4-H’ers Samantha Taylor and Savannah Green pose in front of the photo booth at 4-H Leadership Summit held March 2 on the campus of Louisiana Tech University. )Photo by Hannah Venerella/LSU AgCenter)

RUSTON — Approximately 300 students from 12 parishes gathered March 2 for the first 4-H Leadership Summit at the Davison Athletics Complex on the campus of Louisiana Tech University.

The summit planning committee included 4-H high school students, LSU AgCenter 4-H agents and coordinators who wanted to organize an event to help increase the reach of 4-H.

Start with the Man in the Mirror, a reference to Michael Jackson’s hit song, was the summit’s theme, which tied in with guest speaker Rhett Laubach’s speech about leadership.

Lubach is a professional speaker, leadership trainer, author, presentations coach from Edmond, Oklahoma.

“The theme is about self-reflection and looking inside yourself,” said Ashton Thomas, a 4-H’er from Quitman High School. “As a leader, others are looking at us, so we have to find a way to be the best version of ourselves.”

Laubach’s high-energy speech focused on four rules leaders should follow to have a positive impact: influence, class, spirit and legacy.

“Leadership is about doing for others and serving others,” Laubach said. “The man in the mirror is about sacrificing today so someone else can have a better tomorrow.”

Each rule was accompanied by an activity. The spirit rule asked students to choose gratitude and to write down three items they are grateful for in their life.

Youth-led sessions allowed students to bond with one another in rotating activities like 4-H Jeopardy.

During lunch, a $500 scholarship was awarded to 4-H Louisiana state president Brittney Lea from a random drawing pulled by Louisiana Tech admissions.

Being a 4-H leader teaches students to follow their dreams, said Lea, a senior at Castor High School.

Organizers said events where students from across the state come together are important networking opportunities and a way for 4-H to increase its membership.

“We are always working on growing junior leaders,” Lea said. “The younger 4-H students get to see the connection I have with my friends while making their own friends, and it encourages them to become involved.”

By Hannah Venerella, LSU AgCenter

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