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South Dakota 4-H Teen Leadership Conference Promotes Leadership & Career Success

BROOKINGS, S.D. - By the time he graduated from Hoven High School this May, Brady Keller was already enrolled as a Mechanical Engineering major at South Dakota State University.

This is the plan the 18-year-old has had in place since he attended South Dakota 4-H Teen Leadership Conference (TLC) as a high school freshman.

"There was an engineering tract at TLC and I loved that tract, and that's why I'm going to be a Mechanical Engineer," said Keller, who was one of more than 103 South Dakota teens who gathered on the campus of South Dakota State University to attend the 2018 4-H Teen Leadership Conference.

A week long summer conference developed for teens by teens, Teen Leadership Conference focuses on career exploration and leadership development.

"It's really important for teens to think today about what careers they want to pursue in their future," said Hilary Risner, SDSU Extension Regional 4-H Youth Program Advisor. "Because TLC is held on campus, this helps them formulate whether a university setting is a good fit for them. It allows them to start looking at different career options, interest areas and passions."

Risner explained that the TLC experience, is just one more way 4-H, a project-based organization, encourages youth to delve into interest areas, helping them discover their talents and develop leadership skills while pursuing those passion areas.

"4-H provides youth with a nonthreatening environment to explore what they are interested in and develop projects around those interests," Risner explained. "Seriously, there is a project area for everyone - from showing companion animals and livestock to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), public speaking, cake decorating, photography, graphic design, LEGO models and rocketry - the list is endless."

Having a platform to explore her interests and serve as a leader is what first attracted Julia Ebbinga to 4-H as an elementary student. She was invited to join a local club by a friend and a few years later was asked to serve as the club's president. "At first I showed sheep because I thought that was what 4-H was about. But, then I got into photography and fine arts and decided that is what I enjoy," explains the 15-year-old Turner County 4-H member. "Also, I thought it was so cool (to be club President). Then, I went to Lake Poinsett 4-H Camp and that's where I really figured out who I was as an individual."

When she was old enough to attend TLC, Ebbinga signed up. On her first day of conference three years ago, she met Amanda Haverman. The two hit it off and are now best friends. "She made me who I am today. And to think, it all happened at 4-H camp," Ebbinga said.

One reason TLC is so successful is the fact that the planning is a collaborative effort between SDSU Extension 4-H professionals and teens who serve as State 4-H Ambassadors (formerly 4-H Youth Council).

Keller was one of 19 Youth Council Members - 4-Hers who developed the theme, activities and agenda for the 5-day conference. "I gained a lot of leadership experience helping plan this conference - especially organizational skills," Keller said. "Before this, I wasn't the best at being organized. I know these skills will help me in college."

Ebbinga plans to apply and hopes to serve as a 2018-2019 State 4-H Ambassador. Her enthusiasm for 4-H got her entire family involved, her younger two siblings became members and her parents help at club meetings. And, in this position, she hopes to engage more youth in the organization she loves.

"I want to help 4-H and TLC become more diverse. I am African American, and during Achievement Days last year, I had someone tell me that I didn't look like someone who belonged in 4-H. I want people to know that 4-H is a safe place that makes everyone feel welcome," Ebbinga said. "It is a place where I feel welcome and I want other kids to feel the same way."

The State 4-H Ambassador program (formerly 4-H Youth Council), was recently expanded to include more leadership opportunities and engage more teens explains Risner. "For years South Dakota 4-H Youth Council provided leadership opportunities through event facilitation. This new 4-H Ambassador program includes these same opportunities, and so much more," said Risner who also serves as co-advisor of the State 4-H Ambassador program along with Amber Erickson, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Field Operations Coordinator.

Risner explained that the State 4-H Ambassador program offers more opportunities to South Dakota teens because it is designed to engage youth in leadership development through all four 4-H program priority areas including:

  1. Agvocacy
  2. Leadership
  3. Health & Wellness
  4. Science

With more inclusivity and flexibility, Erickson and Risner hope more youth will be empowered to serve as State 4-H Ambassadors.

Apply to serve as a 2018-2019 State 4-H Ambassador

The deadline to apply to serve as a State 4-H Ambassador is August 10, 2018. The State 4-H Ambassador program will maintain high expectations for teens who apply. Applications for the new State 4-H Ambassador program are available on iGrow.

To learn more, visit with your local SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor. A complete listing can be found at iGrow under the Field Staff icon.

Youth from your South Dakota community who attended 2018 4-H Teen Leadership Conference include: Nate Schoenfeld, Astoria; Emily Robbins, Aurora; Marie Robbins, Aurora; Haden Palmlund, Bancroft; Kendra Palmlund, Bancroft; Jordan Rusche, Bancroft; Matthew Sperry, Bath; Laura Bogue, Beresford; William Karels, Big Stone City; Hailie Stuck, Brentford; Sydney Hoffman, Bridgewater; Katrina Van Sickle, Bridgewater; Allison Duerre, Bristol; Brianna Duerre, Bristol; Carter Effling, Britton; Dane Feldhaus, Britton; Ellie Feldhaus, Britton; Lynn Foster, Brookings; Preston VanderWal, Brookings; Jensina Davis, Bruce; Haley Wiseman, Bryant; Thomas Baumann, Canton; Dallis Trego, Castlewood; Geoff Dunkelberger, Chancellor; Sami Nordmann, Chancellor; Cassie Stoltenburg, Clear Lake; Jace Woodward, Custer; Lani Klein, Custer; Riley Myers, De Smet; Seth Bares,Dell Rapids; Sophie Hall, Estelline; Camryn Houselog, Estelline; Carly Gregg, Eureka; Trey Hintz, Florence; Jacey Orthaus, Florence; Regan LaBrie, Frankfort; Casey Miller, Fulton; Brady Malsom, Garretson; Emily Malsom, Garretson; James Nussbaum, Garretson; Shayne Luzmoor, Hartford; Julia Ebbinga, Hartford; Kiara Ebbinga, Hartford; Alisha McMartin, Hartford; Taylor McMartin, Hartford; Jenna Lammers, Hartington; Taryn Opdahl, Hazel; Drew Solinsky, Hermosa; Kyle Hamilton, Hitchcock; Sydney Miller, Hot Springs; Shelby Nellen, Hot Springs; Banion Niles, Hot Springs; Aspen Stover, Hot Springs; Elizabeth Sumpter, Howard; Madison DeMent, Humboldt; Rachel Derksen, Huron; Kyle Huhges, Java; Andrew Mairose, Kimball; Isabelle Mairose, Kimball; Gretta Larson, Lake Preston; Grace Kock, Lennox; Isaac Sousa, Milbank; Mary Kate Hoiten, Montrose; RubyAnn Hoiten, Montrose; Jake Dowling, Murdo; Molly Dowling, Murdo; Colton Wicks, Nunda; Kris Tubbs, Oral; Hayden Niles, Ortley; William Kessler, Pierre; Emily Foiles, Raymond; Jenna Johnsonm, Reliance; Logan Meyer, Revillo; Eli Hamre, Selby; John Hamre, Selby; Amanda Dean, Spearfish; Lyndey Dean, Spearfish; Maia Pochop, Spearfish; Brady Buchholz, Sturgis; Kaidyn Meyers, Sturgis; Hallee Simmons, Sturgis; Jarody Udager, Sturgis; Braden Keller, Tolstoy; Caden Bottum, Tulare; Caycee Schneider, Turton; Kylee Mogen, Twin Brooks; Bailey Urbaniak, Union Center; Kate Develder, Vermillion; Nicole Hauck, Vermillion; Amanda Havermann, Vermillion; Katrina Heles, Vermillion; Jemima Sletten, Viborg, Ashley Bjerke, Volga; Owen Comes, Watertown; Bailey Richter, Watertown; Noah Everson, Watertown; Samantha Thyen, Waverly; Sara Thyen, Waverly; Teagan Miller, Webster; Catherine Klein, White; Elliott Peil, White; Nate Andersen, Whitewood and Nathan Linke, Woonsocket.

More about South Dakota 4-H

SDSU Extension's 4-H Youth Development Program is a partnership of federal (USDA), state (Land Grant University), and county resources through youth outreach activities of SDSU Extension. Youth learn and experience Leadership, Health and Wellness, Science and Ag-Vocacy through a network of professional staff and volunteers reaching more than 9,000 enrolled members with yearly programming efforts to an additional 35,000 youth participants.

To learn more, contact your local SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor.

Aerial shot of 2018 4-H Teen Leadership Conference attendees arranged in a clover formation.
Courtesy of iGrow. More than 103 South Dakota teens gathered on the campus of South Dakota State University to attend the 2018 4-H Teen Leadership Conference.
 Brady Keller and Nathan Schoenfeld.
Courtesy image. Tolstoy 4-H member, Brady Keller (left) at 2018 4-H Teen Leadership Conference with his friend and fellow 4-H member, Nathan Schoenfeld.
Julia Ebbinga, Kyle Huhges Java, and Amanda Haverman
Courtesy image. Turner County 4-H member, Julia Ebbinga (left) at 2018 4-H Teen Leadership Conference with friends and fellow 4-H members, Kyle Huhges, Java and Amanda Haverman, Vermillion.