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4-H conference gives students inside look at inner workings of state government

Last month some of our kids attended the Washington State University Extension 4-H Youth Development "Know Your Government" Conference at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia. There were more than 300 youth and adults from across Washington in attendance. They held one-on-one discussions with our state representatives and senators.

The conference theme, “Lobbying for Change," focused on the legislative process. Students learned parliamentary procedure, negotiation and persuasive speaking skills.

I joined them at their well-attended banquet. Impressive!

They learned Thomas Jefferson's credo, “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

Fox Island's Jim Braden, a retiree of the strong, 4-H-supporting Chevron firm, agreed to be its representative at the 2013 conference. "I found these young people and their accomplishments so uplifting I asked Chevron for the assignment again in 2014, and have since asked to be Chevron's KYG representative indefinitely."

Timmie and Caitlin Calhoun of Key Peninsula got to the conference by selling candy bars to raise funds for KYG members. They thanked buyers who helped them reach Olympia.

"This year I attended KYG 2015, media in politics, and learned how our government is affected by the media," Caitlin said. "I went because I wanted to learn more about how our government worked, and even though I can't vote yet, how I as a citizen can be involved with our country's future."

Timmie attended KYG "because it is an unbiased teaching of how our state government works. It breaks down government into four-year cycles starting with the executive branch, then the judicial, the legislative, and lastly government in the media. The thing I enjoy most is working with people in activities that promote teamwork."

To WSU Spokane Extension adolescent leadership representative Jan Klein, "4-H KYG conferences strengthen the connection between youth and our political and social networks through education, experience, application and inspiration."

Braden explained how 4–H members in grades 9 to 12 learned about and participated in government.

"This year," he said, "they learned how to create a bill, lobby a bill, and to pass it. They also watched legislators in session. It's the perfect way to explore how state government works while having fun with your peers in an inspirational setting."

To Timmie Calhoun, "4-H means opportunities to learn new things in different projects and to socialize with my peers." Caitlin said, "4-H has helped me with public speaking as well as increased my knowledge and skills with animal husbandry, archery and how our government works."

South Kitsap High senior Alexander Dunbar said, "4-H means the world to me. It has given me a second family, people who are there for each other through ups and downs. It has been instrumental in shaping me into the man I am today. With 4-H, I have learned valuable life skills, responsibility, effective leadership, acceptance and tolerance. Lessons I have learned, skills I have developed and friendships I have built in 4-H will stay with me forever."

Said mother Dianna Calhoun, "For me, as a volunteer leader, 4-H is a way I can connect with my children by being involved in projects like the cat project, the horse project, the archery project, etc. of interest to them. As a parent, 4-H is a safe environment for my children to grow in, both intellectually and socially."

Interested in 4-H? Contact Dianna Calhoun at (253) 884-4182 or via e-mail