What do you get when you combine one charter bus, 42 excited Oklahoma 4-H club members and a handful of adult sponsors? You get the 2019 Citizenship Washington Focus trip.
Members of the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program recently returned from an 11-day trip halfway across the country where they had opportunities to sightsee on the way to Washington, D.C., as well as experience the wonders of our country's capital.
The group traveled to the National 4-H Youth Center near Washington, D.C., to participate in CWF, which is 4-H's premier leadership and citizenship program for high school students.
Kyleigh Merrick, of the Dale 4-H Club in Pottawatomie County, was a member of the 2019 CWF delegation. Kyleigh is the daughter of Joe and Julie Merrick.
Cathleen Taylor, state leadership and citizenship specialist with the State 4-H Office at Oklahoma State University, said CWF is an opportunity for 4-H'ers to learn how to be citizen leaders and make a difference in their communities.
"We offer many learning opportunities in 4-H, but this trip takes it to another level," Taylor said. "Not only did we sightsee on the drive to CWF, but once we arrived, we experienced a behind-the-scenes look at our nation's capital, participated in hands-on learning activities and created new friendships with 4-H'ers from around the country."
The road to the nation's capital included stops in St. Louis, Missouri, for a tour of the Gateway Arch; a certified tour of the battle sites in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; a glimpse into what it would be like as a teen in the Amish culture and dinner at The Amish Experiences near Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and a tour of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before arriving at the National 4-H Youth Center.
"This is such a valuable trip for our youth because they're learning the importance of citizenship and the history of our country," she said. "Citizenship is a key component of the 4-H Youth Development Program, and experiences such as this help enrich their citizenship activities at home. Seeing these historical sites in person is a wonderful opportunity for these club members. They've seen pictures and read about them in their history books, but this gives them a chance to experience our nation's history in person. Even our delegates who have been to Washington, D.C. before learn new things during CWF."
While in Washington, D.C., the group took part in a mock Congressional session in which they wrote bills and passed legislation. Trent Gibbs, current state 4-H president and Stephens County 4-H'er, served as clerk for the Congressional Session, and Noble County 4-H member Kelby Linn was selected as a timekeeper for discussion during the session. In addition, delegates participated in educational workshops and assemblies designed to increase their awareness of civic responsibility.
"Our delegates are immersed in the culture and history of Washington, D.C., and they really gained a better understanding of how our government works and learn skills to implement their new knowledge at home," Taylor said.
Sightseeing is always popular and included trips to the Mount Vernon, Capitol Building, Smithsonian National Zoo, National Archives, National Holocaust Museum, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, several of the Smithsonian Museums and much more.
"They also had an opportunity to meet with Oklahoma's senators and representatives and talk about 4-H. CWF truly is an opportunity to personally experience so many of the things the youth have learned in their history and civics classes," she said.
The Oklahoma West District 4-H group also was recognized as the recipient of a $500 grant for the action plan they wrote for a service project. Their project involves hygiene and safety items for Oklahomans who have been impacted by recent flooding and natural disasters. One grant is presented each of the six weeks during CWF. Those six winners will then be considered for an additional $500 grant at the end of the summer.
"With historical Washington, D.C., as the backdrop, CWF is truly one of the best opportunities available to our club members. They exchange ideas with youth from all over the country, make new friends and develop life skills while learning new things," Taylor said. "CWF is definitely something these 4-H'ers will remember for the rest of their lives."