Just like corn in Iowa, Latino and Native American youth can grow tall and strong. That’s the message of Maize, a culturally-based youth leadership accelerator from Iowa 4-H Youth Development.


The third annual Maize retreat is happening this weekend, April 21-23, for youth in grades 9-12. Corn/maize will be symbolized throughout the retreat to represent the coming together of Native American, Latino, and Iowa traditions and cultures.


Culturally-based youth leadership accelerators, such as the 4-H Maize Retreat, provide youth participants an accelerated experience in the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program and Iowa State University, said Cayla Taylor, 4-H youth program manager with ISU Extension and Outreach.


Youth will gather from all across Iowa to experience healthy living, STEM, citizenship, leadership, and communication and the arts programs through a Latino and Native American perspective. They will have the opportunity to learn from faculty and staff in each of Iowa State’s colleges, participate in a service learning project and engage in hands-on educational experiences. Through these activities youth will be able to develop new skills, interests and friendships, and celebrate their Latino and Native American heritage.


“The Iowa 4-H program serves roughly 100,000 youth – about one in five K-12 youth. Culturally-based youth leadership accelerators are designed to make 4-H programming more accessible to all Iowa youth. These opportunities give youth an accelerated 4-H experience with the hope that they will seek out other opportunities through the 4-H program and Iowa State University,” noted Taylor.


The youth participate in a three-day retreat beginning on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, with a campus tour and hands-on workshops with each of the Iowa State University colleges. The youth then stay at Clover Woods, formerly known as the Iowa 4-H Center, near Madrid, Iowa, for the remainder of the retreat. There they will participate in hands-on workshops, traditional camping experiences and leadership development at the outdoor learning center.


Erlinda Aldaba, a Wapello County 4-H’er and member of the youth advisory council that led the planning of this year’s Maize Retreat, said, “When I first attended the Maize Retreat I learned about what 4-H is. Through 4-H I have been able to meet so many new people that are both similar and different from me, and for the first time I felt at home.”


That same feeling of belonging is being replicated via other 4-H outreach initiatives, including the first-ever Northwest Iowa GRIT Conference hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and Northwestern College in Orange City on Friday, March 31. The conference will focus on empowering multicultural students in grades 8-12 to “Get Real Together” through leadership activities, college exploration and cultural awareness.


Additional information about 4-H culturally-based youth leadership accelerators can be found on the 4-H website.