January might be farm meeting month. It's also when the Minnesota legislature convenes and gets to work.
Redistricting changed representation for many state residents so it's even more important for folks to make an appointment with their elected officials and make the drive to St. Paul.
New this week bopping in and out of the Capitol and the State Office Building was a small team of 4-H State Ambassadors.
Ten 4-Hers were chosen to participate in a pilot program that allowed them to share their 4-H experiences with their legislators. The 4-Hers were part of a larger group—the University of Minnesota Extension—who made similar visits to discuss U-M Extension budget funding requests.
The pilot program was envisioned by Nicole Pokorney, Extension educator, Educational Design & Development, U-M Extension regional office, Rochester. Nicole attended the Extension legislative event in the past and thought the youth voice was missing from the experience. So she discussed this with folks at the U-M Extension dean's office and the pilot program was developed.
The youth were well-prepared to flex their leadership muscles once they arrive. Prior to their two-day Extension Legislative event, they participated in education sessions that helped them understand the importance of speaking up and how to navigate the advocacy process. They also learned terminology, researched their legislators and prepared their own stories to share.
I had the opportunity to sharing lunch one day with four of these talented, bright young people. Their enthusiasm, their current activity load (while in high school!) and their career goals were inspiring and encouraging.
I heard later that they all had wonderful experiences sharing their stories. That's good, because we want them to keep doing that, again and again.
Our legislators benefit from hearing about the good things happening in 4-H. 4-H is the largest youth program in the state and it deserves more recognition than it gets.
Let's hope that by next year, this pilot program will have been turned into an annual event, and that it will draw at least a few dozen 4-Hers to our state capitol.