The Minnesota 4-H program held the Southwest Region BLU leadership retreat Feb. 1, 2020 at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in Marshall for 86 youth from across the region.

“The SW BLU leadership retreat was one of five 4-H events offered this month to Minnesota youth in Grades 6-12,” said Karen Beranek, Extension educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. “4-H uses these retreats to help youth learn valuable leadership skills they can apply in their communities and make connections with people from other southwest Minnesota counties."

In addition to the youth-teaching-youth component, participants learned more about post-high-school life as they explored the campus. All youth also had the opportunity to learn more about a specific program at SMSU: agriculture, performing arts, culinology and business.

Program leaders expressed a huge thank you to SMSU faculty and student organizations for leading those sessions.

Building Leadership and Understanding (BLU) is an annual leadership retreat offered regionally across Minnesota. This year’s theme, “Unmask Your Inner Leader,” encouraged youth to discuss their strengths, leadership styles and the characteristics of great leaders.

Youth participants engaged in a variety of activities throughout the event, including small and large group discussions, team-building activities, personal awareness experiences and informational sessions. 

The leadership retreat was facilitated by youth leaders from the Minnesota 4-H state ambassador program and supported by a team of adult chaperones.

Mariah Frank represented Redwood County 4-H as a local state ambassador this year. The 4-H program offers leadership and civic engagement experiences throughout the year. To learn more, visit

The Redwood County 4-H program offers leadership and civic engagement experiences to local youth throughout the year in its ambassador program, junior superintendent program, shooting sports ambassador program, state ambassador programs and its youth leadership programs in our 4-H community and project clubs.

4-H is a youth development program of the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Available for youth in Kindergarten through one year after high school, 4-Hers participate in hands-on learning experiences in STEM, leadership and civic engagement, animal science, creative arts and much more.

Through this learn-by-doing process, youth obtain essential life skills, such as problem solving, decision making, coping and communicating that help them succeed in their school, college, community and career.

Research shows youth who participate in 4-H have better grades and are more emotionally en-gaged in school, are more than twice as likely to be civically active and contribute to their communities and are 47 percent less likely to have risky or problem behaviors.