The blue paper airplanes flew up into the air and quickly made the descent down to the ground.
Teens rushed to claim one that was not their own. When they opened up the papers, they quickly found the person who made it and started talking.
This was less a game than a teaching exercise, one aimed at helping teens aged 14 to 18 learn networking skills. On Presidents Day, when most of their peers were lounging around with an extra day off school, these Northland teens dressed up and spend the day learning about how to build successful careers.
The 4-H Northland Career Conference, sponsored by the Platte County 4-H, brought in participants from Platte, Clay, Jackson, Clinton and Buchanan counties.
Lauren Adams of Gower, Mo., came to the fair to learn how to approach getting a job.
“I’m starting to look for jobs, and I need more skills to go to interviews,” said Lauren, a 16-year-old student at East Buchanan high school and president of her 4-H club. “I really don’t have interview skills because I’ve never been to an interview before.”
Adams, who has been in 4-H for eight years, usually focuses on photography, arts and crafts, food and child development. But she has learned a lot of other important skills in the program.
“I have really opened up and made a lot of friends. I’ve gotten to have new experiences and come out of my shell.”
Laura Evans, 4-H Youth Specialist for Platte County, explains the 4-H Club has always helped kids learn important life skills, but a new emphasis in the program is to give kids the kinds of skills that will help them in any career.
This event, which had been held for 20 years as the “Global Conference” for teens, changed emphasis this year to focus on general networking, interviewing and resume skills.
“There’s been a huge push from the state to provide opportunities for 4-Hers for career development,” Evans said. “The state of Missouri has pinpointed mentoring to prep these kids for the future, not only for young ones starting projects but also for the future.”
Garrett Taylor of Kansas City, who is a 14-year-old Congress Middle School student, had been to the conference in the past and liked the changes.
“It’s all general and you can use it in all the jobs you get,” Garrett said. “I came to learn more about how I can get a better job and how these skills can help me in life. I’ve taken away how to make a resume so I can get a better job if I need to.”
The eighth-grader’s 4-H experience has already turned him into a professional. After completing a leather-working project with the club, he began a small business working on saddles.
He and his mother now run the Yellow Boot Saddlery, which focuses on custom saddle and tack repair. Mom, Donna Taylor, says she brought him to the event to sharpen his business skills.
“Part of running a business is dealing with people,” Taylor said. “He’s a 14-year-old kid, but he has to speak to someone like an adult and assure them he can make their repairs on a very expensive piece of equipment. So I want him to have the confidence to look somebody in the face and talk business with them.”
Garrett Taylor also works on horsemanship, air rifles and meat judging as a part of his participation in 4-H.
The keynote speaker for the event was Cerner’s senior director of Human Capital Strategy and Talent Development, Laura Evans, no relation to the Laura Evans with 4-H who planned the event. Cerner’s Evans talked to the kids about how to build a good resume.