(03/15/21) BATON ROUGE, La. — Exactly one year after COVID-19 shut down much of the state, Louisiana 4-H’ers gathered for one of three Junior Leadership Conferences. For many participants, it was their first face-to-face 4-H event in a year.
“This was a big deal because this is the first time I got to go outside of my parish and socialize and meet new people,” said Cameron Fuselier, a sophomore from Acadia Parish, adding that the conference “has as exceeded my expectations because even with COVID restrictions, they have found ways to make it engaging.”
The daylong conferences were planned and conducted by the State 4-H Executive Board. The events were held in Bossier City on March 11, Alexandria on March 12 and Baton Rouge on March 13 to allow for limited capacity at each site while reaching as many 4-H’ers as possible.
Karen Martin, LSU AgCenter 4-H regional coordinator, said she saw a high level of enthusiasm from the 4-H’ers participating in the conferences.
“The kids are so appreciative to be able to go somewhere, see each other and do something,” Martin said.
The theme of the conferences was Walk Your Way to Leadership. At the Baton Rouge event, 4-H’ers entered a hotel ballroom on a green carpet under a balloon arch representing popcorn. Movie-themed decorations filled the space.
The conference helps participants build skills in communication, conflict resolution, team building and public speaking. Martin said the purpose of the day is two-fold — the 4-H executive board develops leadership skills while planning and putting on the conference, and the 4-H’ers who attend can take the skills they learn back to their own parishes.
Mallory Meaux, a 4-H’er from Vermilion Parish serving as state parliamentarian, shared during a small group session that 4-H has not only made her a better leader, but ultimately a better person.
“The environment I am in because of 4-H, the things I have been exposed to have helped me to be the person I am,” she said.
During a session about sharing your 4-H story, Anna Dupont, a senior from Cameron Parish, stood up and told the group how she was shy and reserved before joining 4-H. She said the organization has helped her come out of her shell.
“4-H has given me everything from leadership and social skills to managing my time with projects,” she said. “I’m going to really miss it next year.”
Participants moved through different tracks focusing on different skills throughout the day. One track, called Service Superheroes, focused on Louisiana 4-H’s statewide service-learning project about disabilities.
True to the theme, the day ended with a movie-style awards ceremony where the State 4-H Executive Board gave out awards for collaboration, enthusiasm and cooperation.
Ty Hebert, 4-H state vice president, shared his 4-H story during the 4-H Junior Leadership Conference in Baton Rouge March 13. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter
Cameron Fuselier, a 4-H’er and sophomore from Acadia Parish, takes part in an activity where he had to communicate an idea without speaking. This was one of several hands-on activities during the 4-H Junior Leadership Conference designed to help students work on communication, leadership and conflict resolution skills. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter
4-H’ers pose on the “green carpet” during the Walk Your Way to Leadership Junior Leadership Conference in Baton Rouge March 13. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter