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Local 4-H teens represent Illinois at National Youth Summit on Agri-Science

High school students across the country worked with each other and with agriculture and science experts in a collaborative, interactive educational experience during the 2021 National 4‑H Youth Summit on Agri-Science.

“Participants developed skills and knowledge they can use as teen leaders today and in future careers,” said Donna Nuger, University of Illinois Extension educator in 4-H youth development, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. “Teen teachers played a role in the conference, sharing how we all can help face challenges in agriculture and environmental science.”

Local 4-H members participated in the virtual event, hosted online March 5 to 7. Teen teacher presenters included local 4-H Science Ambassadors Sofie Heidrich of Oswego, Krish Nangia of Woodridge, and Emily Reppy and Sydney Reppy of Yorkville.

The DuPage and Kendall county teens presented “Nature, the Original Recycler” as a national workshop, featuring videos the teens created about the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles. They also led a Miro board activity of the nitrogen cycle where workshop participants labeled the cycle diagram, and an online trivia-style activity, using Kahoot, to help participants show what they learned.

Heidrich, Nangia, and fellow 4-H Science Ambassador Supriya Anand of Naperville also attended the three-day virtual summit. The local trio will lead a community action project about rain gardens this growing season. Their mission is to increase awareness of this bio-engineering practice and of the Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” caused by runoff of pollutants, such as excess nitrogen, entering our streams. “These 4-H teens hope to inspire other residents and municipalities to do their part to improve water quality,” Nuger said.

Summit participants gained knowledge on a variety of topics including food science, environmental science, ag literacy and advocacy, ag production, and ag technology, as well as how to use this knowledge to become changemakers in their community.

“I think that we got to see the best and the brightest of 4-H, but what I’m always impressed with is how the students want to use their knowledge to become changemakers,” said Megan Dailey, director of Metropolitan Food & Environmental Systems and a summit career panelist. “We can absolutely trust the youth with our future.”

A focus of this year’s summit was increasing awareness of available career opportunities and pathways in agriculture.

“I thought it was really beneficial that so much of the information was career focused,” Nuger said. “Speakers were frank about how they got started and the path they took. That focus was something that you can’t usually get from a traditional conference speaker.”

The career panel format also provided value to the panelists. “When you hear the questions they asked about educational and career opportunities they are so great,” Dailey said. “4-H youth in particular, if we follow what they want out of the world, we will be just fine.”

Despite the virtual format, teens were able to connect and network as well as gain knowledge and skills. “They used the chat to network with kids around the country.” Nuger said. “Those chances to connect even virtually did make a difference.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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