Youth learn leadership skills
Youth from across North Dakota learned about community engagement on two days in November that exemplify service and civic responsibility.
Seven teams of 4-H’ers spent part of their Veterans Day at the North Dakota 4-H Camp near Washburn, competing in the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s first Civic U.
It’s an event designed to familiarize youth in sixth, seventh and eighth grade with parliamentary procedure. The youth have the opportunity to demonstrate their parliamentary procedure abilities in a mock meeting format and a written test.
On Election Day, student council members from schools in Ashley, Linton and Napoleon gathered in Napoleon for a Youth Lead Local event to learn ways to improve issues and bring about change. They also talked about the responsibilities of their council positions.
NDSU Extension developed Civic U in response to concerns North Dakotans raised about the lack of civic engagement by adults and youth, and how that can hinder the state’s continued growth and development.
“One of the components of civic involvement is a basic understanding of parliamentary procedure,” says Joel Lemer, an Extension agent for Foster County and one of Civic U’s creators.
Exposing youth to parliamentary procedure while in the sixth to eighth grade will allow them to get involved in high school organizations, which will help them become leaders in school and eventually in their communities, he adds.
The Civic U experience will benefit youth for life, says Sheldon Gerhardt, an Extension agent in Logan County who traveled with his county’s team to the event and helped coach the teams for the competition.
Ward County’s team of Stephanie Bingham, Colt Kersten, Wyatt Kersten, Megan Kramer, Ben Scheresky and Jayden Whanger took first place with 624 points. The Logan County team of Carly Bitz, Trenton Erbele, Payton Haas, Charmaine Haas and Sydney Horner placed second with 609 points. The 4-H’ers also participated in flag raising and lowering ceremonies to honor veterans.
“It was a great opportunity to do something outside school and with a different group of individuals,” Payton and Charmaine Haas’ mother, Loretta Haas, says. “I want my children to be well-rounded in their knowledge, and I feel this experience helped them.”
NDSU Extension teamed up with school administrators and the Napoleon FFA Parli Pro team for the Youth Lead Local program. This also was part of Extension’s efforts to help develop North Dakota’s future leaders.
The student council members started their day with the Real Colors activity. It’s a tool that helped the students identify their personality type. Each type is depicted as a color: gold, green, blue and orange.
“The students gained insight into their own temperaments and learned about the strengths of others different from them,” says Carmen Rath-Wald, an Extension agent from Logan County who helped lead the activity. “This led into a discussion of effective meetings, including agendas, parliamentary procedure, making motions, voting, etc.”
The youth also watched the Napoleon FFA Parli Pro team demonstrate parliamentary procedure by deciding on what items to add or exclude from a trail mix snack. In addition, the students discussed civic engagement issues such as project management, group decision making, dealing with conflict and ethical leadership. Plus, they worked on three projects: creating an ice skating rink in a Linton park, holding an adoption fundraiser for a Napoleon teacher and using the commons area outside the school in Ashley as a place for meetings and activities.
“The students left feeling empowered and motivated,” says Acacia Stuckle, an Extension agent for Emmons and Kidder counties who co-led Real Colors and worked with the groups on their projects.
Other Extension personnel who participated in the Youth Lead Local program were Aimee Ellinger, an agent for Dickey County; Caroline Homan, an agent for LaMoure County; Jodi Bruns, an area community vitality specialist in the Center for Community Vitality; and Sue Quamme, a 4-H youth development specialist in the Center for 4-H Youth Development.
The Real Colors activity was popular with many of the participants.
“I had done it before, but I think it’s so interesting to see what color different people identify with and how we can use our different personality traits to work together as a group and get things done in an efficient manner,” says Miranda Erbele, vice president of the Napoleon Student Council.
LaDora Schmidt, president of the Napoleon Student Council, was surprised how important parliamentary procedure is in conducting an effective meeting.
“This is something that I believe will help our Student Council in order to get new ideas heard and discussed,” she says.
Participants say they also learned they can make a difference.
“The key message I took away from this event was if you don’t try to change something, it’s never going to happen,” says Madison Feist, student-at-large member of the Napoleon Student Council.