Ohio 4-H is building future leaders one camper at a time.
Since 1946, 4-H members ages 15-18 from across Ohio converge at the Ohio 4-H State Leadership Camp for one week each summer to build friendship networks and learn leadership skills that will carry them through high school and into college or into the workforce equipped to become young leaders in today’s society.
Even the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders last summer didn’t stop the camp. They went virtual instead, said Hannah Epley, interim associate state 4-H leader and Ohio State University Extension specialist for camping and older youth.
“At last year’s virtual camp, students were still able to connect with their peers virtually and able to gain valuable leadership experience,” she said. “We wanted to be able to still offer students an experience to connect and enhance their skills and provide a positive experience for them, something that took on even more importance as many were managing school, the pandemic and other things going on in their world.”
This year Ohio 4-H State Leadership Camp was back in-person and held at 4-H Camp Ohio. During camp, students explore six critical leadership skills and are encouraged to try new things without fear of failure. Students are also provided opportunities to allow them to experience personal growth, and the chance to learn new ideas and methods to help them strengthen their local 4-H programs.
“I’ve witnessed campers develop their leadership abilities at camp and then observed them implementing these skills in their local communities,” Epley said. “We’re proud to offer these life-changing experiences for our youth.”
For Bo Wolford, 4-H leadership camp resulted in a statewide network of new friends and confidence to use his newfound skills to take on a leadership role in his local Junior Fair Board and his local 4-H camp as a camp counselor.
“These leadership skills will also help me in college and make sure I get a higher paying job in diesel mechanics after graduation,” he said.
For Zach Romero, the best thing about 4-H leadership camp was taking the fear out of meeting new people and building skills he was able to take back to McComb High School in Northwest Ohio.
“Being a senior, you have to show leadership to underclassmen, so you don’t make bad choices that could influence younger students,” Romero said. “Plus, these leadership qualities– responsibility, planning, and discipline– are beneficial in the workforce and college.
“For those who think leadership camp is boring, it’s not. I instead had the time of my life and made a lot of friends and had a great opportunity to learn new things and have new experiences.”