Hundreds of leadership conferences, institutes, camps, and college related events are held all over the nation, and yet many students graduate from high school without ever experiencing a leadership program; our Woodburn High School Teach, Learn and Grow (TLG) student mentees in the “Teach, Learn, & Grow” are no exception. As TLG coordinator, building partnerships with other organizations is the key to bring educational experiences to our students. 4-H at Oregon State University strives through conferences to teach youth vital leadership skills and give them the tools needed for school and college.
When discussing with our TLG students the possibility of attending the recent Spring Break OSU 4-H Leadership Conference at the Salem Conference Center they were very excited to become part of such four-day event. The director of 4-H even granted a generous scholarship of $100 for each of our students that helped cover part of the cost for attending the conference. It wasn’t until it was mentioned that each student would still have to pay $60 dollars that many said they would not be able to attend. A striking realization sank in: $60 dollars could be taking a meal, or the ability to pay a bill, from our student’s families. I said, “Students, lets come up with a plan and fundraise the money, this will be your fundraising project!” The students decided to hold a “Tamales Fundraiser,” with each student being responsible to sell five dozens tamales to their teachers, friends, or families. It took only two weeks to plan; soon thereafter parents, students, and mentors were all gathered together making tamales at a local church that allowed us to use the kitchen. In fact, MEGA Foods in Woodburn donated the Maseca (corn flour) for our tamales! It was incredible to see that parents, including fathers, were all helping their kids attend an educational conference. 1300 tamales were made that day and all delivered the next day by the students to fundraise a total of $1330. Each student’s contribution to the conference was paid, and formal attire was even purchased for a couple of students who did not own any of their own.
Spring break arrived, and thirteen of our high school students packed their luggage and departed to Oregon’s capitol to attend the 4-H “Youth Voices in Governance” Leadership Conference. The formal conference was held at a convention center in a hotel where students stayed overnight. Our students were nervous at first, but soon they were making new friends and enjoying the experience. Students participated in team building activities and many educational workshops during the day, including, how to create and deliver a presentation, public speaking, interview skills for job success, legislation basics, and writing, debating skills. They also toured the capitol building and heard presentations from various professionals. During social hours they had the opportunity to socialize with other students from all over Oregon.
One main project the students participated in throughout the whole conference was working on their “roundtables”. All students were assigned to a group of ten students which gave them the opportunity to apply their learning and leadership skills. As a group they were to research and answer a question given by representatives from Oregon agencies such as education, transportation, energy system, including more. Students gave professional presentations in the last day in front of the agencies representatives and a large crowd of over two-hundred people. This conference has impacted our students tremendously in that they realized of what they are capable of delivering and contributing to society.