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Clear Spring teen chosen to plan 4-H Congress

February 13, 2002

Clear Spring teen chosen to plan 4-H Congress



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY
andreabh@herald-mail.com


CLEAR SPRING - Clear Spring High School senior Courtney Smith's creativity and 4-H accomplishments earned her the opportunity to help plan the next 4-H National Congress in Atlanta.

Courtney, 17, was one of seven 4-H participants nationwide - and the only Maryland resident - chosen for the 2002 National 4-H Congress Design Team. She spent Feb. 1 to 3 in Atlanta planning the next five-day conference for 4-H delegates from across the country.

A selection committee chose Courtney after members reviewed her extensive resume, read her essay about leadership and watched her sing, dance and promote her home state on an application video, she said.

The judges were looking for uniqueness, Courtney said, and she delivered.

She performed a playful song she wrote about her ambition to serve on the Design Team and an Irish dance she learned at the 2001 4-H National Congress in November.

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Courtney caught the football, basketball and baseball tossed to her by her off-camera mother, Paula Smith, to illustrate the teenager's pride in her state's Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens football team, Final Four competitor Maryland Terrapins basketball team and newly retired Baltimore Orioles baseball star Cal Ripken.

It worked. The selection team saw in Courtney the potential long recognized by the Maryland 4-H Foundation, Executive Director Robert Cooper said.

"Courtney's just wonderful. We love her," he said.

Her nine years with 4-H have shaped Courtney into an articulate leader.

"It's basically made me into the person I am," she said.

Courtney is more comfortable talking in front of her classmates and other groups such as college admissions directors since becoming involved with the public speaking program through 4-H, she said.

Her work with the 4-H Junior Leadership Project and her subsequent duties as a 4-H ambassador, counselor at the Washington County 4-H resident camp and member of the Junior Fair Board have fashioned Courtney into a person who likes to take charge, she said.

Courtney is a member of her student council, an officer in her school's History Club, and a member of Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She plays tennis and soccer.

Her writing has improved because of the journals she keeps to track her dairy and poultry projects for 4-H, Courtney said.

The record book, resume and essay - "How 4-H Influences the Decisions I Make" - she submitted as part of her project at last year's Ag Expo caught the attention of county and state 4-H leaders. Courtney, the Ag Expo Queen for 2000-01, then aced three interviews with state 4-H leaders and was among 23 Maryland delegates selected to attend the 2001 National Congress in November.

"It was great," she said. "I met so many people from across the country and Puerto Rico."

More than 1,000 4-H delegates attended the 80th National Congress at the Atlanta Hyatt Regency hotel. The Maryland 4-H Foundation paid the estimated $1,000 trip cost for each state participant, Cooper said.

Courtney enjoyed every aspect of the experience, she said.

During her first night in Atlanta she saw a magic show and met other 4-H delegates, exchanging Maryland pins for such souvenirs as peanuts from Georgia, buckeyes from Ohio and Mardi Gras beads from Louisiana.

"I had beads and pins and stuff all over my shirt that night. It was crazy," Courtney said.

She visited Centennial Olympic Park and the World of Coca-Cola interactive museum, met Miss America Katie Harmon and took dance and magic lessons. Courtney especially liked the conference's international dinner, which featured foods and decorations from all over the world, she said.

The fourth day of the conference featured forums to discuss such issues as urbanization versus agriculture, Courtney said.

"If you didn't have farmers, you wouldn't have food on the table. Pretty much everyone agreed, even the kids from inner cities. There wasn't much of a debate."

Congress participants also served as volunteer helpers at Art of the Season, an annual fund-raiser for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. And they donated more than 1,300 children's books to patients in the Scottish Rite Children's Medical Center in Atlanta.

On the final day of the conference, delegates took the Power of Youth pledge, promising to volunteer in their local communities. Courtney pledged to serve at least 100 hours as a student tutor and camp counselor.

She relishes the rare opportunity to return to the National Congress, which bars repeat delegates, as part of the 2002 Design Team, she said.

"That's a great perk," Courtney said.

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