4-H develops leaders

Geneva Wright meets President Obama in the White House. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Geneva Wright meets President Obama in the White House. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Geneva Wright was a high school senior this past spring when she met with President Obama in the White House. 

Wright said the president asked about rural poverty. She told him about the conditions in Tanana, where she lives, and in rural Alaska, where there are high rates of domestic violence and suicide and getting fresh food is a challenge.Eight 4-H members from rural communities around the country were asked to give short presentations to the president. Wright said she led a line of youth to the Oval Office and was surprised when the president himself opened the door.

Wright, who is now a freshman at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, credits 4-H for helping her gain confidence and for the experience of meeting other youth at national leadership conferences.

“I learned to be a leader and speak out,” said Wright.

She and a group of Tanana youth also spoke at large gatherings about how suicide and substance abuse affected them, including an Alaska Federation of Natives convention.

Wright is studying to become an elementary school teacher in rural Alaska, and she is thinking about ways to reach out to youth about suicide prevention.

4-H teaches leadership and citizenship in a variety of ways. A group has been visiting the state Legislature in February every year, speaking with legislators, seeing how government works and testifying on bills. Other 4-H youth volunteer as camp counselors, design trails in Anchorage, interview elders in Dillingham, teach younger youth about dog mushing and practice public speaking.

FYI …..

  • Since 2005, 96 youth have traveled to Juneau to see how Alaska’s legislative process works. Some have returned the following year to intern with a representative and senator from their district. Former participants have testified at legislative hearings or attended city council meetings.
  • In 2014, nearly 4,000 Alaska 4-H youth participated in citizenship activities, including community and volunteer service, leadership projects, civic engagement and more.