One of the first things that I did when I got back from conference was to summarize in a word document all of the thoughts swarming my head. It's funny that until I sat back and read this document afterwards, I never had realized the amount of emotional investment I've made not just into 4-H but even into just one facet of the organization like the National 4-H Conference. I've now been there 5 times in the last 6 years in a progression of roles. Every conference has its high points and its deepest frustrations, but truth be told, I wouldn't trade one minute of any of it for something else (even as much as I missed being home with Amanda, who had a really rough week without me).
I know I've posted before how proud I am of the young people (at least younger than me) that I work with in 4-H, but once again I just want to applaud these exceptional youth who volunteered a week off of work, a week without classes, knowing the sacrifice, the lack of rest, the hard work they would put in, and the harder work they would put in trying to catch back up on their lives after conference. But knowing all of this, they dove into the conference with zeal and exceeded all of my expectations. I'm proud of you guys, just like I was proud in the past to be one of you. You are all going to go great places and if I can ever help you get there, just call.
This was also a learning experience and a new challenge for me. I've never been responsible for that much education and training for someone else. In less than a week, I learned much more about material delivery (what worked AND what didn't) and advising without answering questions. I also got to see how our pre-conference planning could have been improved to allow for more sleep among the facilitators. It had never occurred to me that lack of sleep could be a problem, but not everyone's into that, I suppose, so I learned to broaden my viewpoint once again. National 4-H was very kind in providing Lauren and I this opportunity and for engaging us in discussions afterwards as well. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that working with Lauren was great as well. Throughout this whole process we were often seemingly telepathically connected and we provided a good balance of leadership styles. It was a pleasure.
The only other thing I wanted to comment on was the increased professionalism that surrounded the conference this year. This started with the Sec. of Ag and the Sec. of Ed both giving a short talk and doing a short Q & A session with the delegates. Unlike many of these opportunities, the secretaries didn't shy away from the tough questions or use the answer time to elaborate on other issues not addressed in the question. Instead they spoke directly and openly with the delegates. I was really impressed by both secretaries and they helped set the tone for the conference of getting down to business. This carried over into the stakeholder presentations which were new this year. All of the delegates put a lot of hard work into these presentations of possible solutions to critical youth issues, which were then presented by the delegates to different government entities. It put a professional face on the youth within 4-H and I know that it really blew away the office that I was at during the presentations. Great things came out of the conference this year and I can only hope that this progress continues to future conferences.