Tennessee 4-H Congress has been a tradition for over 70 years. 4-H’ers travel from their respective counties to learn more about government, become more active as high school 4-H’ers, recognize project and public speaking winners, and gain leadership skills. For many Tennessee 4-H’ers, Congress is the highlight of their time in the program.
“Congress is one of the biggest events that Tennessee 4-H is known for,” says Carlin Cochran, Congress Governor. “It is where older 4-H’ers start to grow their love for 4-H.”
Throughout the event, the 4-H delegates learn more about Tennessee’s legislative process through hands-on-learning. The students are divided into Representatives and Senators, where they vote and pass legislation in the actual chambers. The students write, amend, debate and vote on legislation.
Another large piece of the event is competition. Both regional public speaking winners and regional citizenship and leadership project winners compete for the title of state winner and trip to National 4-H Congress.
By the end of the event, three 4-H’ers are elected to represent Congress on the State 4-H State Council as Governor, Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House. For 2019-2020, Carlin Cochran from Hickman County is the Congress Governor, Isaac Chandler from Anderson County is Speaker of the Senate and Leah Kennedy from Williamson County is Speaker of the House.
Cochran shares how much fun she had at Congress and the impact it made on her.
“I ran for office and that was a great experience,” she says. “I think the election process is one of big things that delegates take away. And delegates get a better understanding of the state 4-H Council.”
This year, Congress looks very different. Due to the threat of COVID-19, Congress was postponed. All the competitions, campaigning and preparation were put on hold during the spring of 2020 and postponed until August. The event is currently scheduled to be held August 9-12, 2020 at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“I think all 4-H’ers need to go to Congress,” Cochran says. “It changed my perspective on state government, 4-H and the community of 4-H’ers. It is just a great experience for everyone because everyone gets something different.”