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Youth are challenged to design life blueprint

Renee Gehrke, Byron, and Kayla Mingus, Oregon, were two Ogle County youths that attended the Teen Leadership Conference held Jan. 13-14 at the Decatur Conference Center. Photo supplied
Renee Gehrke, Byron, and Kayla Mingus, Oregon, were two Ogle County youths that attended the Teen Leadership Conference held Jan. 13-14 at the Decatur Conference Center. Photo supplied

Inspiration from the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. guided Illinois 4-H members at the Teen Leadership Conference held Jan. 13-14 at the Decatur Conference Center.

Nearly 100 teens across Illinois attended the conference, including Kayla Mingus, Oregon, and Renee Gehrke, Byron.

The opportunity improved their community advocacy, college readiness, communication, and personal development skills.

“In 4-H, we know that leadership is not about a title or a designation,” said Lisa Diaz, University of Illinois Extension assistant dean and 4-H director. “It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration.”

Diaz shared the words of King’s speech, Life’s Blueprint: “Number one in your life’s blueprint should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth, and your own ‘somebodiness.’”

Brittney Robbins, founder and CEO of The Gray Matter Experience, which provides entrepreneurial tools and resources to black high school students in Chicago, said that what youth post online builds their personal brand.

“Your digital content should directly reflect where you stand on issues,” she said.

Susie Risser, freelance communication specialist from Sangamon County, challenged youth to choose words and actions carefully when speaking in public.

“A lie told often enough will become the truth to the audience,” Risser said.

Amie Case, Lee County 4-H member, said 4-H provides leadership opportunities that push her out of comfort zone to build skills.

“Through 4-H, I’m able to meet and help others,” said Te-Quandrius Carr of Sangamon County, “to better myself and my future,” she said.

Five 4-H teens planned the conference. They were Kaleb Hemrich of Noble, Kaylee Leach of East Peoria, Maddi Jo Maxwell of Macedonia, Russell Moore III of Springfield, and Kaley Rouse of Toulon.

Funding was provided by the Illinois 4-H Foundation.

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