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Inspired at 4-H leadership conference, Warren County teen makes positive impact on local environment


By Katie Pratt
University of Kentucky

Spurred by an idea at a Kentucky 4-H leadership conference, a Warren County teen returned home and is making a positive impact on her local environment.

Anna Sweets is a 4-H member and a senior at South Warren High School. She leads her local 4-H environmental club, which she started after participating in the environmental tract at 4-H Teen Conference for the past three years.

Teen Conference is open to young people between eighth-grade and 18-years-old who have an interest in increasing their leadership skills in areas that interest them. The four-day, three-night event occurs each June on the University of Kentucky’s campus.

Warren County 4-H’er Anna Sweets removes some winter creeper from around a tree at Lost River Cave in Bowling Green. (Photo by Katie Pratt, UK agricultural communications)

“At Teen Conference, they told us that we could take some of these things back to our communities and start clubs or host workshops doing some water testing and find different ways to improve our local ecosystems,” Sweets said. “I thought it would be really fun to bring it back to my community.”

The club, which Sweets started a little more than a year ago, is open to middle- and high-school students in Warren County. For the club’s monthly meetings this winter, Sweets arranged for guest speakers to talk to club members about various environmental topics. During the warmer months, she coordinates volunteer efforts that allow the group to help improve local ecosystems, like those at Lost River Cave, a local cave and natural area near the heart of Bowling Green.

“This is one of my proud moments as a 4-H agent,” said Janet Turley, 4-H youth development agent with the UK Cooperative Extension Service. “You are always trying to increase the leadership skills of your 4-H members. This year, I had two kids come back from attending 4-H Teen Conference who wanted to implement something right away. Anna was one of those.”

On a recent spring day, Sweets and her club members went to the cave and volunteered to remove winter creeper, an invasive plant that was trying to take hold of trees in the 72-acre natural area. The group has also participated in fundraisers for the cave, which have included a winter 5K run and a Reindeer Encounter during the holidays.

Volunteers like the 4-H environmental club, are critically important to preserving and maintaining Lost River Cave, said Chad Singer, the cave’s tour staff manager.

“Volunteering at this park is very beneficial. It is a much needed thing,” he said. “The humans who care are sometimes a much more valuable resource than money, because it’s us that are going to do the work. We can spend all kinds of money and equipment and try to eradicate invasive species, but if you don’t get the kids out here to volunteer and foster that appreciation for nature, all that money is for nothing.”

Sweets plans to continue leading the club while attending college.

This year’s 4-H Teen Conference is June 10-13 in Lexington.

4-H is a youth organization dedicated to building outstanding leaders with marketable skills to succeed in today’s global society. It is part of the UK Cooperative Extension Service in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Katie Pratt writes for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment


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