New state 4-H Ambassador Program expands teen leadership opportunities

SDSU Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — South Dakota 4-H is launching a state 4-H Ambassador Program to expand leadership opportunities for teens.

“For years South Dakota 4-H Youth Council provided leadership opportunities through event facilitation. This new 4-H Ambassador Program includes these same opportunities, and so much more,” said Hilary Risner, SDSU Extension Regional 4-H Youth Program advisor who is also co-advisor of the state 4-H Ambassador Program along with Amber Erickson, SDSU Extension 4-H youth development field operations coordinator.

Risner explained that the state 4-H Ambassador Program offers more opportunities to South Dakota teens because it is designed to engage youth in leadership development through all four 4-H program areas including:

• Agvocacy.

• Leadership.

• Health and Wellness.

• Science.

State 4-H Ambassadors will be expected to develop a customized action plan together with Erickson or Risner that will outline leadership milestones they hope to achieve and 4-H activities they will take a leadership role in.

“This new program enhances 4-H program delivery and provides more leadership learning experiences for teens,” Risner said.

When designing the state 4-H Ambassador Program, Erickson and Risner did their research and gleaned the best ideas from other state 4-H teen leadership programs.

“The program plan will be customized to the 4-H member and their interests’. By broadening the focus, we hope to engage more teens,” Erickson said. “Not all teens are interested in organizing the 4-H Teen Leadership Conference, which used to be the main focus of the state 4-H Youth Council. But, that doesn’t mean those teens wouldn’t be interested in educating and engaging with the public about a topic that does interest them, like robotics or the cattle industry.”

High school junior and 4-H member, Sydney Hoffman agrees. “I think this appeals to more teens, because not everyone wants to stand in front of a big crowd of campers or facilitate a small group,” explains Hoffman, 16, who has served as a member of the state 4-H Youth Council for two years.

Hoffman says she has developed leadership skills, like team work and public speaking, through serving on the state 4-H Youth Council and sees even more opportunities for leadership and professional development through the new state 4-H Ambassador Program.

“We get to do more things and participate in more 4-H events across the state, not just conference and state fair,” said Hoffman, who plans to remain involved in planning 4-H Teen Leadership Conference as a state 4-H Ambassador. “There are so many 4-Hers who don’t even know about this opportunity. Because 4-H Ambassadors will be attending more events, like the state 4-H horse show or state 4-H shooting sports — it will help get the word out about this opportunity.”

With more inclusivity and flexibility, Erickson and Risner hope more youth will sign up to serve as state 4-H Ambassadors.

The state 4-H Ambassador Program will maintain high expectations for teens who apply. Applications for the new state 4-H Ambassador Program will be available on mid-May 2018. Interviews will be held during the 2018 South Dakota State Fair in Huron with the option for applicants to do a Skype interview.

To learn more, visit with your local SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor. A complete listing can be found at under the Field Staff icon.

“Leadership development is vast. We believe teens want to engage in leadership development that is tied to their interests and passions. The state 4-H Ambassador Program is designed to allow for endless opportunities catered to individualized goals and aspirations,” Erickson said.

Sydney Hoffman, a 4-H member and junior at Bridgewater – Emery High school is excited about the new opportunities the state 4-H Ambassador program offers to 4-H teens throughout the state. She is pictured here (second from left) presenting hand tied blankets to the Huron Hospital, as part of Blanket Buddies, the 2017 4-H statewide service project. Courtesy photo