One hundred teens across Nebraska recently embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime civic engagement experience through the Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) program. Youth spent five days in Washington, D.C., learning our nation’s history and developing the civic engagement skills they need to be leaders in their communities.
CWF is the premier leadership and civic engagement event for Nebraska 4-H members and teen leaders. During their time in Washington, D.C., the high school students toured the White House and Arlington National Cemetery. They explored national monuments and memorials, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., World War I, and US Marine Corps Memorials. During a day on Capitol Hill, the Nebraska delegation attended the Nebraska Breakfast and connected with state senators and representatives. Youth engaged in workshops on media literacy, local government, advocacy, active listening, and civil discourse.
Using the nation’s capital as their classroom, the young leaders gained the skills and experiences to become effective change agents. Teens used what they learned to refine action plans to improve their local communities back home.
The Nebraska delegation left home on June 5, participated in the CWF program in Washington, D.C., from June 11-16, and returned to Nebraska on June 18. A group of 14 teens and four chaperones from Cherry County joined 14 youth and two chaperones from Johnson, Nemaha, Otoe, and Richardson Counties. A group from West Nebraska consisted of 72 youth and eight chaperones from the following counties:
- Red Willow
"Being a part of this conference helped me realize that being a good citizen isn't necessarily just sitting around, waiting for change,” said one participant. “You have to go out and let it be known that change is necessary; otherwise, it won't happen."
“Youth spent time during the conference working on their own local action plans that they will hopefully implement in their communities,” said Molly Brandt, Nebraska Extension Educator who accompanied this year's group. “Youth started brainstorming on these ideas before the conference and were able to get more ideas and suggestions from others during the conference.”
Brandt believes one of the most valuable benefits of CWF is the opportunity for youth to interact with peers from their community and other young adults from across the country. “Youth learn the importance of being a good citizen and having respectful conversations with those who might think differently than they do,” said Brandt.
"It engaged me firsthand with people different from me or who had different views,” said one participant. “Learning how to effectively communicate with everyone is an invaluable skill needed in various parts of my life.”
“The conference gave the youth a newfound sense of energy, confidence, and purpose to be able to make local change,” said Brandt.
Coordinated by National 4-H Council, CWF is a national program designed as the premier leadership and civic engagement event for 4-H members and teen leaders ages 14-19. Weeklong sessions are offered through June and July each summer. Trips are coordinated regionally by local Extension Offices. For more information about CWF, please visit 4h.unl.edu/cwf.