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A milestone worth celebrating

Tennessee 4-H looks back on 75 years of 4-H Congress.
Story by Allison Farley Photos by Allison Farley and Glen Liford 4/22/2022


Tennessee 4-H Congress welcomed over 350 high school 4-H members in Nashville on March 20-23 to celebrate the 75th consecutive year of the event.
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Amilestone of community service and citizenship was celebrated March 20-23 in Nashville when State 4-H Congress convened for the 75th consecutive year.

The distinctive green sweaters of 4-H Congress filled the marble walls of the State Capitol, and intense debate echoed down the hall as the members serving as senators and representatives argued the pros and cons of various bills before their respective legislative bodies. 

In support of the event’s theme — “Tennessee’s 4-H: Shaping the Future Together” — Governor Bill Lee addressed attendees during the Tuesday night Citizenship Awards Banquet.

“The agriculture industry and rural lifestyle is so important in our state, and we need to keep investing in it through youth organizations like 4-H,” said Gov. Lee, an alumnus of Williamson County 4-H. “From my time in the organization, I know that the young people in this room are leaders. You are shaping the future for the better, and I fully believe that 75 years of 4-H Congress is a milestone worth celebrating.” 

Since 1947, Tennessee 4-H Congress has helped 4-H’ers develop the life skill of responsible citizenship while representing their home counties in our state’s capitol. Responsible citizenship is an individual’s demonstration of love and devotion in response to duties, rights, and privileges as a member of a community or country. Many students also attend Congress to compete in the public speaking, leadership, and citizenship portfolio areas.

As part of the anniversary celebration, 4-H leaders and staff created a display room that showcased highlights from the event’s history, including photos and videos. Previous attendees were invited to attend the opening of Congress, and all decades from the 75-year history were represented.

“Since the beginning of this event, we have had over 20,000 young people attend Congress,” said UT Extension 4-H Youth Development Director and Statewide Program Leader, Justin Crowe. “We have been able to capture so much history, and I am excited about what the next 75 years hold for this organization.”

In addition to assuming the roles of elected officials and learning about state government by debating and voting on bills and resolutions, attendees also conducted campaigns for office and cast their ballots in elections on real voting machines similar to those in actual state and federal elections.

Retired 4-H Youth Development Director Steve Sutton pointed out the importance of these activities for the soon-to-be adults, as well as giving them a sense of representation. 

“Congress gives our young people the chance to come together and meet new people while representing their home counties,” Sutton said. “I think this is an invaluable learning experience for any high schooler.”

Officers and honorees for 2022-23 4-H CongressElected to 4-H Congress office for 2022-23 were: 

Rachel Ahlheit, Dickson County, Governor; Zachary Lewis, Overton, Speaker of the Senate; and Gabriel Harville, Smith, Speaker of the House.

Taking competition honors at this year’s Congress were:

Public speaking — MaeLee Williamson, Giles, 9th grade; Savannah Agee, Jackson, 10th grade; Christopher Smith, Dickson, 11th grade, and Taylor Cantrell, Dyer, 12th grade.

Citizenship — Harris Eddins, Knox, level I, and Delaney Turner, Macon, level II.

Leadership — Caroline Garrell, Lincoln, level I, and Hadley Brown, Sumner, level II.

History Bowl — Gracie Giles, Loudon, and Caden Trew, Polk.

Essay Contest — Lily Anglin, Carter. 

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