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When the National 4-H Center was dedicated in 1959, two of the major objectives of the new facility was to provide on site 4-H opportunities for new and expanded programmatic emphasis in the areas of international and citizenship/leadership education.

Traditionally, experiencing one of the citizenship program events at the National 4-H Center has empowered young people and other participants to return home as better-informed citizens ready to become more actively engaged in their communities and beyond. Over the past 50 years 10's of thousands have come to the 4-H Center for these educational Citizenship events.

This history provides a background on most of these offerings -- some citizenship events which may have lasted only for a couple of years; others lasted decades, and some are ongoing today.

An important part of this history involves the dedicated staff of program assistants (PAs) who have annually come to the 4-H Center to plan and conduct these programs, working with the permanent staff of National 4-H Council; and prior to that, the National 4-H Club Foundation.

The 1950's was a key decade for the establishment of the concept of providing youth with citizenship training. At the forefront of this was Glenn Dildine who joined the staff of the National 4-H Club Foundation in 1952. Prior to that he had been on the faculty of the University of Maryland working with Extension agents in providing human relations training... a new concept for most agents. After his move to the Foundation, Dildine continued to play a major role in human development workshops, but his primary responsibility was to coordinate a long-term study of the needs of youth. The goal of the investigation was to develop a citizenship education program for 4-H members. Dildine and his staff saw a close relationship between the citizenship program development and the continued development of human relations training for 4-H agents.

In 1953 the National 4-H Club Foundation secured a grant from the Schwarzhaupt Foundation for a citizenship improvement study. According to the 4-H history, "4-H: An American Idea 1900-1980" by Thomas and Marilyn Wessel, Dildine insisted that "work in citizenship is inseparably related to the basic purpose of the Human Development-Human Relations work." He was willing to act as the coordinator of both programs because "it provided a chance to maintain many activities already underway, and also because the Citizenship Improvement Study promised to provide an ideal way to focus in depth on the basic purpose of the Human Development-Human Relations program." By 1956 the project had produced a series of publications for Extension use. Action studies, as Dildine called them, were conducted primarily with the 4-H Foundation's New England pilot project and with a citizenship project in Texas. Dildine and his staff worked closely with Texas Extension leaders to help agents to better understand themselves and the people with whom they worked. Dildine also helped Negro Extension staff in Texas develop district 4-H councils, improve Negro project records, establish a state 4-H camp in "terms of its educational purposes," and evaluate the effectiveness of new programs.

In early discussions about the citizenship improvement study, the technical staff determined that the definition "should be broad enough to include varied pictures of a good citizen in our democracy. There were two reasons for this: 1) realistically, citizenship meant many things to different people in Extension work; 2) personal growth and behavior are whole-all phases are inseparably lined within 'self', each influencing the others. Such a definition certainly threatened no one's idea of citizenship but it also provided very little guidance. Most conspicuously absent in the citizenship definition that emerged from the Dildine study was any reference to the vexing problem of a citizen who finds ways to become well informed and then must choose among competing solutions to problems. In a democracy, such a process inevitably leads to disagreements and frequently to controversy.

Nevertheless, the citizenship study had not been in vain. Training in citizenship and human relations became an important part of the 4-H program in the 1960's. One example was the Citizenship Short Course which had its origin in the needs of a local county 4-H club. In 1959 two clubs from Iowa asked permission to use the National 4-H Center and the 4-H Foundation staff to conduct a citizenship course. The Foundation readily agreed and that summer 42 4-H'ers from Buchanan County, Iowa, participated in the courses. Later in the summer a similar program involved a group of 4-H'ers from Marshall County, Kentucky. In September the Foundation sent a copy of the Iowa program and a questionnaire to state 4-H leaders. With a positive response from 39 states, the National 4-H Club Foundation recommended that each state be informed of the availability of the facilities and staff to help Extension groups conduct citizenship courses. Trustees of the Foundation unanimously approved the recommendation and referred the idea to the Extension 4-H subcommittee, which gave its approval in February of 1960. The Citizenship Short Course (now known as Citizenship Washington Focus) - a success from its beginning - gave thousands of 4-H'ers their first look at the National 4-H Center.


For more than 50 years , thousands of high school-aged youth from all across the country have traveled to Washington, D.C. each summer to partake in the preeminent citizenship and leadership experience - Citizenship Washington Focus. Washington, D.C. becomes their living classroom, learning about the history of our nation, the leaders who have shaped it and their role in civic affairs both nationally and locally. CWF is not just another D.C. field trip... participants learn essential civic leadership skills and leave with the tools that will allow them to bring about real change in their communities. It is the only national citizenship and leadership program offered exclusively to 4-H members.

This dynamic, action-oriented program has traditionally encouraged 4-H members to use their nation's capital as a laboratory for real-life study of citizenship. Workshops, debates, discussions and presentations at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center are complemented by field trips involving officials from the public and private sectors and visits to historical and cultural sites that instill greater pride and understanding of our democratic system and rich heritage. During a day on Capitol Hill, delegates meet with senators and congressmen from their home states and see government in action.

The 1990 summary of the program states: "Citizenship Washington Focus is a citizenship education program for 15- to 19-year old 4-H members. This unique learning experience helps delegates identify their roles and responsibilities as citizens. The program highlights current issues, giving each delegate the opportunity not only to "Take a Stand" on an issue, but also to explore the how's and why's through workshops, government agency visits and keynote addresses, and then to tie it all together into a plan for back home citizenship action. While delegates are in Washington, they have a chance to broaden their understanding of our nation's history, see first-hand our government in action and use the resources of the nation's capital as a foundation for their personal citizenship action back home. CWF gives delegates the chance to make 4-H friends from across the nation, have personal influence on the program's success, see the sights and sounds of our capital city and take home the motivation which will turn today's teens into tomorrow's leaders."

CWF officially started in 1960 as the 4-H Citizenship Short Course. In 1961, a year after the first formal short courses, the National 4-H Conference of Extension personnel from national and state offices devoted considerable time to studying and planning for future citizenship education. The conference broadened the Dildine idea of citizenship. Along with developing programs for citizenship in "face-to-face relations with others," the conference addressed the problems of citizenship in community affairs, citizenship in governmental relations and citizenship in international affairs. Ultimately, the conference produced a working outline for developing citizenship education at the local level. The outline proposed a series of steps and questions that urged participants to know their community, to understand their state and federal government, to become informed, and to work in community projects involving safety, recreation, school financing, voter registration and local job opportunities. Although not abandoned in the outlines, human relations became supplementary to the principal objective of stimulating young people to become aware and involved in the social and political community in which they lived. To further support local 4-H leaders, Extension and the National 4-H Club Foundation secured a grant from Reader's Digest in 1963 that helped establish a special citizenship laboratory at the National 4-H Center in the summer months. The 1963 grant also provided Citizenship in Action grants awarded on a competitive basis to local 4-H groups, encouraging the local groups to also seek local funding.

In 1969 the cost for the CWF program event was $60.30 for registration, room and meals at the National 4-H Center, not including transportation for field trips, one meal away from the Center and tour admissions. Reservations were made through the State 4-H Office.

The Summer 1984 National 4-H Council Quarterly reported that nearly 5,000 4-H teenagers from 44 states participated in the Citizenship Washington Focus program during the summer months at the National 4-H Center. A new component of the program that year was a pilot computer project in which 4-H'ers experimented with a soil erosion problem in agriculture as it related to public policy. The 4-H'ers also discussed a film on soil conservation. The 15 personal computers were provided by ValCom, Valley, Nebraska, with computer software in soil conservation developed through a grant from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Des Moines, Iowa. Since 1984 was a presidential election year, emphasis also was placed on the use of voting machines and voting responsibilities. Each week, delegates participated in mock Republican and Democratic conventions and voted in a presidential election. The AMVETS organization provided silk flags to every CWF participant and flag lapel pins to all delegates voting in the mock presidential election. During the year, AMVETS provides more than 10,000 flags to participants in National 4-H Center programs, including leader forums and International groups.

The 1971 National 4-H Club Foundation Program Guide describes the 4-H Citizenship Short Course this way: "Through this valuable week in Washington, 4-H'ers gain insight and acquire skills that help them become concerned, responsible members of society. In addition to personal growth, each participant brings creativity and vitality to local citizenship programs. The Nation's Capital becomes the classroom as young people learn about the society and its government first-hand. Each course begins Sunday afternoon and ends the following Saturday morning. Fifteen week-long sessions beginning June 6 and ending August 28 with special spring and fall dates also available on request. The cost is about $65 for tuition, room and meals at the National 4-H Center not including field trip transportation, one meal away from the Center, and the trip to Washington, D.C.. Young men and women from 15 to 19 year are eligible. Make requests to your state 4-H office for forwarding to the 4-H Foundation by November 10."

For a number of years Ruritan National partnered with National 4-H Council in supporting the Citizenship Washington Focus program. The Ruritan National board of Directors endorsed CWF as a program with objectives and commitments to community service that parallel those of Ruritan and the national office encouraged their member clubs to sponsor delegates to the program each year.

The Citizenship professional staff, particularly Gwen El Sawi and Marsha Midgley, worked diligently to provide the participants with enhanced experiential learning. Whenever possible, field trips into Washington, D.C. and the CWF workshops back at the Center were coordinated, using simulation/gams as one of the primary methods of teaching basic concepts. "How a Bill Becomes a Law," and "Dotville City Council" are two examples. Participants wrote grants for funding related to the issue-related field trip (for example, a trip to the Department of Agriculture may have been coupled with drafting a grant for urban gardening. "Global Village" may have been coupled with visits to embassies or federal agencies with international responsibilities, guiding the participants in comparing food supply/use and energy consumption to regions of the world, etc. Another important aspect of CWF for many years was the use of voting machines. This was primarily during the days of the old flip-lever voting machines and they were prepared with questions that were surveying delegates' opinions on various issues. Thus, the teens learned how to use a voting machine, and the real results were tabulated and distributed to them near the end of the week in a weekly newsletter prepared by a communications team of delegates.

As former staff member Gwen El Sawi explains, "The whole idea was to create fun learning experiences that would be memorable, engaging, as well as connect field trips to "learning" that was "doing" oriented."

"I'll be glad to…" It is difficult to describe CWF without a mention of Miss Dorothy Emerson. Dot Emerson - retired from Extension at the age of 68 after spending 40 years on Extension staffs - was a staff member of the National 4-H Club Foundation and consultant for citizenship and leadership programs at the Center for many years for National 4-H Council, up into the 1980s. She was from an entirely different generation than the CWF participants but they quickly learned they could relate with Dot, week after week as new groups arrived for training. Janet Russell, a delegate from Missouri in 1978, said "On Sunday night Miss Dot Emerson gave us all a very interesting program on the subject of overcoming fear when speaking before a group. Sunday was her 85th birthday. She likes to see the audience interested in her programs and willing to participate. She really enjoys her work… and, we enjoyed her program!"

The first night - Sunday evening - has traditionally been a time for a "Night View of Washington." This has always been a highlight. Many people who are showing first time visitors around our Nation's Capital feel that seeing it at night is truly magical. The national monuments, White House, the Capitol dome, Embassy Row… it is a great way to start off the week.

Talent shows. Although having many different names over the years, the idea of having a delegate talent show, of sorts, one night during the week has almost always been a part of Citizenship Washington Focus, continuing even today with singers, dancers, skits and even comedians.

Briefly, some of the highlights and statistics of the 2014 Citizenship Washington Focus program as related by Maria McNeely, CWF coordinator: In 2014, a total of 1,378 delegates representing 41 states and tribal reservations participated in the program. During the weeks the delegates attended over 200 meetings with members of Congress in which the 4-H members shared the 4-H vision and showcased their interest in being civically engaged. 48 bills were written, edited, and presented by delegates for Congressional Sessions.(The delegates learned first-hand just how difficult it is for Congress to come to a consensus!) iPads, graciously donated by Farm Credit Services, were used for taking photos and engaging on social media. Delegates created a slideshow each week with the photos they were able to capture! Visits to memorials, landmarks, and museums provided living experiences relating to outstanding leaders memorialized in the Washington area. Photos tagged on Instagram was a huge part of the summer, encouraging delegates to share their experience on social media platforms.


This government study program gave teens firsthand knowledge of the process of federal government plus in depth insights into the cultural arts, political science, international affairs, and other topics. Using the Washington area as a classroom, the field trips, discussions and other aspects of the program were adapted to meet specific needs and interests of teachers, leaders and teens participating. National 4-H Council provided a complete handbook to program coordinators to help orient the participants. The program was intended to supplement social and political science and citizenship programs in schools and communities. It had great potential for 4-H leadership to involve more teens in citizenship activities and thus strengthen understanding and cooperation with 4-H at the local level.

The program was geared to 4-H groups, high school classes, and other youth groups. Two, three and six day programs were offered at any time of the year when space was available at the National 4-H Center.

In the 1972 Program Guide of the National 4-H Club Foundation, this program was titled "Government Study Courses" and by 1974 was termed "Government Seminars."


A program basically offered at times other than when Citizenship Washington Focus was being offered, meaning between mid-August through early June. It is still a later version of Washington Focus. The 1990 National 4-H Council Summary of Programs and Services describes Wonders of Washington as "an experiential program developed primarily for school groups, it also serves 4-H and other youth groups. Government, history and civics come alive through educational field trips to sites like Smithsonian Institution, The White House, FBI, monuments and through observing Congress in session on Capitol Hill. Trained staff accompany your group. The flexible three, four or five night program allows groups of 25 or more to adapt the schedule to their unique educational needs. One adult per group receives a complimentary program package for a five-night or longer stay."


In the late 1960's and 1970's a Citizenship Short Course for High School Students was offered by the National 4-H Club Foundation at the National 4-H Center. It was open to 11th and 12th grade level students enrolled in high school social science classes with enrollment made through State 4-H Offices. Extension personnel helped promote the program to their local school authorities.

The 7-day event, usually held in February, included educational sessions on citizenship, field trips and emphasis on current issues, as well as housing and meals. The 1971 Program Guide indicates that this event was offered twice - January 31-February 6 and November 7-13.

The 1969 Foundation Program Guide states that the cost was $60.30 per person for registration, room and meals at the National 4-H Center . Added expenses of one meal at the Capitol, group pictures and admission fees will run about $7.00.

This program probably evolved into what became Washington Focus.


An additional, separate program offer in 1969 was called Citizenship Short Course for Older Youth. Through this program event, young adults could become more effective leaders in their own organizations. A free exchange of ideas stimulated by top ranking speakers and a visit to Capitol Hill were a few of the things included in the week's activities. It was offered for one week in February and open to all young people 18-25 years old, individuals as well as organizational representatives. The cost was $55.50 per person for registration, room and meals at the 4-H Center for the 7-day event. Additional expenses would include transportation and meals on field trips. This program continued to be offer under this name for several years however by the mid-1970's no longer appears in the Foundation's offerings.


This special citizenship program event focused on the free enterprise system, business in action, job and career options and skills for seeking employment. Field trips to headquarters of business and government agencies and to Capitol Hill were related to workshop discussions on contemporary topics. Because seminars were held concurrently with Citizenship-Washington Focus, participants shared views and outlooks with young people from throughout the nation.

The week-long event was held at the National 4-H Center during selected summer months during the early 1980's. The primary objective was to help meet the needs and interests of young people in using their 4-H experiences to focus on career and job expectations and to enhance understanding of the free enterprise system and the world of work.

The 1969, 1970 and 1971 National 4-H Club Foundation Program Guides list an Economics in Action Short Course emphasizing basic concepts of economics and steps in analyzing economic questions as part of their Citizenship Education event offerings. The program was held at the Nebraska Center in Lincoln. Participants came as teams of older 4-H members with adult advisers. The event was held in July. Whether the later Economics, Jobs and Careers Seminars was a "spin-off" from this earlier short course is not known.


In 1971 the National 4-H Club Foundation announced an "experimental opportunity in citizenship education" available for individual groups.

Called the American Heritage Expedition, the program event was a combination home study and field trip experience unique short-term approach to citizenship. Upon enrollment each group received a programmed learning series with leader's manual and slide set. Groups set their own time schedules, but the home study series required four group meetings of about 30 minutes each prior to the Washington tour.

The Expedition itself built on the home study course with a 3-day trip to the Nation's Capital. Weekends and holidays were the suggested ideal times. Groups stayed at the National 4-H Center and spent their days living the things they had already learned. Hence, they began to see today's world in historical perspective.

The 4-H Foundation staff consults with each group on using the home study series and on planning the field trips to Washington. Tuition, meals and room at the Center were approximately $12 per person - per day. The programmed learning series and field trip costs were based on group size. Groups of varying sizes could be accommodated on the expedition. There should be one adult leader for approximately every 20 youngsters. The experience was designed for 12 to 16 year olds.

By 1978, this event was known as "Washington Weekend" - a 3-day experience for youth to see their nation's capital and learn more about their heritage and citizenship responsibilities. Weekend programs were Friday to Sunday and offered on 22 specific weekends during the year. The cost, including meals, lodging and field trip transportation, ranged from $70 to $85. Reservations were made directly through Citizenship Programs, National 4-H Council.


In 1963 the National 4-H Club Foundation announced the first special 4-H Laboratory in Citizenship Education at the National 4-H Center. The 2-week laboratory was conducted from July 21-August 2 of that year by the National 4-H Club Foundation under a grant of the Reader's Digest Foundation of Pleasantville, New York.

Teams of four 4-H Club members and one adult, all from the same county, were selected representing 10 states: Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia. Having the teams all from the same county allowed them to work together in developing citizenship education programs in their home counties and states. The minimum age for participating was 16.

Dr. Charles Freeman, Program Leader in Citizenship and Leadership Education at the 4-H Foundation directed the two-week course. The new program included lectures, group discussions, field trips throughout the Nation's Capital to places of importance for citizenship understanding, and living and working together as a democratic group with various responsibilities for the program. The major topics included the meaning of citizenship, nature of freedom, present-day threats to freedom, people-to-people programs for international understanding, program planning in citizenship, and roles of 4-H junior leaders, adult leaders, and Extension staff in citizenship.

A grant from Reader's Digest Foundation helped 4-H take citizenship training out of the classroom and into the community. Beginning in 1963 the 4-H Foundation provided Citizenship in action grants awarded on a competitive basis to local 4-H groups. The awards, ranging from $50 to $500, encouraged the local group to also seek local funding. The projects had to be meaningful and realistic and not just a service activity. The ultimate goal of the grants was to allow 4-H'ers to exercise their social responsibility and in that way combine their citizenship training with useful projects in their communities. The Citizenship in Action grants stimulated local 4-H groups to involve their community and themselves in citizenship responsibilities.

Keynote speaker for the first Citizenship Laboratory was Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, discussing "Goals for America," where he challenged the young people and their leaders to the responsibilities of citizenship locally, nationally and internationally. He urged 4-H members to "dedicate themselves to the ideas that have brought this country to a position of greatness in the world. Directing their attention to Mount Rushmore Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota, McGovern pointed to the four American presidents honored there and why they are so honored.

Later called the 4-H Citizenship Education Laboratory, this program continued for several years. It is unknown when it ended.


The Know America study experience was for Extension Homemakers, conducted by National 4-H Council in cooperation with the National Extension Homemakers Council Inc. in behalf of the Cooperative Extension Service. The programs of the event included field trips and discussion sessions designed to meet group interests in citizenship, international understanding and cultural arts. Although designed primarily for Extension Homemakers, the program also was easily adaptable for other adult groups such as church, farm, senior citizen and civic groups. The six day event was specifically offered in both the spring and fall, as well as other times when space at the National 4-H Center was available.

Usually groups visited the United States Capitol to observe our legislative branch of government; studied our Constitution at its permanent home, the National Archives; and honored the memory of countless American heroes at Arlington National Cemetery. Groups discussed current critical issues with leaders of government and national organizations. They witnessed congressional hearings and met members of Congress. There also was a strong international component as participants explored the cultures and policies of other countries through embassy briefings, examined foreign policy with experts from the Department of State and international organizations, and sampled ethnic foods in the restaurants of Washington's international community. Culturally, Know America groups explored the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, visited the Washington Cathedral and usually spent a memorable evening at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, our national cultural center. In addition, if individual groups had special interests, an attempt would be made to build experiences into the program to accommodate those interests.

During the 1960's and early '70s this program was called Citizenship Seminars for Homemakers however by 1977 it was known as Know America. The promotional materials for Know America for 1978 indicates a per person cost of $145 (group of 25 or more) which includes breakfast and dinner Monday evening through Saturday morning; lodging Monday through Friday nights in twin bedrooms with bath. Not included are lunches, transportation costs and optional evening entertainment. The cost by 1989 had increased to $319 per person for basically the same package.


4-H and Extension families were encouraged to use the National 4-H Center as their home away from home to explore th vast resources of the nation's capital. National 4-H Council provided program materials to help make their visit to historical governmental and cultural sites more meaningful. All 4-H and Extension families were welcome to participate.

The program, which was designed to give 4-H and Extension families a unique and memorable learning experience at a modest cost, was offered at any time during the year when space was available at the Center.


This special event took advantage of the unique visual and performing arts available in the nation's capital during the December holiday season. Offered to young people 16 years of age or older, to volunteer leaders and other adults, the event stressed an appreciation for the arts and the strengthening of leadership skills for "back home" 4-H creative arts programs. The six day program usually ran from December 27 to January 1.

Visits to art galleries, international restaurants, the Library of Congress and U.S. Capitol, plus attendance at performances of music, dance and drama were combined with workshop sessions at the National 4-H Center.

It is believed that the program started in the mid-1970's and was then known as the "Holiday Humanities Program." The 1977 8-day program, which started on December 26 and ended on January 2, 1978, cost about $175 per person including most meals, lodging, tickets to special events, and field trip experiences.


Citizenship-World Focus was designed as an opportunity to help youth and adults explore citizenship in a global context. The intensive seminar included examination of American foreign policy, and discussions of issues with officials of the State Department, World Bank, embassies and other international groups. A visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York City was offered as an optional addition to the program.

The Citizenship-World Focus event created greater understanding and perception of world affairs and their impact on our daily lives. The experience inspired participants to add an international dimension to 4-H educational programs in local communities.

The six or seven day event was normally offered three or four weeks during the year. A wide range of individuals were invited to participate - 4-H members, volunteer leaders, families, alumni, 4-H International Exchange alumni, Extension staff, Extension Homemakers, and Extension related school, church and civic groups.


The Citizenship programs offered through the National 4-H Club Foundation and National 4-H Council over the past decades have sometimes changed in names, and perhaps even in focus and in target audiences, however they remain the same in other ways. There were several overriding themes. First, the days were full… and so were the nights. There was little time allotted for "free time" or "time on your own." When the program came to a close at the end of a week, no matter if it had been for three days, four days, five days, six days… or more, few people ever said that they did not get their money's worth! If participants were here for six days or a week, they probably "saw" Washington better than any other tourist. But, additionally, their planned programs, individually tailored to their specific group, were "meaty." They were planned out and conducted by truly professional programmers, be they Council staff or PAs. And, having the luxury of a great educational conference center was by no means a small part of all of this success.

Traditionally, for most - if not all - of the programs, the Media Services Department in Council's Communications Division, coordinated by Margo Tyler, during much of the 1970s and 80s prepared take-home fill-in-the-blank releases so the participants could share these with their back-home local media.

Over the years there were dozens of partners who helped make the citizenship programs meaningful, productive and inspirational. Many of these partners and cooperators have been friends of National 4-H Council for years. It is difficult to create a total listing, however based on no uncertain order here is a listing of some of these friends:

  • National Archives
  • Arlington National Cemetery
  • United States Capitol
  • The White House
  • Washington Cathedral
  • Mount Vernon Ladies Society
  • Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • Friends of the Kennedy Center
  • Washington Convention and Visitors Association
  • The President's Advisory Committee on the Arts
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • Other federal departments and agencies
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • National Zoological Park
  • Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima)
  • National Park Service
  • Christ Church, Alexandria
  • Ford's Theatre
  • Library of Congress
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Wolf Trap National Park
  • The Navy Yard
  • National Agricultural Library
  • Bureau of Printing and Engraving
  • D.A.R. Museum
  • Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and other memorials
  • Various Washington-based foreign embassies
  • AMVETS National Service Foundation

National 4-H Council (earlier National 4-H Club Foundation) has received numerous awards from area 4-H partners through the years relating to the strong citizenship programs being offered at the National 4-H Center. Perhaps one of the earliest ones was a 1962 citation from the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge. The citation stated, "Operating on a premise of 'faith in God and the democratic ideals of our Republic' this organization in 1962 added to its already stimulating programs serving rural youth, a series of week-long Citizenship Short Courses to provide citizenship training and leadership development." Dr. Kenneth D. Wells, President of Freedoms Foundation, presented the encased George Washington Honor Medal to Grant A. Shrum, Director of the National 4-H Club Foundation and Mylo S. Downey, Director of 4-H and Youth Development, FES-USDA and a Trustee of the 4-H Foundation.


While all of the above programs are (were) planned and conducted at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, there is one additional citizenship program that should be mentioned here. This is the National 4-H Citizenship Awards and Recognition Program conducted by National 4-H Council and earlier by one of its predecessor organizations, National 4-H Service Committee (earlier National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work). This Citizenship program is older than any of the above programs.

Citizenship became a National 4-H Awards Program for the first time in 1948, funded through a trust fund established by business friends of Thomas E. Wilson and named "In Honor of Mr. Thomas E. Wilson." Thomas E. Wilson, president of the meat packing firm, Wilson & Co, was a long time president of the board of the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work and a major donor and supporter of 4-H for nearly 40 years. The Citizenship Program consisted of two scholarships of $300 each, presented to the top boy and girl in the Citizenship Awards Program. Later on, in 1961, these two top citizenship winners, along with the top two winners in achievement and in leadership, became known as "Presidential winners" and each of the six received a silver tray given in the name of the President of the United States.

In later years, the Citizenship Awards Program was sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, however the Presidential winners component was transferred to The Presidential Awards Program and all of the national Citizenship winners were eligible in the Presidential awards competition. National 4-H Awards Programs were discontinued by National 4-H Council in 1994.


Citizenship in Action, sponsored by the Reader's Digest Foundation since 1965, up until the early 1990s, provided a unique opportunity for 4-H members to develop and carry out projects to benefit their own communities. Conducted by National 4-H Council on behalf of the Cooperative Extension Service of the State Land-Grant Universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program provided seed money grants for young people to initiate specific programs. Emphasis was placed on creative approaches which would bring the unique educational resources of 4-H to bear on vital community issues. Grants ranged from $50 to $500. and were intended to supplement local funds for the designated project. The number of grants issued varied from year to year. For example in 1976 there were 16 clubs in seven states which received Citizenship in action grants. During 1977, 33 clubs in nine states received the grants.


Traditionally, Program Assistants (PAs) have played a major role in the planning and conduct of national citizenship programs offered through the National 4-H Foundation and National 4-H Council through the years.

Announcements distributed by the National 4-H Foundation during the 1960s explain the requirements as follows: These program assistants are former 4-H members between their junior and senior year in college who have experience and skills in working with people; should have talent in music, recreation, leading discussions or speaking; a working knowledge of 4-H and the Extension Service; be in good physical condition; and be available for employment from May 29 through September 3. A salary of $300 per month plus free room at the 4-H Center is provided by the 4-H Foundation. Training by the Foundation includes leading activities, guiding field trips, and assisting with assemblies, discussions, and the general organization of the weekly programs.

Some of the PAs were sponsored by companies or associations and that particular PA often specialized in a selected topic of importance or interest to the sponsoring donor. This topic or theme would become an integral part of the CWF programming. Economics, Jobs and Careers is one area, for example. These specially funded PAs were also referred to as "fellows." Some of those sponsoring PA fellowships included: The American Optometric Association; Auxiliary to the American Optometric Association; Dr. Scholl Foundation; Farmland Industries; Gulf Oil Corporation; Hallmark Cards Incorporated; Potlatch Corporation; Sun Company Inc.; Sterling Drug, Inc.; Chicago Board of Trade; Dresser Industries, Inc.; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Beatrice Grocery Group/Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn; Bethesda/Chevy chase Rotary Club; Checks Direct Inc.; CIGNA; Dorothy Emerson Commemorative Fund; Valu-Pon Inc.; Cy DeCoss, Inc.; Conoco, Inc.; Getty Oil Company; and Thomas J. Lipton Foundation, Inc.

The following paper, written over 20 years ago by a Program Assistant relays some of the history of the PA program and the expectations of being a PA.

Challenges and Contributions:

A History of Program Assistants at the National 4-H Center
by Cynthia L. Bauerly, Program Assistant Spring 1994

"The position is wrought with frustration and wrought with rewards. In the end, the rewards definitely outweigh the frustrations." - Gwen El Sawi, Program Assistant Trainer and Supervisor, 1974-1987

Program Assistants (PAs) at the National 4-H Center have a bond of common experience, shared memories and archives of stories. In order to completely understand the complexity of the frustrations and the potency of the rewards, one must have been a PA. Anyone who has passed out box breakfasts on Constitution Avenue or successfully escorted 40 teenagers through the Metro system at rush hour understands. It's not a job. It's an adventure from the early morning alarm clock until the last prank phone call late at night. It's long days: the Capitol, the White House, Arlington, Smithsonian, Ford's Theater, monuments, Old Post Office Pavilion. And it's longer nights: Nightview, dinner theaters, Action on the Hill, You'll Be Surprised, dances, assemblies. A PA's best asset is the ability to forecast the unimaginable. At the very least, one must face program changes with a smile convincing enough for a group leader and an option entertaining enough for a bus full. At best, a PA must be a facilitator, teacher, tour guide, resource, world-class athlete and counselor.

The history of the Program Assistant position is scattered. This is an attempt to put the pieces together. We have tried to gather facts and data from a variety of sources including those who have worked closely with the program and those who were PAs themselves. This is not a definitive account; the temporary nature of the position, variety of experience and the decades of development make it impossible to gather one.

For those of you who were PAs, we hope this brings to mind good memories. For others, we offer this as a means of understanding the intensity of experience of being a PA. Ultimately, this is an effort to record the development of the Program Assistant position, share the variety of roles and duties PAs perform and express the insight of those who have contributed to the National 4-H Center in this unique way.

CENTER GROWTH - On June 16, 1959, the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland became the conference headquarters for the nation's 4-H'ers. The annual National 4-H Conference was moved to the National 4-H Center after many years of tenting on the National Mall and staying at hotels in downtown Washington, D.C. The first Citizenship Short Course took place in 1959, when 42 teenagers from Buchanan County Iowa, arrived at the Center. Soon, youth and adults from across the United States came to the Center for year-round training programs that used the resources of Washington D.C. to augment Center workshops.

At one time, the capacity of the Center consisted of Smith Hall with accommodations for nearly 275 and Turner Hall where six conference rooms were located. It has grown to a conference complex with room for 650 overnight guests and accommodations for 30 meetings at once. Citizenship Washington Focus, the current name of the citizenship summer program, brings approximately 3,000 youth each year to the Center to learn about government, citizenship and Washington, D.C. A variety of educational programs and conferences hosted by the Center bring an additional 30,000 youth and adults annually. As the Center has grown, the need for additional staff has grown as well. The continued employment of young people as Program Assistants is a conscious effort to maintain the Center's role as a headquarters for 4-H youth.

THE BEGINNING - College students began to work at the Center shortly after it opened to perform operational duties such as working the front desk, custodial and maintenance functions. They lived in Warren Hall, where the phone switchboard was transferred after midnight when the front desk closed. Most were students at the University of Maryland, College Park, and used their jobs at the Center to help with university expenses.

Student Assistants also worked with the citizenship short courses as workshop and activity leaders during the summer and worked as operational staff throughout the school year. An article in the National 4-H Club Foundation newsletter, "New Dimensions" described the summer positions: "Former 4-H members may receive valuable work experience with 4-H Citizenship Short Courses during the summer months. The 4-H Foundation will select 5 outstanding 4-H alumni for this training which includes leading activities, guiding field trips and assisting with assemblies, discussions and the general organization of the weekly program.

Originally, young Extension Service 4-H agents were brought to the Center to be Program Assistants; to facilitate educational programs at the Center. They were recommended by their state for the position and selected by a committee of Center staff. Under the direction of the Center's education director, the Extension agents led the summer Citizenship Short Courses with the help of Student Assistants. Before the expansion of the Center in 1971, the Citizenship Short Course was held at the University of Maryland as well as at the Center to accommodate the large number of participants. According to Delores Andol, an Extension agent who worked at the Center in 1969, the staff was split between the campuses. One agent moved to the University and led the program there with the help of Student Assistants, while she and two other Student assistants facilitated the Center's program.

PROGRAM ASSISTANTS AND TRANSFORMING CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION - "The beginning of the PA program was important because it made a change in the citizenship course possible; it made the involvement of the participants possible. And it is so significant because the training pointed PAs in new directions for their futures... it showed them opportunities they would never have seen if they hadn't come to Washington." - Kathleen Flom, National 4-H Center Historian.

In 1974, an effort led by Joe McAuliffe and Gwen El Sawi sought to change the format of the citizenship short courses. They redesigned the course to focus on participant involvement, using Washington D.C. as a classroom and Program Assistants as facilitators. Before 1974, student assistants had led recreation activities and workshops. A permanent staff member facilitated the majority of the program with the help of two Extension agents. With this change, Student Assistants became Program Assistants who interpreted history, structure and function of government, international events and politics. They taught workshops, led field trips and brought youth participants face to face with Washington. "A PA's challenge: feeling competent to interpret politics, history and government and making a link between what was going on in Washington and youth participants' citizenship. Political savvy or interest is necessary because that can't be taught."

The formality of past courses was replaced with enthusiasm the Program Assistants brought as they interacted with the youth. Youth participants served on committees, studied and discussed current issues in small groups and discovered their role in government through Dotville workshops. The basis of the program was developmental: what PAs learned one week was applied during the next week's course. The workshops were in constant change, old ideas were replaced with new, improved methods of understanding and experiencing citizenship. The name of the course was also changed in 1974 to Citizenship 1974 to reflect the change in the nature of the program. Subsequent years brought Citizenship 1975 - 1978. In 1979, Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) was chosen as the new program name from contest entries submitted by Center staff.

WARREN HALL - "A key component of being a Program Assistant is the intense, learning, shared living experience of Warren Hall."

Warren Hall sits comfortably in the middle of the 4-H Center campus. Its unassuming appearance hides the usual hectic blur inside: Program Assistants planning, rushing, preparing, and, sometimes, relaxing. Housing 22 people or more in its 12 rooms, Warren Hall has become Program Assistant headquarters. It is a refuge where horror stories are told, advice about group strategy and management is shared among the wise, and a home where strangers make memories and friends.

Warren Hall has been home for young Center workers almost since the Center opened. It has housed international program participants during their orientation, served as a guest house for special Center guests and housed Extension agents as they led summer citizenship courses. Student Assistants resided here throughout the year, while working at the Center and attending classes at the University of Maryland. The house is named after Gertrude Warren, the first national leader of Extension Service's youth programs at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Many PAs attribute much of their positive experience at the Center to living in Warren Hall. Friendships carry well into the future despite the distance between their home states and differences in careers or schools. Many of these friendships have grown into romantic relationships and it is not uncommon for former PAs to get married. Many groups of PAs hold reunions or circulate newsletters to keep in touch. A new Program Assistant Alumni Association is being formed to gather all former PAs for a reunion. From April Fool jokes on the Center office to nights out on the town without groups, PAs build an amazingly strong and lasting bond with each other.

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS AND PA OPPORTUNITY INCREASE - "My summer as a PA was the best and most influential of my life. It helped me get my current job as a 4-H Extension Assistant... I finally got to do (chaperone) a CWF trip and it was just like coming home." - Gerald Messersmith. Program Assistant 1981.

Program Assistants have continued to work with the CWF program, and as new programs were added, opportunities to extend their stay into the fall and spring to facilitate other groups arose. A collaborative effort between the National Association of Extension Homemakers, Extension home economists and National 4-H Council resulted in the Know America program in 1974. Facilitated by a PA, these groups of adults come to Washington to study government and history. Student groups participating in the Wonders Of Washington program learn about their role in government, the history of Washington and U.S. government structure. Also led by a PA, this program differs from the CWF program in its format; a group may chose its own itinerary and length of stay. PAs greet groups upon their arrival in the city and spend each day and part of each night with these groups until they leave.

PAs TODAY - PAs are now hired for three separate terms: spring, summer and fall. Young adults with at least a year of college education apply from across the U.S. and abroad to work as PAs at the Center. Once interviewed and selected, they are trained in Center operations, Washington D.C. history, U.S. government and in giving tours in order to competently lead their programs. During the fall and spring semesters, PAs facilitate the Wonders of Washington and Know America programs as well as work in the Center office on department projects. Throughout the Summer, PAs lead the Citizenship Washington Focus program as well as the Wonders Of Washington program. Leading these groups requires organizational, public speaking and program planning skill as well as a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. Outside of spending days and evenings with their groups, PAs are responsible for on-site operational duties as well. Since PAs live at the Center, they are the first called in times of emergency or when a group at the Center has a special need.

Since 1959, young adults, both as Student Assistants and as Program Assistants, have added energy and enthusiasm to programs at the National 4-H Center. While each group of Program Assistants brings its own unique character to the Center, all share the long tradition of hard work and endless days. For many, this experience is a springboard to career decisions, education options and a life-long connection to the 4-H youth development program. As those in the past have done, future Program Assistants will continue to bring youthful energy and fresh perspective to educational programs at the National 4-H Center.

Cynthia L. Bauerly, Program Assistant Spring 1994
May 1994



Probably one of the best ways to convey the experiences and values of any of these citizenship programs is through quotes or "short stories" directly from program participants, program assistants and interns, Council staff, documenting the stories of those involved. What did you learn? How did you apply your experiences back home? Tell us about the "fun" things… the challenges… meeting new friends…

(We welcome your story. 250 word maximum. Please give your name, state (or country); if participant, which program and year; or identify as program assistant, staff, resource person. What do you remember most... what impressed you the most... your experience. A good quality photo is also acceptable WITH caption. If we do not use the photo in this segment, it may be considered for the National 4-H Photo Gallery on the 4-H history website.) Send your story to:

Please note… This document is incomplete. If you are able to provide some of the missing information, please contact us at: Additionally, other sections on this history website, and references in the Books & Printed Materials Archive and the Films & A/V Archive on this website have expanded information on this topic.


Principal author: Larry L. Krug

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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