Hello, my name is Maura Sparrevohn, and I was a California 4-H State Ambassador for the 2018-2019 program year. This last April, I was selected to attend the National 4-H Conference in Washington D.C. If it wasn't for the scholarship from Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, I might never have been able to attend this conference, or connect with 4-H youth from outside of California. As someone who had never before been outside of California's borders, having the opportunity to experience a whole new place—brimming with people I never would have met otherwise—was an amazing experience.
National 4-H Conference: Roundtable on Adolescent Mental Health
During this near week-long conference, I had the opportunity to collaborate with 4-H youth from across the country on a roundtable group focusing on the mental health of adolescence in the United States. We were then able to present to the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) under the National Organization for Health and Human Services. Through this presentation, our team of diverse youth was able to voice our own concerns regarding the state of mental health in our peers. We were also able to provide the OAH with our own suggestions to combat the issue of stigma surrounding mental illness among American youth.
Invited to Collaborate on Social Media and Mental Health
Early this summer, and because of my involvement with the HHS, I was invited back to D.C., where I shared my perspective on how social media affects the mental health of my peers. I was one of 6 youth respondents selected from the U.S. to participate in this meeting organized by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
Through this once in a lifetime opportunity, I collaborated alongside Candice Odgers and Jean Twenge, both top researchers in their respective fields of psychology, to compare their findings to my own experiences with social media usage and how it relates to my own mental health as well as that of other youth who use social media. I was able to share my perspective on how the state of your mental health can be reflected through your personal social media usage. By practicing intentional social media usage and mindful habits, you can make positive impacts on yourself and others while connecting to your individuality. I also see it as a creative outlet that can connect individuals and provide all sorts of resources to provide connectedness, education, and opportunities to promote positive change for anything you may be passionate about.
Co-hosting a live Twitter Chat
Following my engagement in this meeting, the group of youth was asked to collaborate even further to propose a way to share what we had learned with others in our communities. We decided that the best way to share our knowledge of intentional social media use was taking to social media in a live and interactive way. On August 14th, we partnered with #ICanHelp and youth.gov to host a live Twitter Chat. Questions and tips were posted while Twitter users engaged and shared their perspective. Participants were able to interact with one another while sharing knowledge on how to be more mindful and intentional with how they use social media! For anyone interested in the postings, or reading what participants had to say, check out #mindfulsocialchat on Twitter!
Take the leap!
The skills I have gained and the connections I have made after initially going to National Conference have impacted my life in such a positive way. I was someone who was very nervous about flying all the way to the other side of the country, but I am so glad I did. I encourage other 4-Hers who may feel the same way to take the leap and apply for National Conference 2020. The experience is one that I know I will continue to positively reflect on, and I hope the same for all of you!
Apply by November 5, 2019
National 4-H Conference 2020
March 28- April 4, 2020
See the National 4-H Conference event page for more information and to apply.