Washougal teen helps lead state 4-H conference

Emma Hein learns more about the judicial system, civics

A Washougal High School junior recently had a rare, hands-on opportunity to participate in civics.

Emma Hein, 17, traveled to Olympia to participate in the 4-H Know Your Government conference last week. She was selected to serve as one of nine conference facilitators from all across the state.

The facilitators, with a core team of adults from varying backgrounds in youth development, planned and led the entire conference.

“The conference is a unique, hands-on way for high school students to learn about and participate in civics,” she said. “I love how hands-on it is. There is not another program in the state or country that gives this kind of experience to the students.”

Twenty-two counties in Washington were represented with more than 200 delegates.

The conference focuses on four main themes that cycle every four years, ensuring that a student who participates throughout high school will have a different topic every time. Themes center around each of the three branches of government: Judiciary, legislative and executive.

This year’s theme was the judicial system, and was focused on learning how the system of the state and federal governments function, and preparing for a mock trial.

Delegates participate in pre-conference meetings from as early as November through February, where they work through civics curriculum and prepare for the conference.

“The most challenging part was going from a conference delegate to facilitator,” Hein said. “At first, when we sat down to plan the conference there were so many logistics I didn’t know how to absorb it all.”

Conference speakers included Representative Melanie Stambaugh, the youngest woman to be elected to the state House of Representatives, and Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez.

Delegates also had the opportunity to meet Mary Fairhurst, Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court.

Delegates receive their “cases” on a Saturday night and by Monday, they are performing as an attorney, witness, reporter, or juror with people from all over the state.

“The other really cool thing is that Thurston County lets us take over their district and superior court buildings for that Monday, so the delegates get to experience a mock trial in a real courtroom,” Hein said.

She continued, “During the mock trials I played the role of the courtroom bailiff, which was a lot of fun.”

Hein has participated in 4-H since kindergarten. She is also a tennis player at WHS. Her parents are David and Ellen Hein of Washougal.