More than 300 Washington state youth and adults participated in this year’s WSU Extension 4-H Know Your Government conference in Olympia. Teens from around the state took on the roles of attorneys, jurors, witnesses and reporters in mock trials Feb. 14-17.
“The teens discovered how decision-making, critical thinking and public speaking skills can affect the proceedings,” said Jan Klein, WSU Extension 4-H Teen Coordinator. “They came away knowing … their lives can be changed depending on how someone argued a case or presented evidence.”

The conference began 30 years ago as an opportunity for teens to learn about the legislative process. Today, the hands-on educational conference reaches high school students throughout the state who learn leadership, citizenship and life skill development.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires active citizenship to be effective,” said Linda Kirk Fox, associate vice president and dean of WSU Extension, at a legislative breakfast where teens were joined by their representatives and senators to discuss issues of local importance.

Delegates prepared for the conference in their home counties by visiting court houses, participating in local mock trials and learning about judicial proceedings. Once in Olympia, they were joined in courtrooms by judges from Thurston and Kitsap counties who presided over the trials.
More than 75,000 youth participate in 4-H programs statewide in areas including science, leadership, service learning, the arts and technology.