An Enlightening Conversation
Perspectives On Line: The Magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

NC State University

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An Enlightening Conversation

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In Raleigh, young delegates spoke to their peers about key issues encountered one of the statuesque pack from Raleigh's Red Wolf Ramble and shared the General Assembly floor with N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.  (Photos by Sheri D. Thomas)


































"An Enlightening Conversation" by Dee Shore: As part of a national 4-H centennial movement, young delegates from 72 counties gather to address community issues and help shape public policy related to youth development.


Lighting up the night in commemoration of 4-H's 100th anniversary were throngs of 4-H'ers and leaders, in Raleigh to plan for an even brighter future.  (Photo by Sheri D. Thomas)

ornate letter Clutching 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 Carolina’s great leaders of the past, they’d gathered together to mark yet another milestone in the nation’s history: 4-H’s 100th anniversary. But rather than adding yet another monument to the square, these delegates from 72 counties were instead celebrating 4-H’s 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 Carolina’s Conversation on Youth Development for the 21st Century debated and developed 25 recommendations designed to address challenges facing young people and their communities.

Among the recommendations:

• Setting up career-development
programs outside public schools;

• Building youth centers and the types of transportation systems that enable young people to get to them;

• Developing youth media programs focusing on youth concerns and issues;

• Bringing prayer back to schools by creating a moment of silence;

• Setting up a clearinghouse to help youth recognize and take advantage of opportunities to become involved in community service.

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 nation’s 3,067 counties, 4-H’ers, adult leaders and community participants shared ideas about the needs of their communities’ young people and how to meet those needs.

Delegates from North Carolina’s 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 Carolina’s 4-H Council president, said one of the most important recommendations that the state’s 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 state’s 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 I’ve heard” as a public official.

And she encouraged the delegates to continue pressing forward in spite of any obstacles they might face.

“Collectively,” she said, “you all can move mountains.”


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