Minnesota 4-H youth gain leadership skills, learn about food insecurity at annual conference

University of Minnesota Extension
A group of youth on stairs and the first three rows are wearing green 4-H polos.

Young people from 46 counties gathered in Bemidji, Minnesota for the Youth Exploring Leadership and Learning Opportunities (YELLO) conference, June 14-17, 2022.

“This is the first time in over 100 years that YELLO has been held outside of the Twin Cities area,” said Jacquie Lonning, the Center for Youth Development’s Civic Engagement & Leadership director. “This was a great opportunity to explore an area of Minnesota many participants hadn’t visited before.”

Throughout the conference, youth participated in a variety of leadership activities, including educational workshops and service learning opportunities. They also met other 4-H’ers from across the state, and explored Bemidji and the Bemidji State University college campus.

“One of the best parts of the YELLO conference is that it’s planned and facilitated by the Minnesota 4-H State Ambassadors,” said Meg Clark, Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador program coordinator.

State Ambassadors chose the theme “Your Destination Awaits,” which focused on helping youth grow their personal leadership skills and develop strategies for overcoming barriers to achieve goals.

“I learned the traits of a leader and how 4-H is a second home for me!” said Carlos, a 2022 YELLO participant.

Participants also took part in various service learning projects around the Bemidji community, which focused primarily on food and nutrition insecurity.

“This year for service we focused on food insecurity, which is such a prevalent issue in Minnesota, especially after COVID-19. Participants did a hunger simulation to demonstrate the struggle of dealing with food insecurity. We hope they learned that food insecurity affects many people and there are many ways they can help in their communities,” said Hope, a Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador.

This year’s conference was supported by the Compeer Financial Fund for Rural America.