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National 4-H Congress

Each year, over 1000 youth from all 50 states, as well as the U.S. territories, join together to participate in National 4-H congress. This educational event focuses on social and cultural programs and activities, leadership development and community service.

The program is built upon the Cooperative Extension System’s belief that young people can be significant partners in addressing the issues that face our nation especially those affecting youth.  Each year a National Design Team of Extension Educators, 4-H youth, and 4-H adult volunteers analyze current youth issues and determine the most effective ways to address them.  The program combines plenary sessions, seminars, discussion groups and a service learning experience.  The nation’s most outstanding community leaders, speakers, and educators present current and timely information.

The selection process in New Jersey begins about one year before the event. Eligible youth (grades 10 through 12 at time of application) complete a New Jersey 4-H National Congress Application and participate in an interview in the spring. Those selected as delegates to attend the event must also attend an orientation session prior to the event.

The event brings over 1200 4-H members to Atlanta over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The planning committee takes advantage of Atlanta's standing as an international city and exposes delegates to as many venues in the city as possible including the Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coke-A-Cola, CNN Center, Carter Presidential Library and the Martin Luther King Center. There are many outstanding workshops along with keynote addresses that round out the experience. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 4-H members.

New Jersey sends approximately 25 4-H members and three adult advisors to the event each year. One to three delegates are nominated from each county and then final delegates are selected through a state interview process. The cost of the event is approximately $825. Local and state scholarships are available. All interested 4-H members must be in the 10-12 grade at the time applications are due (March/April) complete an application and go through a county and state selection process. Participants can only attend this event one time during their 4-H career.

History of National 4-H Congress

Taken from the 2006 4-H Congressional Record
University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

An educational tour to Chicago was the forerunner to what would eventually become known as National 4-H Congress. This annual tour was held in the Union Stock Yards during the International Livestock Exposition. There, over 100 young men and women met to exchange ideas and receive recognition for individual accomplishments and community service.

The number of participants steadily grew, and by 1922 this annual event was designated the National Boys and Girls Club Exposition. This meeting is officially considered the first National 4-H Youth Congress.

Exhibits, demonstrations and a popular parade became the annual program for 4-H during the International Livestock Exposition. For 73 years, National 4-H Congress gave over 100,000 delegates, Extension staff, volunteers, partner representatives, exhibitors and other friends of 4-H the opportunity to participate in a special event. There was no National 4-H Congress in 1995, but two invitational events were hosted by the Southern Region and Western Region states. 1996 saw the rebirth of National 4-H Congress in Memphis under the leadership of the Extension Service - USDA. Memphis was the home of National 4-H Congress until the event moved to Atlanta in 1998.

For more information, please visit the National 4-H Congress Website