This year, the Ohio State Fair returned to a full fair for the first time since 2019. Project judging took place in the Lausche Youth Center each day, and 4-H members from across the state participated. Throughout the fair, 4-H Teen Leadership Council (TLC) members could be found managing the flow of 4-H members meeting with judges, coordinating daily awards ceremonies, and providing fairgoers with activities and information about 4-H.
TLC members begin each year of service in September and conclude in August. During the year, they serve on various committees and take on leadership roles according to their area of interest. For many, this was the first time they had the opportunity to participate in the Ohio State Fair as volunteers, and the experience taught them new skills that translate into other aspects of their lives. Aubrey Barger, a first-year TLC member from Licking County said, “I’ve become much more comfortable with public speaking and have strengthened my communication skills through being at the fair.”
Aubrey learned about TLC at her county project judging, where she presented a leadership project. In the feedback section of her evaluation form, the judge included information about the TLC program and encouraged her to apply. For her, volunteering as a TLC member has been a great gateway to getting involved in 4-H at the state level. “It’s one of those doors that opens up a million new ones. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with people from all over the state and I’ve gained so many new skills in my first year with TLC.”
Carson Abbott, a veteran TLC member from Richland County, agrees with Aubrey and encourages all younger 4-H members to “just go for it.” He said, “Volunteering at the Ohio State Fair was an awesome experience and I’ve met so many new people through TLC. I’ve also learned leadership and organizational skills I will carry with me the rest of my life.” Carson has been serving as a TLC member since he was 15, and he said he loved having the opportunity to become a more active member of 4-H and get involved in the work that goes into events such as the Ohio State Fair.
Kayla Oberstadt, TLC program advisor, has seen teen members grow into true leaders since returning to in-person programming. “It is evident the in-person experience is something our young leaders look forward to, whether it be during the team building that takes place during meetings, the ‘family’ challenges they participate in, or simply being able to sit around the table with friends from other counties to discuss new ideas.” Oberstadt said she has also seen growth and resilience in the TLC members’ willingness to learn new ways of doing things. “For many, this was their first time serving as volunteers at the Ohio State Fair, and it was awesome to seem them jump straight into everything as they learned the ropes.”
She encourages younger 4-H members who are interested in the Teen Leadership Council to apply the first year they are eligible. “I have heard from graduating seniors who wished they had more time to be on TLC, they just didn’t know about it earlier in their career. TLC is designed to allow members to grow their skills over time, which will prepare them for the leadership roles of being a committee chair or officer at the state level. Everyone was a rookie once, so don’t let that stop you from applying for the first time at a state level program.”