Citizenship Washington Focus is a week-long citizenship and leadership conference with tours of Washington, D.C., workshops, and committee meetings. For this conference, 4‑H’ers from all over the nation come to the National 4‑H Conference Center and are able to connect with other 4‑H’ers. Yet while CWF is a place where young people get to interact with their government and see how the democratic process works, CWF also creates other meaningful experiences and memories for participants. In addition to writing bills, attending a mock congressional session, meeting with real legislators, and developing leadership skills, 4‑H’ers at CWF create bonds with each other that are often maintained for years to come.
At first you wonder how a large group of teens with SUCH different stories and backgrounds can connect. Delegates for CWF come from all over the United States, some have met others from their delegation previously, but many meet for the first time at the airport or on the bus on the way to CWF. However, every week it seems that these different stories and different backgrounds are what help form these connections. Early on the first day, the delegates are a bit shy and talk to those that they already know, but by the end of that day, the delegates have begun their bonding journey. People who start with nothing in common end the week with shared experiences and memories that they share for years to come.
As program assistants, we enjoy working with the many delegates from different backgrounds and hearing the unique stories from everyone. I enjoy many parts of the week, but there is a moment every week that I look for. It is on Friday of every week of CWF, which is when we host the dance. The dance signifies that Citizenship Washington Focus has come to an end, which is sad, but the most beautiful thing happens after the dance. After the dance every week, after the last song has been played, there is always a group of delegates in a large huddle saying their goodbyes to one another and even shedding some tears. While it is the end of Citizenship Washington Focus, it is only the beginning for some. The beginning of the great things that will be accomplished, the beginning of the pathway to active citizens, and the beginning to many lasting relationships.
From the outside looking in, some might just see a large group of teens walking around, touring the nation’s capital. But as the program assistants, those of us who have the pleasure of working with the delegates, we truly get to see how all of these young people are able to come together and create wonderful things. The wonderful things may be the bills that they write and argue in the congressional session, but more often, they are the connections developed between each other as they are writing and arguing those bills.
Written by: Nosa Akol, CWF PA 2016