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National 4-H Congress: “An unforgettable time of our lives!”

Ohio delegates smile for a photo at the airport before traveling to Atlanta.

The 28 delegates who comprised the Ohio delegation to the 2023 National 4-H Congress returned home on Nov. 28. Aubrey Barger from Licking County, was the recipient of the Achievement Award for Leadership and shares her Congress experience.

At first, getting on a plane to Atlanta, Georgia with a group of 4-H’ers was a daunting experience, and walking into the ballroom to see hundreds of youth from across the country was most certainly intimidating, but by the end of the experience, I was hoping I could stay longer!

Countless people from many different states introduced themselves to me, and I walked back into Ohio with new friends from many miles away. National 4-H Congress was truly a life-changing experience for me and others. From the A group of Ohio 4-H’ers get ready for the opening sessions at National 4-H Congress.motivational speakers, to the hands-on learning sessions, to the community service in the city, to the nights of culture, 4-H Congress had it all.

The theme of the event was “Unforgettable Past, Innovative Future” and it couldn’t be more fitting for the experience. For each and every delegate, it was an unforgettable time of our lives, and equipped us with tools and skills to mold an innovative future for ourselves and those around us. Through every one of the motivational speakers and workshops, we learned how to persevere through tough times, and how to make the most of the best times.

Every delegate performed a service activity on the last full day of our experience, and it was a phenomenal capstone to the week. Some of us were sent to volunteer in elementary schools, some of us helped to clean 4-H’ers pose for a group photo at Piedmont Park while completing community service activities.community parks, and some of us sorted and packed books to send to Africa.

As someone who spent a few hours on a Monday morning pulling weeds and clearing dead limbs from a hillside in Piedmont Park, it would be incredibly easy to say I’d rather sleep in, but the experience was so enriching it would have been devastating to miss. The sense of community on that hillside was electric and every one of us was dedicated to bettering a city we’d only been in for a few days. Stepping back after we were done and looking at what we’d accomplished was the cherry on top for our morning of service.

The most fun part of the entire experience was when we ventured out of the hotel to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola gift shop. I was able to explore one of the most spectacular aquariums in the world with new Delegates experienced an evening of education while touring the Atlanta History Center. friends by my side. When I first arrived at the hotel, I never expected that I’d be sitting in the splash zone at the dolphin show with delegates from other states, or that we’d be collecting playing cards together at the gift shop!

One of the most eye-opening parts of attending Congress was learning how delegates were selected from each state. Some states had an incredibly rigorous selection process, filled with interviews, applications, essays and fierce competition, while other states were much more laid back.

My advice to anyone who wants to attend the National 4-H Congress as an Ohio delegate is to simply never give up. Winning a state achievement record category is no easy feat, but every single person who was a member of our 2023 delegation can tell you it only comes about through hard work. Some of us were younger, only having The Ohio delegates dressed to the nines for the Congress Gala on the last night of the trip.submitted our first records this year, and some of us were on the brink of aging out of 4-H. No two people would say they had the exact same experience, but the thing that truly connects us all is determination, and a drive to make the best better.

All in all, National 4-H Congress is certainly a new core memory for me. I met people from towns I’ve never heard of, strengthened bonds with people I’ve known for years, and heard spectacular life stories from people who defied all odds against them. I will forever be grateful for those who made it possible for me to attend, and I feel indebted to them for each and every moment of my journey, which I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

You can support youth in attending National 4-H Congress in 2024! Donate to the National 4-H Congress fund to help youth participate in this life-changing experience.