By Sara Kate Smith
This past March, I had the opportunity to fly to Washington D.C. with 10 other delegates from across Canada to the U.S. National 4-H Conference. A civic engagement conference, that is an opportunity for youth to engage in citizenship and leadership experiences at the national level. Over the next five days, I had the opportunity to work with other youth from all over the United States and Puerto Rico.
My future roundtable: We were tasked with developing a presentation that addressed how youth found information about their future careers, ways to improve the current website used by the US Department of Labor, and to create a social media/marketing campaign to promote the new website to youth across America.
Under the guidance of our facilitator, we ran a survey on youth preparedness, researched and improved the aptitude tests on the getmyfuture.org website and created a three-step unique social media campaign to promote it. We then presented our findings to the Department of Labor.
We pitched to them that with their partnership these ideas could become the connection that bridges the gap between the Department of Labor and American youth. That together we can empower students and inform them of the opportunities that will become the foundation from which they build their future careers.
Personally, it was a very empowering experience to be able to speak to a government agency and have them listen to our ideas.
That night we toured around downtown Washington and visited monuments which honoured past presidents, leaders, and fallen soldiers.
The next morning, we visited my favourite stop; the Canadian embassy. We had the opportunity to meet with two agricultural trade advisors for the US and Canada.
As a group we had the opportunity to ask them questions about the new US administration and its effect on Canadian trade, as well as what their jobs entail.
Following this, we were able to meet with the Canadian Ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton. We took pictures and spoke with him about his role while overlooking the skyline of Washington.
After leaving the embassy, we explored the city, visiting the National Archives, the National Gallery, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Walking amongst the cherry blossoms with all these new friends from across Canada is a memory that I will cherish forever.
The remaining hours passed quickly, time was spent watching the talent show and was followed by many tough goodbye’s as we neared our departure.
Reflecting back on this trip, I am still amazed at how a group of youth from all around North America, who were raised with different cultural and familial influences managed to come together and provide insight to top government officials.
Before leaving, I knew there were going to be many different perspectives, especially in this unique political climate. However, it was inspiring that even though many of us had different ideas and opinions, as youth, we were able to share them with an open-mind.
I learned so many new things and was able to share my Canadian perspective with youth from all over the states.
As a country, we have moved past so many of the issues the Unites States still debates over today, an idea that has thoroughly increased my appreciation for Canada and made me realize how very modern and open our country is.
I would like to extend the most gracious of thank you’s to 4-H Canada and 4-H British Columbia for allowing me to proudly represent both my country and 4-H on an international scale. It was an empowering experience that allowed me to develop as a leader.
I would recommend this opportunity over and over, and will forever regard this trip as my most beloved 4-H memory.