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June 21, 2013   Email to Friend 


Melissa Martin
(334) 612-5448
June 21, 2013

Students discuss the weekend's agenda with Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg outside the Columbiana 4-H Center's Environmental Science Education Center June 21. From left are Nilan Grimes of Cherokee County, Himburg, Shannon Merida of Clarke County and Ethan Rogers of Cherokee County.

COLUMBIANA, Ala., June 21, 2013 — Spending summer break by the pool is an appealing idea, but nearly 80 high school students from 33 counties chose to use their down time to boost leadership skills at the Alabama Farmers Federation's annual Youth Leadership Conference.

The conference, which kicked off today at the 4-H Center in Shelby County and concludes June 23, provides high school sophomores, juniors and seniors the opportunity to network with peers from similar backgrounds and expand their communication skills. It also serves as a way to foster agricultural involvement.

"Students who attend the Youth Leadership Conference are primarily from rural areas, so it's especially important we teach them the mission of the Alabama Farmers Federation while they're here," said Federation Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg, who organized the event. "These students have already proven to be leaders in their communities. The skills they'll gain this weekend will help equip them for life after high school and, with luck, encourage them to pursue a career within the agricultural sector."

State Young Farmers Committee Member Colin Wilson of Jackson County, who served as a chaperon during the conference, said planting the roots of agriculture early in students' minds was essential to developing future leaders who could one day represent Alabama's number-one industry.

"Many of these students will graduate high school this year. By showing them the impact farming and agriculture have on the state now, this conference has the opportunity to create rural allies and advocates," said Wilson. "Every opportunity farmers have to share their stories with others — especially those of an impressionable age — is an opportunity we need to take advantage of."

Throughout the conference, students will have time to learn to work with others they've never met before, strengthen their confidence levels, learn how to communicate more effectively and build team relationships — all of which are skills they'll need later as they look for jobs on or away from the farm. Conference attendees also have the opportunity to experience the dangers of driving under the influence as they participate in the Fatal Vision simulation, which aims to steer teens toward safe driving practices. Guest speakers Clark Sims and Janice Johnson will lead discussions on practical approaches to leadership.

Clarke County High School senior Shannon Merida, 17, said she has looked forward to the weekend's events for weeks.

"I am so excited to be able to participate in this year's Youth Leadership Conference," said Merida. "I'm eager to learn how to strengthen my people skills and meet students from across the state. When I start looking for jobs, I'll need to be able to communicate effectively with people I know and people I just met. I'm hoping this conference will provide some tips I can use now and in the future."

For more information on the program, visit AlfaYoungFarmers.org.

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