented to President George Bush and members of Congress in February.
Heidi Steinbach, North Carolinas 4-H Council president, said one of the most important recommendations that the states delegation took to Washington was to develop ways to involve young people in local government.
The No. 1 challenge, to me, is that youth are not a part of the government process in their local communities, said Steinbach, a junior in biological sciences and communication disorders at N.C. State University. Creating a position on county boards for youth and allowing youth to observe government processes would give us a chance to voice our opinions about important issues.
Youth are more likely to come up with suitable action plans and ideas for things to get done [when it comes to] issues affecting them, she said. One of the action ideas developed was to create a position on every local board county or city for youth to hold. The plan was for the position to be either elected or appointed by other youth in the community.
North Carolina public officials attending the event commended Steinbach and her peers for their willingness to become involved and their commitment to public service.
In a keynote address kicking off the two-day conversation, one of the states most distinguished educators, Dr. Dudley Flood, also encouraged delegates to focus on ensuring that all young people have the opportunity to develop both intellectual and social skills, never settling for one over the other.
Flood, a former teacher, principal and assistant state public education superintendent, also stressed the importance of allowing young people to develop marketable skills that will enable them to become economically independent, to develop what he termed a spiritual proficiency and to become politically savvy.
The desire of the delegates to contribute to political debate resounded throughout the event. While facilitating a discussion in which small groups shared their ideas with each other, N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall commented on the quality of the delegates ideas as fine as anything Ive heard as a public official.
And she encouraged the delegates to continue pressing forward in spite of any obstacles they might face.
she said, you all can move mountains.