A Life Changing Experience

4-H National Congress

November 26-30, 2021 were five busy days for eight New Hampshire 4-Hers.  We “met at the moose” as any New Hampshire 4-Her knows is a right of passage for national trip participants leaving our state.  Bags were packed to the gills with work gloves, formal wear, all the 4-H clothing we owned, and of course, masks. 

Headed to National 4-H Congress, due to the generosity of the New Hampshire 4-H Foundation, and Grafton and Coos County Foundations, our team was ready for a national experience packed with workshops, tours of Atlanta, Georgia, dances, an international festival, service learning and speakers known around the world.  This team had been meeting since September, getting to know one another, learning about the experience, and planning out how to make it the Best Trip Ever.  With the support of advisor Dan Holdridge, who had been on the design team during his 4-H career, our team of teens came prepared to give it their all in Atlanta.

Throughout the course of the trip each individual created an experience that was meaningful to them.  Some immediately dove into trading their New Hampshire pins for pins from around the country, while others quietly traded for more unique options like a handmade clay Georgia peach or sparkling ruby slipper from Kansas.  Mega workshops, where hundreds of teens all participated in learning moments, driven by their own spark, were a highlight of the trip. At the Atlanta History Center some of our delegates put on their dancing shoes to learn traditional dances from the 1800s while others laughed and cried as a comedic juggler shared more with us than excellent tricks and jokes.

Prior to our trip the advisors shared that this experience would be life changing.  While exciting to hear, that phrase cannot be understood until it happens.  Imagine your favorite Disney movie, when something magical happens and everything seems to glow.  That is what happens at some point on this trip, though it is usually quiet and just for that person.  As an observer I saw it happen as our last moments closed out with an incredible speaker, Dan Clark.  The magic was palpable and the teens that had been hustled through TSA in Manchester were now different as we headed back to New Hampshire.

Luckily, next year another group of teens will have the opportunity to have this experience.  And a crowning moment will be that our group in 2022 will be experiencing 4-H National Congress with the first ever New Hampshire design team member, Sam Drake.  2021 will not be soon forgotten, and 2022 is something to dream about.  


State 4-H Teen Leadership Program Manager
Extension Field Specialist, 4-H Teen Leadership
Phone: 617-875-3125
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824