AUSTIN — “The whole day was a great experience, and being able to meet the governor was a real surprise,” said Stoker Williams, 18, of Arp, the Texas 4-H Council president, referring to his recent visit to Austin for the 4-H Day at the Capitol event.
Williams presented Gov. Greg Abbott with a 4-H Day at the Capitol T-shirt, green 4-H tumbler and other tokens of appreciation for support of the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program, which is administered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, part of the Texas A&M University System. He and about 20 other 4-H state leadership team members met personally with the newly elected governor in a reception area outside his offices at the conclusion of the event.
In all, 300 state 4-H members from throughout the state participated in the day’s activities, which included a tour of the capitol building, visits to the House and Senate chambers, lunch and visits to offices of various state legislators.
“It’s great to be a part of the 4-H organization, and I’m grateful to 4-H for giving me the opportunity to be here and to meet with the governor and other state legislators,” Williams said.
Several adult 4-H leaders, AgriLife Extension agents from throughout the state, state 4-H administrators and Texas A&M University System officials, including Chancellor John Sharp and AgriLife Extension director Dr. Douglas Steele, also participated in the event.
“The purpose of this event is to allow the kids to become knowledgeable and engaged in the 4-H citizenship project, and to see how our state representatives and senators conduct the business of government,” said Dr. Toby Lepley, AgriLife Extension 4-H youth development specialist, College Station. “It also gives them a chance to meet personally with these legislators and to tell them about the 4-H program and its successes.”
Four of the 4-H organization’s statewide leadership/ambassador teams set up informational booths in a section of the capitol to inform other visitors about some of their programs and activities relating to agriculture, health and nutrition, shooting sports and technology.
While most 4-H’ers toured the capitol and participated in other activities during the event, organization council members prepared boxes of green tumblers and informational flyers about 4-H to distribute door-to-door to 181 state representatives and senators. They were briefed by 4-H administrators and a legislative affairs expert on the proper protocol and how to best “interpret” the 4-H program in the short amount of time they would have in each office.
“This part of the event gives the 4-H’ers an opportunity to put some faces with the names of the people who represent their district and elsewhere, and for those legislators to know more about what 4-H is doing throughout state and in their specific district,” said Amy Dromgoole, AgriLife Extension associate with the 4-H Youth Development Program.
Hannah Brainard, 17, of White Deer 4-H, and Collin Warwick, 17, with Hill Country Austin 4-H, were among the 4-H council members chosen to go to various legislative offices to personally thank staffers, as well as any representatives or senators who might be available, for their support of the 4-H program.
“I’m from a rural area where everyone is familiar with 4-H,” Brainard said. “But it’s been great to see that people in the legislature representing more urban areas of the state are also familiar with the program. It was eye-opening to see how much goes into running the state’s government.”
She said the experience gave her and other 4-H members the chance to see “that hard work pays off and that we too might be in a similar leadership position one day.”
“It has been really nice to spend time with other 4-H members from throughout the state and to have an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to the many state legislators for their support of the 4-H program,” Warwick said. “The 4-H program emphasizes building leadership skills, and seeing people in state government in action shows us how important those skills are and how they can be applied.”
Dr. Chris Boleman, state director for the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program, said 4-H Day at the Capitol is an example of how many of the main principles and life skills related to the Texas 4-H program can be used to build a better future.
“This event is not only an excellent way for the 4-H’ers to get a practical, close-up look at how the government works at the state level, but also see the importance of good citizenship and how skills like leadership, teamwork and public speaking, in addition to having a service-minded character, can make a real difference,” Boleman said. “We’re proud to have these kids in the 4-H program and to show our state legislators that they are the product of what is, in our opinion, the best youth development program in the world.”
Boleman said the Texas 4-H program currently has an enrollment of about 600,000 youth statewide through special interest, school enrichment, community youth clubs, military 4-H and other 4-H delivery methods. For more information on Texas 4-H, go to http://texas4-h.tamu.edu/.