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Senior 4-H members explore career opportunities at state leadership retreat

What are you going to do when you grow up?


People walking past plants
4-H members tour Los Poblanos Farm during the senior leadership retreat career exploration in Albuquerque Jan. 19. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)
Youth looking at machine
: 4-H members see how shipments of lavender are labeled during a tour at Los Poblanos Farm in Albuquerque, Jan. 19. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)
Alpacas in foreground
4-H members tour Los Poblanos Farm watching and taking photos of the alpacas at the farm in in Albuquerque, Jan. 19. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

This question is asked thousands of times to high school students. Learning what career options are available and what a career path would look like is a task that youths explore many times on their own.

Each January more than a hundred youths from across New Mexico meet for a weekend of workshops to develop their leadership skills at the 4-H Senior Leadership Retreat.

The New Mexico 4-H Youth Development program at New Mexico State University has expanded this retreat to include introducing 4-H members, ages 14-18, to a wide variety of careers.

“We have established a three-year rotation of career exploration,” said Stephen Beck, NMSU 4-H Youth Development department head. “We hope this inspires the youth to plan for their future and to be the best that they can be whatever their career path.”

Exploration began at the 2018 retreat held on NMSU’s campus in Las Cruces. Hands-on workshops were conducted by every College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences academic department. The 4-H members got to experience many aspects of careers in these areas.

“It was very successful,” Beck said. “The youth, 4-H leaders and faculty all enjoyed the experiences they had in the workshops.”

This January, the retreat was held in Albuquerque where the 289 youths selected tours to visit different businesses and industries to learn about possible careers.

“We had eight buses and four vans in the morning and afternoon taking the youth to a wide variety of businesses,” Beck said.

Tours were given at the Albuquerque Zoo and Bio Park, New Mexico Diagnostic Lab, National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, PGI Metal Works, Labatt Food Service, Mechenbier Farm, Los Poblanos Historic Farm, South Valley Economic Development Center, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, Explora! Children’s Museum, Central New Mexico Community College and media resources in the area.

When the youth were not on a tour they participated in workshops on careers in such areas as state departments of forestry, game and fish, and energy, minerals and natural resources; emergency preparedness center and volunteer opportunities; forensic science; acting; community engagement; hospitality industry; and family and consumer sciences.

Obtaining information about a career might strengthen the youth’s conviction to obtain that goal, or it might not.

“You never know what will trigger a youth to choose a career path. We hope they walk away from this conference with things to think about,” Beck said. “Even if it is realizing they don’t want to do something they had been thinking about.”

The final phase of the career preparation will be in January 2020 when the youth attending the retreat will participate in workshops that will prepare them for entering the workforce.

“We plan to have workshops on resume writing, and skill development in interviewing for a job and public speaking,” Beck said. “Hopefully these workshops will help them get started on their career path.”