June 12, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald
LEXINGTON, Ky.

Each June a group of 4-H Senior Conference participants become reporters and photographers for a week. For many it is a first-time, crash-course in journalism as they work together to produce two eight-page newsletters called The Spotlight, as well as a slide show of more than 400 photographs.

“I’ve worked with this track for eight years and I really get to see the results,” said Chuck Stamper, The Spotlight/Slide Show track co-coordinator and Floyd County Extension agent for 4-H youth development. “The Spotlight allows delegates an opportunity to enhance their writing skills as well as learn what it takes to publish a quality piece of work in a short time.”

The Spotlight track participants attend each event of 4-H Senior Conference on the University of Kentucky campus looking for interesting stories and photos. Stamper said the wide variety of events gives The Spotlight staff a chance to learn interviewing techniques and see a story through to production.

Spotlight staffers work on more than the newsletter. Their photographs are used in a slide show toward the end of Senior Conference that captures memories and experiences of the week-long event.

“Senior Conference participants spend the week capturing memories in digital photographs,” said Mark Mains, The Spotlight/Slide show track co-coordinator and Kenton County Extension agent for 4-H youth development. “The 700 or more pictures taken are narrowed down to a final 450 that are used to produce the culminating slide show. Our goal is that every person at Senior Conference is represented.”

The Spotlight/Slide Show is only one of many tracks in which 4-Hers participate. Each year, The Spotlight/Slide Show track spaces quickly fill up. Other tracks include training on communications, soil science, GPS technology, web design, dancing, leadership, quilted designer purses and babysitting just to name a few. These learning experiences give conference participants a chance to focus on an area of interest and get professional advice and training in that area.

Stamper and Mains encourage their staff to catch snapshots from every track and event because they believe many participants look forward to the slide show at closing ceremonies on Friday morning.

“Seeing the fun and excitement people are having during the week is a highlight for many,” Mains said. “Senior Conference moments are captured in time and serve as a visual history of the week.”

The Spotlight/Slide Show staffers may go on to study journalism and/or photography in college or they may choose a completely different career path. But, Stamper and Mains agree they learn skills that will help them succeed in any field they choose.