Story by Mikhayla DeMott, (ACJ)
The goal of engaging youth in water education efforts was shared by Grace Roth, an incoming high school sophomore from Holcomb, at the Kansas Association of Agricultural Educators mid-winter conference in January. Dr. Gaea Hock, assistant professor of agricultural education, heard her speak and worked with Roth to make her idea a reality. Katelyn Bohnenblust, rising sophomore in agricultural education, Hock and the Kansas Department of Agriculture, hosted the first Kansas Youth Water Advocates Conference July 12-14 with support from several sponsors.
Eleven high school students attended the three-day conference in Manhattan. Students learned about Kansas water resources and how to advocate on behalf of water-related topics. Several expert speakers presented on topics such as the Ogallala Aquifer, watershed management and the Kansas Water Vision.
In addition to learning about water resources, the conference integrated public speaking content to help the students learn how to create awareness through community presentations.
“Our hope is that these students will be able to go home, help bring awareness to their communities and be confident in their abilities to present this information,” Bohnenblust says.
Bohnenblust received the Marjorie J. and Richard L. D. Morse Family and Community Public Policy Scholarship from the K-State Library to support her work on this conference. She served as the student coordinator for the event, while under the supervision of Hock. All hands were on deck for this event, including Kyle Langvardt, KDA intern and ACJ undergraduate, who also assisted with the conference.
“The conference was very successful, we had 11 highly motivated young people who were eager to learn and take information back to their communities,” Hock says.
Students will serve one year as a Kansas Youth Water Advocate. They set goals for the year and will receive mentoring from Bohnenblust throughout the year. The planning committee is already looking forward to the 2018 Kansas Youth Water Advocates Conference. If you would like to get engaged or sponsor the conference, please contact Dr. Gaea Hock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow the students and learn more about their experience on the following social media platforms: Facebook (@KSYWAC), Twitter and Instagram (@ks_ywac).
The Kansas Youth Water Advocates Conference participants pose for a group photo with the event hosts, Dr. Gaea Hock and Katelyn Bohnenblust.