August 15, 2007 | By: Aimee Nielson

Each year, 12 teens are chosen from across the United States to help plan and lead the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. This year two Kentucky 4-H’ers are a part of that team, which University of Kentucky Extension Specialist for 4-H Youth Development Mark Mains says is a rarity and an honor.

“Normally, they try to make sure the country is as equally represented as possible,” Mains said. “However, their biggest priority is to find the most outstanding 4-H youth leaders. So for Kentucky to have two of the 12 is a true testament to the quality and strength of our 4-H programs, leaders and members.”

Jonathan Carmen, current 4-H state vice president, is one of the two youths who will represent Kentucky at the 2008 National 4H Conference. He recently graduated from his family’s homeschool. Carmen has been involved in 4-H for more than 10 years. He plans to attend Bluegrass Community and Technical College in the spring, majoring in U.S. history and economics.

“I’m really looking forward to this opportunity,” Carmen said. “We will get to spend a lot of time with other 4-H’ers across the nation and figure out how they do things in their state and explain to them how we do things in Kentucky. I also want to point out that the opportunity I have to do this didn’t start with me putting in an application; it started long ago with 4-H agents. Having them pick two youths from Kentucky doesn’t just mean we have outstanding youth, but also outstanding agents.”

Sabrina Hounshell, former 4-H state secretary, is the second youth chosen to represent Kentucky at the National 4-H Conference. She is a 2007 graduate of Lafayette High School in Lexington and the recipient of several scholarships. Hounshell is attending UK this fall to study agricultural communications. 

“To be chosen for the National 4-H Conference Planning Committee is an amazing opportunity, and I'm so thankful for being selected,” she said. “As a member, I can contribute all the leadership, communication skills and ideas I've gathered through my years in 4-H into an event that's bigger than anything I've done before.”

The National 4-H Conference gathers approximately 200 4-H members from across the country, usually four or five per state, to brainstorm about topics that are important to teens. They narrow their ideas down to three to five key issues and present them to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during a formal ceremony at the end of the conference. Carmen and Hounshell both previously attended the conference as delegates.

“For the first time I'll get to help plan a national 4-H event, an event that was one of the best 4-H conferences I attended,” Hounshell said. “As a delegate last year, I was introduced to new ideas from other 4-H programs that I brought back to Kentucky and I made lasting friends from across the country. As a planning committee member, I can't wait to make new friends, bring in fresh ideas, and help create a conference as great as, or better than, the one I attended. I hope to take away an experience that is unique and unforgettable as I finish my last official year in 4-H with this position.”

Mains added that it’s a very big deal to have this kind of impact at the national level.
“Our teens will be helping shape policy at the national level,” he said. “That is incredible and again, such an honor.”


Mark Mains, 859-257-5961, ext. 231