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NC State Juntos Attends National 4-H Conference

Juntos students gather in Washington, D.C.
Juntos students gather in Washington, D.C.

One of the most essential elements of the Juntos program is its 4-H clubs, in which 8-12th grade students come together to learn about higher education opportunities and prepare themselves for the next step on their educational paths. 

In April, nine high school students from Wake, Bladen, and Greene Counties got a chance to experience this on a national scale, attending the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C., as part of the delegation from North Carolina, which included representatives from NC State, NC A&T, and the National Juntos Program. 

It’s meant to bring students into a global perspective.

Lucia Planchon, NC State Juntos’ assistant director, explained that the conference, hosted by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) And National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the Hyatt Regency in Arlington, Virginia, included students from all 50 United States states and several US territories. 

“This conference aims to build a sense of camaraderie between the students that are from the US and territories,” Planchon said. “It’s meant to bring students into a global perspective, but we’re definitely trying to bring students from different walks of life together.” 

Students were divided into groups, and each group was responsible for researching a topic or challenge question and presenting information to a government agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, etc. 

I think it’s one of those skills that you need when you’re a professional.

All the students worked in roundtable groups with others from outside their delegation, picking up the valuable skill of working to accomplish a task with people they hadn’t met before. 

“What was really interesting for me was that they didn’t know each other until they got placed into this roundtable, but they did such a good job communicating,” Planchon said. “They really learned how to navigate conversations with each other, having zero experience of knowing each other. I think it’s one of those skills that you need when you’re a professional.”

Juntos received funding from S. Stewart and Associates to attend the conference, which allowed Juntos students from North Carolina, Arizona and Indiana to attend. 

The funding followed Juntos’ National Convening at Oregon State in March of 2023, as the program continues to expand opportunities for students around the country to meet. 

“It was really cool to see these kids that come from different locations actually still have this thing that brings them together,” Planchon said. “It was a really wonderful experience.”

Each of the students in Planchon’s delegation had a different topic to research, with each getting a chance to learn new information and get to know other high school students from around the country. 

Emma Lazarczyk, a high school sophomore, was part of a group researching several questions relating to vocations and career paths and then presenting to the United States Department of Labor. 

“I enjoyed meeting all the new people from the Juntos delegation, especially from NC State,” Lazarczyk said. “Being able to meet so many people from different geographic backgrounds, learning about their cultures and making a lot of new friends and connections was awesome.” 

Angel Ramon-Reyes, a high school junior, was part of a group researching the propensity for military service among current high school students. The group presented its findings at the Pentagon. 

He called getting to go to the Pentagon nervous but exciting and he enjoyed working with other students to design the presentation. 

“It was really awesome,” Ramon-Reyes said. “I met a lot of new people. Some of them were already in the army or some part of the military.” 

Citlaly Casarrubias Santos, a high school senior, researched ways for the American Corps to recruit more people from Generation Z. 

“It was very interesting to see many different perspectives from many different states and backgrounds,” she said. 

In addition to their research and presentations, the students in the NC Juntos delegation got a chance to see several of the war memorials in D.C., visit the United States Botanical Garden and meet and take pictures with several North Carolina congressional representatives. 

As these students move forward in their high school careers and beyond, their experience at the National 4-H Conference will give them valuable research, presentation and teamwork skills that will serve them well.