New people, new places, and new knowledge summarizes the Ignite by 4-H Summit experience for the NH 4-H STEM Ambassadors.
Touted as the “Ultimate Teen Summit,” this event brought together teens from 42 states across the country, as well as from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for a weekend packed with speakers, hands-on learning activities, social gatherings, and local tours. In its inaugural year, this summit combined individual topic-based summits of years past into one large event focused on STEM, agriscience, healthy living, career readiness, and emotional well-being. In total, over 900 people attended this four-day event!
This year’s NH delegation, which included three STEM Ambassadors and eight Ag Ambassadors, traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in this event. While the teens engaged with their individual topic tracks throughout the weekend, there was ample time to get to know delegates from the other group at meals, during travel, and at general sessions. This was a great opportunity to meet other NH teens outside their own group and learn about topics outside their typical preference.
As a group in its inaugural year, the STEM Ambassadors saw this event as not only an opportunity to learn about different STEM topics, but also to meet new people and learn how other 4-H STEM clubs around the country operate to get ideas for how to further improve our NH program. Summarizing her experience, Mary Lopes said “I learned a lot more about STEM and how and what other states do. It was an amazing experience and learning opportunity that has forever changed my life.”
The event also served as a great group bonding experience, which was extremely beneficial to a group trying to lay a firm foundation in its first year. As 4-H’er Emily Fulton put it, “I bonded with my delegation and wouldn’t trade that connection with my fellow STEM Ambassadors for the world.”
Outside the event’s main activities, the teens had the chance to get out into the city to explore a couple of the Smithsonian museums and visit some of our nation’s national monuments. They even touched the Washington Monument! This was an exciting opportunity, as none of the teens had ever been to our nation’s capital before — a learning moment in and of itself.
In the culminating showcase, teens presented action plans developed by each state delegation as part of the “Lead to Change” initiative. Over the course of the weekend, the STEM Ambassadors met as a group to identify a problem they saw in their community and brainstorm an action plan for how they might address that problem. The STEM Ambassadors envisioned a program they called “Communication STEMs from 4-H,” which focuses on the lack of communication and social skills often observed in STEM disciplines. The group received a wealth of positive feedback on their idea at the showcase and hope to work with the rest of the STEM Ambassador group in NH to implement their idea during the upcoming school year.
Summarizing her experience at the event, Emily Fulton said: “The 2023 Ignite Summit was an incredible experience to explore my country’s capital city, meet and hear from incredible speakers from around the world, and immerse myself in the STEM 4-H Program for a weekend. It was so neat to see just how big the national 4-H community is, and I enjoyed meeting others with shared interests. I pushed, expanded, and explored my comfort zone throughout this summit and will use this new confidence to impart positive change through the rest of my 4-H career and beyond.”
The group looks forward to implementing what they learned in the upcoming year and can’t wait for next year’s summit!