Free Books for Families! Story Times Hosted by the 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy

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Free Books for Families! Story Times Hosted by the 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy

The Polk County 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy will host two public read-aloud events for elementary-aged children and their families at the Des Moines Central Library on May 23 and 24! The first twenty families at each event will also receive a free book thanks to a grant from John Deere and the Iowa 4-H Foundation!

The first event will be held Monday, May 23 from 5:30-6:00 p.m. at the Central Library and will focus on bullying. Academy teens will read Sharky McShark by Alison Murray and Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds. Following the storytime, youth participants will do a hands-on activity that empowers them to use their voices against bullying.

The second event will be Tuesday, May 24 from 6:00-6:30 p.m. at the Central Library. Participating families will hear an excerpt from The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah Jones and Renee Watson. After the story, the Academy teens will lead an art project that connects all participants to one another and to their ancestors. 

The read-aloud events are service capstone projects to demonstrate the skills and knowledge acquired through participating in the Polk County 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy. The Academy teens, comprised of 20 teens representing eight Des Moines public middle and high schools, identified two issues facing their peers and community – bullying and the lack of multicultural representation in education – and will help address these issues in an age-appropriate manner through stories and hands-on activities. 

These two events are the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work and learning for Academy participants.

“Since October, the teens in the 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy have been exploring topics of leadership and service learning,” said Madisen Gaskin county youth coordinator for Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach in Polk County. “The Academy is all about empowering the leadership skills these youth already possess and helping them to build a network so they can accomplish their goals of being changemakers! It’s been really great seeing the youth utilizing the strategies we’ve explored throughout the year to develop their service projects.”

4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy

The 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy is a yearlong, leadership program for urban youth in grades 8-11, and was re-launched this past fall in partnership with the Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families. This experience provides youth participants rigorous leadership development and training through monthly workshops, networking opportunities, and completion of a group capstone service project.

“The 4-H Urban Youth Leadership Academy began as a vision to engage more young leaders in the 4-H,” Gaskin said. “The program continues to ensure that when students graduate, they feel confident in their abilities to take on more leadership roles within 4-H, schools, and their communities. Alumni have gone on to serve on the Polk County 4-H Youth Council and utilize 4-H as a means to prepare them for post-high school graduation.”

All twenty students in the 2021-2022 class are on track to graduate from the Academy with a celebratory event planned for June 8 at the Evelyn K Davis Center in Des Moines. 

Accepting Applications

Polk County 4-H is now accepting applications for the 2022-2023 class. To nominate or encourage youth to apply for next year’s 4-H Urban Youth Leadership class visit, or to learn more about Polk County 4-H please visit or call (515) 957-5760.


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