On Feb. 9, the Georgia Capitol turned shades of green as it welcomed more than 400 students. Outstanding 4-H’ers from counties across the state gathered at 4-H Day at the Capitol to engage with their legislators, observe leadership in action and learn about the civic process.
Civic engagement is one of three focus areas that Georgia 4-H emphasizes to youth through in-school programming, after-school activities, project work and camps. A special partnership with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and the Georgia 4-H Foundation makes it possible for hundreds of Georgia 4-H’ers to “learn by doing” with a visit to the State Capitol in Atlanta to experience the civic process in real time.
Youth began their day with a welcome and orientation at the Georgia Freight Depot. Georgia Sen. Larry Walker served as the Senate host for the 4-H delegation and provided participants with an overview of how bills become laws and a discussion of what happens at the Capitol each day. Sen. Walker, who represents Bleckley, Houston, Laurens and Pulaski counties, is chairman of the Georgia Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
County groups spent the remainder of the morning exploring the Capitol building through tours and a scavenger hunt. Numerous 4-H agents arranged for meetings with senators and representatives from their own districts, allowing 4-H’ers to ask questions and learn from their representatives in the Georgia legislature. Georgia’s current slate of elected officials contains many 4-H alumni, parents and supporters who were thrilled to welcome students to the place where government comes to life.
The day concluded with a luncheon that brought students and legislators together for a celebration of Georgia 4-H. Gov. Brian Kemp delivered a keynote address and provided 4-H’ers with encouragement and motivation to become the next generation of leaders. State Rep. Rick Jasperse, who served as the House of Representatives host for the delegation, acknowledged a group of 4-H honorees who have received state and national recognition for accomplishments over the past year. Rep. Jasperse represents Pickens and parts of Gordon and Murray counties.
Georgia 4-H State President Katie Beth Brewer thanked the leaders who dedicate their careers to serving youth. “Although 4-H is an organization by the youth, for the youth and of the youth, none of our success would be possible without the county 4-H agents, volunteers, parents and elected officials who give their time and energy to support us,” Brewer said.
The program also included remarks from award-winning Decatur County 4-H’er Corbin Austin and Cobb County 4-H’er Venya Gunjal, who spoke about the impact 4-H has made on their lives.
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation invests in Georgia 4-H’ers by providing support for transportation, logistics and lunch during 4-H Day at the Capitol. This event is often participants’ first trip to Atlanta and it makes an indelible mark on those who attend. Students are empowered to become leaders of the future when they are given the opportunity to engage with those who lead in the present.
Georgia 4-H enables youth to become excellent citizens by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the largest youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches more than 240,000 people annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities.
For more information about how to get involved with 4-H in your community, contact your local UGA Extension office or visit georgia4h.org.