East Hill Notes: Power in Cornell’s 4-H of today for tomorrow’s leaders

By Kate Supron

Kate Supron

As a new Cornell semester draws near, planning for June’s New York State’s 4-H Career Exploration (a.k.a. Career Ex) Conference is well under way.
It’ll be another in a string of annual 4-H events on the Cornell campus going back to 1922.

The purpose of this three-day conference:
-connect statewide youth to Cornell University;
-spark youth interest in careers and career pathways;
-develop youth academic, leadership, and life skills;
-provide an opportunity for youth to experience college life.

In June 2017, 400 young people from 45 New York counties explored a wide variety of career possibilities. led by robust planning groups, 55 facilitators from 26 Cornell departments and programs, and 30 diverse programs.

Youth entering grades 8-9 participated in “University U” which introduced them to Cornell through campus tours and departmental workshops. These sessions touched on a wide variety of topics, including “Mission to Mars” with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. and “Climate Leaders in the Making,” with Cornell’s Institute of Climate Smart Solutions.

“Focus for Teens” for youth entering grades 10-12 offered more intensive programs, where participants spend three days with a specific academic department, Options ranged from Cardiac Engineering with Cornell’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, to the Herbert F Johnson Museum’s “Masterpieces in our Midst.”
The 2017 conference theme – “Shout-Out, Break-Out” – provided exceptional energy over several days.

This theme, said Career Exploration coordinator Alexa Maille was “about breaking out of your comfort zone by both ‹shouting out’ about it, and being excited to try new things.”

Conference staff members began planning Career Ex ’17 – budget, scholarships, activities and programs –  at a collaborative February conference with youth and adults.

This year, staff members and others will also stay engaged before and through the 2018 conference, inevitably gaining important experience with organizing, and working with people of all age and backgrounds.

A 4-H educator who attended her ninth Career Ex in 2017 with 27 girls and boys said, “I would still want to come even if it weren’t my job. Career Ex helps kids decide what they are looking for and working for, making it easier for them to make decisions about their futures on their own.”

A participant from last summer echoed that sentiment, noting “Career Ex helped show me whether what I’ve always wanted to do is something I’d like.”
The 2017 Career Ex closed with an inspirational keynote address by Alicia Keller, a Buffalo native and a 4-H and Career Ex alum.

Keller shared how the lessons learned through 10 years of 4-H helped give her, “the strength to fight for my life and defeat Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Though this sounds pretty terrible, looking back that was the turning point for me, the point where I choose to shout out and break out of the life I’d always known and wanted.

“I share this with you because sometimes our lives don’t go as we planned,” said Keller. “What this means is that sometimes the plans we are meant to have are bigger and better than we ever expected, and that it takes a few falls, and getting up from those falls to get us to that point. Appreciate the falls, and celebrate this life even more, even those unexpected twists and turns are a gift.”

Keller concluded her remarks with encouraging conference attendees to stick with 4-H, and to know that they are lucky to wake each day to make their club, community, country and world a better place, and to “shout-out, break-out.”

2018 4-H Career Exploration Conference will be June 26-28. Full 2018 Career Ex program information will be available in April. For information about 4-H in Tompkins County, access ccetompkins.org/4-h-youth.

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Kate Supron is on staff in Cornell University’s Office of Community Relations, East Hill Notes are published the second and fourth Mondays of each month.