4-H’ers learn about co-ops at conference
Adelle Arceneaux, recently recognized as Crowley High School’s Outstanding Member, was one of two to win an interview process that allows she and the other to travel to Tennessee for an educational trip and a return trip on scholarship to the co-op conference next year as a youth ambassador.
Learning about cooperatives and their importance to rural communities was the focus of the 2016 Co-op Leadership Conference at Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center earlier this month.
The LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives sponsored the conference, which was attended by 71 4-H’ers in grades eight through 12 representing approximately 20 parishes across the state.
“The conference builds knowledge of the American cooperative business system and gives students a real-world entrepreneurial experience,” said Lenny Waguespack, vice president of the Louisiana Division of First South Farm Credit. “It allows students to explore the world of cooperatives and how this form of business complements and benefits the citizens of Louisiana.”
Participants got the chance to open their own co-op – a candy store offering both sweet treats and healthy options – to learn the principles of running a business and overall operation of a co-op.
“These students walk away from this camp with some valuable business skills and leadership skills,” said Terri Crawford, camp coordinator and the AgCenter 4-H regional coordinator for the Northeast Region. “It’s a smaller camp, so the kids get some one-on-one time with members of the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives.”
Throughout the weekend, students moved through sessions taught by co-op business leaders focusing on different types of cooperatives – financial, utilities and credit services. Linemen from Northeast Louisiana Power Cooperative brought two bucket trucks. The 4‑H’ers could climb into the buckets and get a bird’s eye view of the camp, said Billy Gibson, president of the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives.
Matt Krin, a lineman with the co-op, also gave the 4-H’ers a demonstration of the equipment they use while out in the field working on high-voltage utility lines.
In addition to learning about cooperative business, the students enhanced their decision making, leadership and communication skills through hands-on learning and teamwork challenges, Crawford said.
Janayzhia Johnson, an eighth-grader from Delhi, was excited about the co-op camp. “I love getting to learn new things and experiences,” said the Richland Parish resident. “I feel like I’m becoming a better person.”
This year’s co-op sold a variety of snacks, which gave participants the experience of determining prices, sales, marketing the co-op and developing other strategies involved in operating the business.
Payton Englerth, of Delhi, said he’s always wanted to know more about co-ops because he’s heard about them and didn’t know what they were.
“I’m learning about business and finance,” said the home-schooled student. “I think that’s going to help me in my adult life. Plus, I really like meeting new friends from all over the state.”
In addition to operating a co-op, the 4-H’ers went through an interview component to test their knowledge of cooperative business and how actively they participated in the conference.
The top two interview participants won a 4-H educational trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee, with expenses paid by the Louisiana Council of Farmer Cooperatives. This year’s winners were Adelle Arceneaux, Acadia Parish, and Ja’Darius Williams, Sabine Parish.
The trip winners will have the opportunity to attend the state conference next year on scholarship as youth ambassadors.
Six participants who finished in third through eighth place in the interview component received $50 cash prizes. They were Eugenia Williams, St. Landry Parish; Bailey Willis, Morehouse Parish; Amelia Broussard, Vermilion Parish; Myranda Smith, Grant Parish; Elizabeth Irvin, Caddo Parish; and Caroline Whisonant, Winn Parish.
Knowledge Quiz winners were Adelle Arceneaux, Acadia Parish; Jon’Neika LaCrosse, Plaquemines Parish; Qwaveshia May, West Carroll Parish; Garrett Sanders, Tangipahoa Parish; Leslie Ford, Rapides Parish; Tripp Dixon, Sabine Parish; Clay Zaunbrecher, Vermilion Parish; and Nydia Cooper, St. James Parish.