The Texas 4-H Center at Lake Brownwood hosted a Teen Leadership Retreat from Jan. 5 through the 7th, bringing together 4-H students from across the state for a few days of lessons, campfires and fun.   

The camp draws students from as far away as El Paso and College Station, who learn about taking leadership positions within their county organizations. Program coordinator Cari Snider, a former 4-H student herself, said the camp is an annual event and has 50 participants this year.   

“It’s usually called the Teen Retreat, but since we focused on leadership this year we called it the Teen Leadership Retreat,” Snider explained. The camp included sessions like a ‘survival guide for turning 18’ and the ‘4-H advocacy session,’ where students wrote speeches about their 4-H experience.   

“All 4-Hers are involved in leadership in some way,” Snider said. “A lot of these kids, since they’re teenagers, are leaders at their county clubs and maybe even at the district level. We wanted to provide them with some additional leadership skills that aren’t necessarily taught on a daily basis.”   

Snider said the camp stresses the importance of community service as well.   

“As a leader in 4-H, you’re truly being a leader for younger 4-Hers and teaching them the skills they’ll need for their future, not just in 4-H but in life.”   

One camp staff member, known at camp as “The Judge,” is a college student at Texas A&M where the state 4-H is headquartered. She said she hopes to continue to work with youth after graduation.   

“I want to get a Master’s in youth development and education,” The Judge said.   

At camp, she said, she’s helped design the campers’ activities and talked with them about leadership. “It’s fun,” she said, “especially with the older students. They like to talk and get involved, so you can play really fun games with them.   

“And I’ve met a few seniors here who are thinking about going to A&M, so they’ve asked me some questions about that and that’s been cool, too.”   

The Judge said 4-H is a great organization for young children and teenagers, and goes far beyond its agricultural roots. “The people and connections you make are great, and there are so many opportunities,” she said. “It’s not just livestock.”