More than 600 teens, volunteer leaders, and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents will participate in the 88th annual 4-H State Congress at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus from June 23 to 26. This year's theme – "Stand Up, Stand Out for 4-H" – will empower participants to learn about leadership, citizenship, and life skills.

As Extension’s youth development service, Virginia 4-H engages youth ages 5 to 19 in hands-on educational programs and activities designed to help them gain the knowledge, life skills, and attitudes that will further their development as self-directing, contributing, and productive members of society. Contact your local Extension office for more information about 4-H State Congress and other Virginia 4-H events in your area.

This year’s speaker at the closing assembly is Hannah Kiefer, a 20 year-old Hollins University student who holds the Miss Virginia 2007 title. A native of High Point, N.C., Kiefer serves as a Hollins Ambassador, a spokesperson for the all-women’s college in Roanoke, Va.

An accomplished ballerina, Kiefer has danced for 13 years with the High Point Ballet and studied with the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Pennsylvania Ballet at the Rock School of Ballet, and the Roanoke Ballet. Kiefer, who believes strongly in creating healthy choices for teens with an emphasis on health habits, drug and alcohol awareness, character building, and moral development, is promoting the Children’s Miracle Network and the “Right Decisions Right Now” program throughout her year of service.

4-H delegates will learn about a wide variety of topics through workshops and tours at 4-H State Congress. They will have an opportunity to tour the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, hear about the career experiences of officials in the agriculture industry, develop their financial literacy skills, get a Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, see Virginia’s wildlife up close, participate in a leadership boot camp, and much more.

Delegates will also reach out to those in need through several service-learning projects such as Operation Military Kids, which mobilizes youth around the country to help their friends and classmates who have a parent deployed in the armed forces. At 4-H State Congress, interested delegates have an opportunity to participate in creative hands-on activities to identify the issues and concerns of military families, discover what they can do to support military families, work in small groups to film video messages for families, and create cards using the Operation Military Kids mobile technology lab.

4-H’ers who have completed projects will have an opportunity to compete for awards, and the winners may move on to regional and national competitions. There will also be dances, sports events in the Congressional Games, and banquets. Additionally, teens will learn about what it would be like to be a Virginia Tech student.

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