An Experience of a Lifetime: 2011 National 4-H Congress

Posted: December 19, 2011

One amazing experience, two Indiana County 4-H members, 42 states and 1 territory, 912 delegates, and infinite memories! This can explain the 2011 National 4-H Congress held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 25-29. It is so hard to begin with just one thing to explain this amazing trip. I guess to start would be the plane ride. Both Garrett and my first plane ride started with Garrett being super excited about it, and I just was a little bit freaked out by it. We left the airport at 6:50 am on Friday to take an hour and fifteen minute flight to Georgia.
on left Ashley Sloan.  Right Caroline Lynch

on left Ashley Sloan. Right Caroline Lynch

We didn’t even have to start the Congress to start meeting new people. With Pennsylvania having the third largest delegation of 40 members, we started meeting new people the moment we arrived around 9:00 am. The first day was just getting used to everything and napping! That night started the most amazing 4-H experience I have ever had. We had opening session and the pin exchange. We were able to collect many different pins and such from many different states. This ended a very long day and started a very amazing week.
There were many events throughout the next few days. We had many workshops such as speed meeting, team building, and a variety of fun workshops. My workshops were robotics - where we built a car from household materials, watersheds  - where we learned how different places affect the water, and Dancing with the Stars - where we learned to salsa. These were what took up the bulk of the next few days. We also had a dance Saturday night to start things off. There were a variety of amazing speakers throughout the week including Miss America and a visit from Santa Claus!
We also had a night of culture. We got to experience many different foods from a variety of different places. It was a great way to get to know different cultures and how they differ from ours. We also had a night at the museum. We went on a scavenger hunt to find different places in the museum, got to watch a comedian, and then experience a blue grass concert. This was a lot of fun and educational to get to see all the many exhibits in the museum as well as the concert. Another activity we got to do was our tours. Both Garrett and I chose to go to the Atlanta Zoo. This is one of three zoos that have panda bears, so that was definitely a highlight.
The whole week was not just fun and games. On Monday before our tours we went to our community service events. There were some that were cancelled due to the rain, but mine was still on. I went to BEATS. This is a therapeutic riding center. Here, those of us with horse experience got to work with the two two-year old horses. Other activities were cleaning up the barn, going through the storage shed, and decorating the lounge for the holidays. We later learned that the facility almost didn’t exist when the previous owner lost it to taxes. It was saved, and they are still trying to pay all the money back. All the help we gave was greatly appreciated since there are no hired workers, just volunteers and the owner.
To finish the week we had the Congress Gala. This was a nice dinner followed by the dance. This was a great way to end an amazing week in a formal way. This was one of the most amazing weeks of my life and if given the chance, I would do it all over in a heartbeat. It was a great experience to get closer to people you already knew, meet new people, to make friendships that will last a life time, and to experience a lot of knew things. I recommend this trip to anyone that wants to have an amazing time and life-long memories and friendships.

Ashley Sloan, Indiana County