June 21, 2006 | By: Carol Lea Spence

They were young and enthusiastic. And they were away from home for four days at the University of Kentucky, learning, laughing and expanding their horizons during this year’s 4-H Teen Conference.

“This is their opportunity to come experience life a little bit on campus, meet some new friends, reconnect with old friends they’ve met at other state level 4-H events,” said Mark Mains, UK Cooperative Extension Associate for 4-H Youth Development. “While here they participate in several educational activities, several different workshops and then several social activities.”

The theme for this year’s conference was “Constructing the Future through 4-H” and the week’s activities were designed to help the 435 teenagers begin thinking about what they wanted to do with their lives. Workshops were offered in subjects as diverse as knitting a belt to reporting and editing a newsletter to exploring the world of the entrepreneur. 

Jenny Daugherty, 18, attended the Teen Conference for the second time. The Grant County 4-H member will be starting college in the fall with a business major. She decided to take the course entitled Entrepreneurship for Teens. 

“I’m not sure if I want to own my own business or be in a business, so I thought this would give me a feel,” she said.

The young entrepreneurs created products and marketed them to each other, and in the process learned valuable lessons about marketing, communications, customer service, monopolies, value-added opportunities, costs and scarcities.

Emma Huff, 17, and Jorden Patterson, 15, personalized shower bags and flower pins and sold them to their classmates. For Patterson, her interest in business stemmed from her love of math. 

“You have to be able to figure out how much you spend for the supplies and how much you need to make for them,” she said.

Huff said the workshop taught her a valuable lesson about service.

“I learned that customer service is everything; that it’s all about pleasing the customer because if you don’t have happy customers you don’t have a business,” she said.

Stephanie Blevins, UK Cooperative Extension Associate for 4-H Youth Development, taught the class with 4-H youth development agents Lisa Adams and Lois Carter. Blevins said that exposing the teens to the key concepts of entrepreneurship gives them the tools to succeed in life, whether or not they become entrepreneurs.

“It’s a variety of things. It’s not just the communication or the marketing or the public relations, but the incorporation of a lot of financial decisions that they must make to be successful,” she said. “It’s just real world concepts. At our house, we call them the life skills that you have to have to survive in this world.”

Conference participants learned a different set of life skills when they pitched in to help at the UK Lexington Fayette Urban County Arboretum. The afternoon spent working in the gardens gave the 4-H’ers a breath of fresh air and taught them a lesson in volunteerism.

“One of the best things about 4-H is that they participate in community service. That creates the framework for a lifetime of participation in community service and volunteerism,” said Mains, who wielded a shovel alongside the kids. “So when they come back to 4-H as adults or if they have kids or as they go through college, they already have that mindset of giving back to their community and helping the world around them. So participating in community service events like this really helps them immediately and it also helps them for their future, too.”



Mark Mains, 859-257-5961, Stephanie Blevins, 859-257-5961