Four Ohio 4-H members traveled to Washington, D.C. in July to attend the True Leaders in Equity Institute, hosted by National 4-H Council. They spent a week exploring the meaning of equity and hearing about the work their peers and industry professionals are doing to expand the reach and impact of 4-H. “This experience opened my eyes to what it really means to be a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Ari Wilson, a 4-H’er from Franklin County. “Going forward, I’ll use what I’ve learned to look for ways to make change and have an impact in my community.”
In addition to participating in workshops, roundtable discussions, and conversations, teams from each state were tasked with identifying equity gaps in their state’s 4-H programs and developing a plan of action to address these issues. Throughout the week, the Ohio delegation began work on an Ohio 4-H equity curriculum and presented their plan to their peers.
“Learning about the different ways my team and the delegates from other states exhibit and understand diversity was a special experience,” said Scioto County 4-H’er, Emily Scaff. “I loved connecting with those who have had similar experiences as me, as well as learning from those who came from different backgrounds. All the people I met and was able to work with truly had a passion for growing justice and equity within our 4-H community.”
The Ohio delegation will make their plan a reality by working with their peers and Ohio 4-H professionals to develop an equity curriculum that can be presented to Ohio 4-H volunteers. This year, they plan to focus on a curriculum that supports youth with disabilities and youth coming from economically disadvantaged families, with the hope that future delegations will expand on this curriculum in the coming years.
“With the goal of growing 4-H across Ohio, it’s important to ensure our opportunities are available to all youth. I look forward to helping them make their equity curriculum a reality,” said Sally McClaskey, Ohio 4-H education and marketing program manager and one of the trip’s chaperones. “Their enthusiasm about increasing equity in Ohio 4-H is obvious, and I’m excited to see how they continue to grow as leaders while working on this project.”
Youth also had a day to explore the nation’s capital, which included visiting National 4-H Council’s headquarters and going on a curated tour of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. “Touring the National Portrait Gallery was an incredible experience,” said Adams County 4-H’er, Matthew Swearingen. “I learned so much about social movements in the United States and the individuals who led them.”
“At the True Leaders in Equity Institute I felt like I was able to really use my voice as a 4-H’er and speak about my experiences,” said Wilson. “Not only was I given a place to tell my story, but I also felt my story mattered.”
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