Last month, 11 New Jersey 4-H members attended the 2018 International Leadership for Life Conference, which was hosted by Foróige at the National University of Ireland, commonly known as Maynooth University. Foróige is a youth development organization in Ireland that was formed in 1952 and is based on the 4-H youth development program mode.
Now in its 10th year, Foróige’s Leadership for Life Conference is among the annual highlights of the Foróige program, which promotes personal leadership development with the aim of equipping young people to explore their vision and passion, and to develop key skills such as planning, decision making, critical thinking, goal setting and problem solving that are core to leadership.
This year’s event involved approximately 300 high school-age youths, and the New Jersey delegates were able to meet teens from Ireland, Northern Ireland, the United States, India, and other countries, and engage in over 15 hours of leadership workshops.
“The Leadership for Life Conference is aimed at enriching young people’s lives by broadening their appreciation and respect for themselves and others in the world,” said Jeanette Rea Keywood, Rutgers New Jersey 4-H agent.
“It provided an opportunity for New Jersey 4-H members to take part in an international experience and in advanced leadership training, preparing them to identify community issues, explore causes, possible solutions, and community action efforts.”
New Jersey 4-H delegates included Domenick Ciminiello and Frank Ciminiello from Bergen County; Christina McDonald and Hallie Myerson from Camden County; Jillian Tozer from Cumberland County; Lydia D’Ambra from Gloucester County; Ashlee Gibbons and Kaitlyn Jones from Hunterdon County; Hunter Morgan from Ocean County; Michelle Huang; and Louisa Sperrazza from Union County.
At the conference, the New Jersey delegates participated in the Advanced Leadership Module, which enabled them to put into practice their learning from previous modules by actively engaging in a community action project of their choice, keeping a learning journal of their experiences and presenting a portfolio upon completion.
“One major take away from attending the Foróige Leadership for Life Conference is that it is a whole different experience from completing a leadership course within my own country,” said Frank Ciminiello, delegate from Bergen County. “Not only did I have to work on building new leadership skills, or advancing skills I already possess, but I also had to immerse myself into a new culture where I had to find common ground with the other delegates in order to complete the challenges within program.”
Ciminiello conceded it “was hard at times, but with every leadership and teamwork-based challenge that my group completed, I began to understand how I can contribute when working with a group of people with such diverse backgrounds. I have come to the conclusion that if a group of people with such diversity can unite and come up with legitimate solutions to the problems that plague our world, there is no problem that cannot be solved!”
participants also heard from a variety of guest speakers who presented their personal leadership journeys— their challenges and successes—and inspired the delegates to achieve their goals. The delegates participated in activities such as team building, quiz night and talent night. The delegates will plan and conduct a service project upon their return home.
Lycia D’Ambra, delegate from Gloucester County, explained that she learned a pretty important lesson at the conference.
“I learned a lot about what it takes to be a leader. Guest speaker, Louise Foody, stated that being a leader isn’t a title, but it is an action. Doing little things such as treating others with respect or listening to other people’s opinions are what makes a person a leader.”
“All of the people at the conference were so supportive of one another which is another extremely important quality of being a leader,” she added.
The 4-H Youth Development Program is part of Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station -Cooperative Extension, 4-H educational programs are offered to all youth, grades K-13, on an age-appropriate basis, without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, marital status, domestic partnership status, military service, veteran status, and any other category protected by law. For more information about the New Jersey 4-H Program visit the 4-H website.