More than 600 teens, volunteer leaders, and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents will participate in the 87th annual 4-H State Congress at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus from Monday, June 18 to Thursday, June 21. Delegates will learn about leadership, citizenship, and life skills with this year’s theme, “Back 2 Basics.”

As Extension’s youth development service, 4-H engages youth ages 5 to 19 in hands-on educational programs and activities designed to help them gain the knowledge, life skills, and attitudes that will further their development as self-directing, contributing, and productive members of society. Contact your local Extension office for more information about 4-H State Congress and other Virginia 4-H events in your area.

At this year’s congress, Ski racer, professional speaker, and writer Josh Sundquist will tell 4-H’ers about his early life and overcoming adversity. At age 9, Sundquist was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and given a 50 percent chance to live. He spent a year in chemotherapy treatments, and his left leg was amputated from the hip. After doctors declared Sundquist free of the disease at age 13, he trained for the next six years as a ski racer and, in 2006, was named to the U.S. Paralympics Ski Team. Sundquist has shared his story with thousands of schools, business groups, and even the White House, and he has been published in The Washington Post, Daily Guideposts, and Current, Newsweek’s college magazine. He served two-years as the National Spokesperson for the Combined Federal Campaign, an effort that raises more than $300 million a year for charities.

Red Hawk, a Cherokee performer with Youth Services of America, will also attend the 4-H State Congress. He will teach 4-H’ers about Native American music and dance. Delegates will not only learn the difference between a friendship beat and a war beat but also have an opportunity to drum and dance to both rhythms. Through stories from his cultural heritage, his audience will gain a better understanding of Native American cultures and the value of oral traditions and songs. Red Hawk will also debunk cultural stereotypes about Native Americans.

4-H delegates will learn about a wide variety of topics in workshops and tours at 4-H State Congress. 4-H’ers who aspire to lead a 4-H club, school organization, or other group will develop the skills necessary to succeed in a leadership role at the 4-H Leadership Institute, where they will discover how to coordinate group projects, conduct meetings, communicate effectively, and develop youth-adult partnerships. Delegates who have an interest in the environment will have a chance to learn about watersheds, water quality, chemical and biological monitoring, and tree and bird identification at an extended workshop on water resources and environmental education.

Delegates will also reach out to those in need through several service-learning projects. For example, teams of 4-H youth will work together to create fun, colorful, and festive hats for hospitalized children with Happy Hats, a unique service-learning project to promote youth civic engagement for seriously ill children. Doctors, hospital staff, patients, their families, and the greater community have shown tremendous appreciation for this effort in the past.

4-H’ers who have completed projects will have an opportunity to compete for awards. The winners may move on to regional and national competitions. There will also be dances, sports events in the Congressional Games, and banquets. Additionally, teens will learn what is would be like to be a Virginia Tech student.

About Virginia Cooperative Extension

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based agents, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 13 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.