November 21, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

Youth can be a powerful voice in their community. Trust is a two-way street between youth and adults. A community's many youth agencies can work together toward a common goal.

These are some of the ideas being expressed at a series of 4-H-facilitated meetings held throughout Kentucky this fall. Called "Conversations," the meetings are bringing teens and adults together to talk about issues facing young people.

At a recent Conversation in Fayette County, local high school students joined with parents, county Cooperative Extension agents, and other youth agency leaders in discussing how youth and adults can listen to each other and learn from one another.

"You get a lot of different perspectives during these Conversations," said Cristina Brady, a junior at Henry Clay High School who helped lead the discussion. "What's unique about these meetings is that they are really diverse. We get teens from other organizations, parents from other organizations, and leaders from other organizations."

"The collaboration between youth agencies is one of the positive benefits of these conversations, giving us all the chance to have input and share ideas and realize that others in the community are trying to do the same thing," said Lisa Adams, Extension 4-H/youth development agent in Fayette County.

The goal of the Conversations is to determine the most important actions youth and adults can take in the next three to five years to create the future they want for their youth and community.

County-level Conversations are the prelude to a statewide Conversation scheduled for January 8, and a national Conversation scheduled for February - March, 2002. National 4-H celebrates its 100th birthday during 2002, and the best ideas from the Conversations will be shared with President Bush, his cabinet, and Congress during the centennial year.

"I think the important messages from these local and state Conversations will definitely be heard," said Larry Johnson, coordinator of Partners for Youth, a nonprofit organization in Fayette County that supports youth development. "If we reach the intended policy-makers and funding sources then that will create opportunities and help develop partnerships that ultimately will spread youth development and benefit a variety of people who may have no idea these Conversations are even going on."

As part of the 4-H centennial, youth are also giving their time and talents to community service and leadership by joining the "Power of Youth Pledge Campaign."

"Youth are signing pledge cards to do all kinds of positive things, such as helping with local literacy programs, picking up litter, helping the elderly, mentoring a younger person, and collecting food for the hungry," said Brenda Franey, 4-H/youth development specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "Pledge cards are available at local county Extension offices."

The Power of Youth Pledge Campaign will culminate at the 2002 National 4-H Congress in Atlanta.


Brenda Franey, 859-257-5961