WSU 4-H Know Your Government conference returns to Olympia

OLYMPIA, Wash. — After a pandemic hiatus, Washington State University 4-H participants returned to the state capitol for the annual Know Your Government (KYG) conference over Presidents Day weekend.

Excited anticipation preceded the youth-led event, which included more than 100 young participants and 4-H adult volunteers from nearly 20 Washington state counties.

The weekend’s full line-up of KYG experiential learning activities and events culminated in a mock election to become the state’s next “governor.”

“Since we’re in a presidential election cycle, the focus of this year’s conference was the U.S. election process and the electoral college,” said WSU 4-H Skagit County Program Coordinator Dorothy Elsner. “The youth really sank their teeth into the curriculum prior to arriving in Olympia so they could hit the ground running.”

In preparation for directing mock campaigns, KYG participants attended preconference meetings and developed campaign teams to help them lock down the vote.

This year’s duly elected winner was Moose Kinsey of San Juan County. He said he found the presentations from distinguished state leaders inspiring.

Participants in a meeting hall sit facing a speaker during a presentation.
4-H Know Your Government participants benefitted from the expertise of speakers like Renee Sinclair, government lobbyist and CEO of TVW Washington’s Public Affairs Network (pictured).

Presenters this year included Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck, Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall, and Renee Sinclair, government lobbyist and CEO of TVW Washington’s Public Affairs Network.

“The speakers helped me to understand some of the processes of government and to recognize that we’re building the future through our involvement,” Kinsey said.

KYG rotates its featured conference topics annually. Past years have focused on the judicial branch of government, with conferences culminating in mock jury trials. While exploring the legislative process one year, 4-H youth successfully got a 4-H license plate approved for the state of Washington, according to Elsner.

“We hear other people rave about what the youth walk away with from these events,” Elsner said. “They return to their communities and share what they experienced with their local clubs — how much they’ve learned, and how much more engaged and intellectually connected they feel to the legislative processes in their own counties. These experiences prep them for adult life.”

A post-conference survey sent out each year backs Elsner’s claim: Youth who attend KYG conferences show improved decision-making, ability to connect with others, citizenship engagement, leadership, and communication skills.

Skagit County’s Elyssa Kofler attended the KYG conference as one of the youth facilitators. She said the six months spent planning the conference paid off.

 “During the conference, I built skills in leadership, communication, and problem solving,” she said. “I also made new friendships and lasting memories.”

Further information

WSU 4-H enriches the lives of youth through experiential learning in programming and opportunities. Connect with 4-H through their website or reach out to your nearest Extension office for further information.

This work is helping to create a more Resilient Washington.

Media contact

Dorothy Elsner, phone: 360-395-2360, email: