Haddonfield Memorial High School junior returns from conference in Ireland

4-H member Kinsey gaining worldly perspective through service.

Haddonfield Memorial High School junior Scarlett Kinsey recently returned from a pair of 4-H service trips, one to New Orleans and another to Ireland. (Photo credit: Sharon Kinsey/Special to the Sun)

Scarlett Kinsey, a rising junior at Haddonfield Memorial High School, was one of 10 state-wide 4-H members who attended the 2019 International Leadership for Life Conference. Hosted by Foróige (“For the youth” in Irish), a youth development organization, it was held from July 29 to Aug. 2 at the National University of Ireland. 

The conference involves 250 high school-aged young people from the host republic as well as India and the United States. Attendees participate in one of three modules of the program while at the conference, take part in 15 hours of leadership workshops and listen to guest speakers who shared their personal leadership journeys. 

“The freeholder board is extremely proud of the young leaders participating in 4-H and their extraordinary representation of Camden County and our community,” said Freeholder Jeffrey Nash in a release following the group’s return to the U.S. “We’re excited to see how these incredible young people put their skills and talents to work for the betterment of themselves and those around them.” 

Asked to focus attention on a single issue, Kinsey and her small cadre of teens decided to tackle mental health – a pressing concern for those in secondary education across the globe.

“On the first day, we all did pitches on a particular social issue that we’re interested in. We would form into groups, depending on the issue you picked, and so me and a few others decided on getting young people the mental health (they need). Then, throughout the week, we came up with solutions and then presented them to the adults at the conference,” KInsey revealed.

“We also presented to Sean Campbell, the CEO of Foróige, who was able to give us feedback and looked at our solutions. We talked about creating hashtags, since young people use social media a lot, and we thought that was a good way to make kids comfortable. We also talked about speaking with officials in our towns, because we all come from different places. (It’s about) getting support and resources.”

Kinsey barely had time to catch her breath before heading to the Emerald Isle, having organized another service trip, this one to New Orleans. 

The group’s mission there, was to connect with nonprofits in the famous melting pot of cultures and support their various missions. She led a group of 10 volunteers – including fellow HMHS student Katie Barrett – in a tour of the Crescent City from July 17-22. While there, they took part in four service/learning projects with various nonprofits: Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, Bayou St. John Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, The Green Project and Pelican Greenhouse Plant Sales. 

“We had to do a service project before going to the conference. We saw the effects of Hurricane Katrina, and how, although it happened 14 years ago, (many neighborhoods) haven’t completely recovered from its effects,” Kinsey said. 

Kinsey’s commitment to service arrived through natural origins, and has seen a renewal during a time when a certain number of peers might choose a different path. 

“My mom worked for 4-H so I got exposed to that at an early age, being involved in the clubs. And then, one thing led to another and I’m a part of 4-H now a lot more than I used to be,” she related. 

“(At the high school) I do ‘Bulldawgs Against Destructive Decisions,’ and that’s trying to get kids to make smarter choices with drugs and alcohol, and with other situations in general. We’re involved with the wrecked car out on the front lawn every year, and in fact, I painted the car along with one of my friends, Audrey Bogina.”

A regular traveler who has already seen Italy and the United Kingdom in addition to her recent Ireland excursion, Kinsey also expects to be part of an exchange program in with a school in Germany before the end of her high-school career. 

“I have a German exchange student coming here in the fall, and I’m hoping I can keep in touch with her when she leaves,” Kinsey said. “I don’t know that much about (the return trip) right now, but we got connected with another school over there. I’ve been talking to my student who’s coming here, and I’ll be going over there next summer.”