"Take Your Best Shot", the theme of the 2021 4-H Teen Leadership Retreat is a positive call to action, one that seemed to really resonate with our group of about 35 tween and teen New Hampshire 4-Hers over the course of our leadership weekend. Not only does it challenge our 4-Hers to be their best, find their courage, and put themselves out there, but it also speaks to our statewide service-learning initiative for the year, Photovoice, an international change-making initiative that tells a story through photographs.
This year 4-Hers of any age are encouraged to explore their story and capture it as a photograph. The question for any 4-Her to answer is “How do you belong”? Instead of responding with words, 4-Hers are asked to take photographs, of a clover growing that might remind them of 4-H, their ballet slippers tucked under their bed if they are a dancer… their photos will tell a story all on their own, their “best shot” at sharing who they are and how they belong in their community and 4-H.
Our teens will be answering the same question, as well as another that will rely on many different types of service learning to create change. They will be answering the question “What needs to change in your community?” Tweens and teens will “take their best shot” at capturing local needs that we will discuss and workshop on our statewide teen leadership ZOOM calls throughout the year. Needs could be housing insecurity, need for more accessible food, a non-inclusive space... We don’t know what will come to the surface, the photographs will drive the discussion, which will drive our teen 4-Hers to “take their best shot” at advocating for change with local decision makers and even with our state legislators at the state capitol in spring. Our teen leadership pathway will weave different opportunities throughout the year, the retreat the launch of an amazing year prioritizing youth voice and belonging.
At the retreat our 4-Hers practiced the art of taking photographs with a highly competitive and challenging photo scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt was a perfect example of teen leadership: communication, collaboration, creativity, and a lot of laughter and energy. Beyond the launch of our service-learning initiative, our teens harnessed every bit of lost time from these past 20 months and dove into mindfulness in leadership, meeting with a panel of collegiate 4-Hers to learn who their mentors were and why, building too high marshmallow towers, stress management, and skits, dances, and cheers that each group should be entering into a variety show. Our weekend was filled with joy, nature and budding new friendships. The reality of a theme of “Take Your Best Shot” is that at the end of the weekend counties left with incredibly strong action plans for the year, entirely youth-driven and fueled by peer and adult support, because they took their best shot and captured the moment perfectly.