4-H teens learn leadership at Atlanta conference

Local organization teaches leadership, life skills
January 16, 2013
Sussex students returned from Atlanta after attending a national 4-H Congress. Shown are (l-r) Angela Lagano, Maggie Durig, Jackie Arpie and Travis Waller. BY RACHEL SWICK MAVITY

Seven teens from Delaware 4-H Club participated in the 91st annual National 4-H Congress Nov. 23-27 in Atlanta, four of them students or graduates of Sussex Tech.

The congress recognizes teenage 4-H members who have proven themselves through community service, leadership and project work. Delaware 4-H, which has numerous clubs and projects all over Delaware, sponsored the trip.

"The teens were interviewed by a panel of 4-H staff members and chosen based on their project involvement, community service work and leadership, said Jill Jackson, University of Delaware extension educator and chaperone for the trip.

Sussex County 4-H'ers who made the trip were Jackie Arpie, Maggie Durig,  Angela Lagano and Travis Waller.

“I really enjoyed the workshops, specifically one on diversity,” said Angela Lagano. “It showed us what we think when we first see a person, and it showed the stereotypes we can have.”

Lagano, a Sussex Tech student from Gumboro, fell into 4-H because, as the youngest in her family, she often tagged along with older siblings to 4-H events.

“Now it’s like my second family,” she said.

Lagano, a young robotics enthusiast, has been on the robotics team through 4-H for nearly four years.

A junior at Sussex Tech, the 16-year-old said joining 4-H has helped her improve her confidence and leadership skills.

Generally quiet about her sewing ability, Lagano has begun to share her skills by teaching younger children about sewing. This year as a day-camp counselor, Lagano taught a group of kids to sew pants.

Sussex Tech student Travis Waller of Georgetown, said the conference really inspired him to work harder.

"I took a lot away from the inspirational speakers," Waller said. "The message was to set your goals high and strive to complete every goal.

Waller, who is also a member of the 4-H robotics team, took up archery as a hobby several years ago. His projects on archery, robotics and woodworking earned him a spot at the conference.

“I learned about archery through 4-H and use it now to hunt,” said the freshman at University of Delaware of the life skills taught by the Delaware club.

As an elementary education major, Waller said he will use many skills learned in 4-H in his future career.

“Knowing about robotics and technology will help. It’s a good thing to know,” Waller said. Waller also expanded his organizational skills by starting a 4-H bowling club, which meets in Millsboro and is always looking for new members, he said.

Maggie Durig, a Sussex Tech graduate from Seaford, is also a UD freshman in the elementary education degree program. She said 4-H ignited her passion for photography, and she has displayed her work at the state fair.

“This year, I entered 15 photographs and won eight ribbons,” Durig said. “I love doing landscapes and waterscapes, and I am working on getting better at photographing people and animals.”

Jackie Arpie, 18, a senior at Sussex Tech, completed two projects this year - food and nutrition and photography.

Arpie moved to Millsboro with her parents several years ago.

“I heard how much fun 4-H was and joined,” Arpie said. “I’ve made lots of lifelong friends.”

Arpie’s chocolate torte has won first place at the Delaware State Fair baking contest two years in a row, which Arpie says helped her be selected to attend the conference.

Arpie plans to attend University of Delaware to study healthcare. “4-H has taught me public-speaking skills, communication and how to work with children,” Arpie said.

Arpie has served as a 4-H day-camp counselor, teaching many children about cooking.

“My time with the camps has improved my care-taking skills and leadership,” she said.

Each year 4-H clubs add new programs and camps to enrich the lives of children and young adults ages 5 to 19. For more than 100 years, 4-H has focused on agriculture, but today it has also expanded to embrace life skills, citizenship, leadership, healthy lifestyles, the arts, and science and technology.

Local 4-H clubs meet at a leader's home, churches and community centers. Clubs are determined by the town a student lives in, and more than 20 clubs exist in Sussex County. In addition 4-H also has after-school programs in Sussex.

Cape Region clubs include Hollymount for students in the Lewes, Milton and Rehoboth area; Harbor Lights for those in the Lincoln and northern Milton areas; and Burton Village, which hosts 4-H after-school programs.

For more information on Sussex 4-H or to find a local club, call Tammy at 302-856-2585 Ext. 544 or go to

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