Saint Mark's High School senior Benjamin Shaffer traveled to Atlanta, Ga., as a delegate to the 2013 National 4-H Congress Nov. 29 to Dec. 3.
During the event, Shaffer, along with delegates from across the country, participated in leadership development training, educational workshops, cross-cultural experiences, and community service.
"This is one of the highest honors in 4-H, and is a result of his 10 years of achievements during his 4-H career," said his mother, Brenda, in a press release from the school.
In order to be selected for the honor, candidates must apply and meet rigorous conditions. These conditions call for candidates to create projects that demonstrate skills, sophistication, and broad involvement and development; to maintain positions of leadership at the local club, county and state level, and act as mentors to younger members; and to participate in service to individuals, groups and communities.
Shaffer, who raises pigs as part of the 4-H program, also had to interview and effectively show his ability to articulate his experiences and accomplishments in the program.
Mark Manno, state program leader for 4-H Youth Development, said that Shaffer more than met the criteria for this highly competitive honor.
"In his eighth year in the project, he learned about home food composting, organic food classifications and the role of the Food Bank of Delaware in feeding hungry Delawareans," said Manno. "He's also held a significant number of leadership experiences at the county and state levels, including teaching foods [classes] at camp and serving and preparing food at the Emmanuel Dining Room. He has held many leadership positions."
Shaffer said that his dedication to 4-H comes from his family's history – his parents actually met through their affiliation with the organization.
"Being involved in 4-H has taught me so much about leadership," said Shaffer. "I've been involved in 4-H since I was seven, going to camp as a camper and running the camps as a counselor."
Shaffer says he still plans to be very active in 4-H in Delaware through college, even though he hopes to attend the New York Institute of Technology to study architecture.
According to the 4-H website, the National 4-H Congress was established over 80 years ago during the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago. There, more than 100 young men and women met to exchange ideas and receive recognition for individual accomplishments and community service. The event has been hosted in a variety of locations, but was moved to Atlanta in 1998.