4-H Leadership Forum on track for Lewistown

Jenny Gessaman

Graphic courtesy of MSU Fergus County Extension Office

Montana 4-H’s annual conference to train, support and network its adult leaders assembles in Lewistown this weekend, drawing attendees from across the state to its Central Montana workshops and tours.

Jamie Smith, administration assistant for the MSU Extension Office in Teton County, reported 166 registrants. She said that high number was reflected in the event’s workshops

“A quarter are completely full, and most of the others are at least halfway to full, so there’s good attendance,” she said.

Although 4-H is often associated with the club’s younger members, Crystal Schultz thought the forum provided 4-H adults a valuable opportunity.

“We learn more about the subject and we can bring it back to our club for our kids,” she explained. “And we can find resources.”

Schultz is one of the forum’s organizers, as well as a Hilger Highgoalers 4-H Club leader. She described the diverse range of tours and workshops, from Bos Terra to buttercream frosting to 4-H curriculums, as necessary for ensuring a 4-H member could pursue any interest.

“4-H is a program that expands on interests,” Schultz explained. “So a child could take an interest in say, graphic design, and expand that to develop a program through the learning process.”

She added the personal development leaders gained from hands-on projects and leadership workshops would translate back to local clubs.

“We want to build a better program in 4-H for the kids,” Schultz said.

Kaylene Patten, leader of the local Creative Critters 4-H Club, plans to help do just that. After attending forums in the past, Patten is switching roles to become a presenter this year. Her workshop, “Conducting Your 4-H Program for all Passengers,” will teach other leaders how to create a receptive atmosphere for every kind of club member.

“It’s about inclusion, and making all 4-H members feel welcome and part of your club,” Patten said. “It’s just being aware of the difference.”

She paused before taking another angle on the workshop.

“I’m going to make them uncomfortable for a little bit, let’s put it that way,” she laughed.

Although Patten suspects she was chosen because she has a son with special needs, she clarified leaders have to understand all kinds of needs, from a lack of family support to kids with shy or solitary personalities.

Patten is excited to help other leaders this year, and, as a past participant, encourages 4-H adults to take advantage of the opportunity.

“You learn new perspectives, you learn new ideas, you learn what other 4-H clubs are doing to benefit their youth,” she said. “ And it’s a good social network opportunity as well.”



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