CLEMSON — High school sophomores and juniors from across South Carolina will convene on the campus of Clemson University next week for a weeklong leadership conference named for the late Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

The 4-H Clementa Pinckney Leadership Conference begins Sunday, a little more than a year after Pinckney and eight fellow churchgoers were killed June 17, 2015, during a Bible study group meeting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

“Rev. Pinckney was a role model, a mentor, a positive force for children to emulate then and still today,” said South Carolina 4-H program leader Pamela Ardern. “A 4-H alumnus himself, Rev. Pinckney often spoke eloquently of the impact 4-H had on his life. We wanted to honor that with the creation of a conference that will prepare some of our state’s brightest young people to be leaders in their communities.”

Pinckney was a strong advocate of the 4-H program and in April was recipient of the 4-H Distinguished Alumni Medallion from the National 4-H Council. The award was presented to his wife, Jennifer, during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

South Carolina 4-H selected 25 students to attend the conference. To apply for the conference, students had to write an essay on leadership and receive a letter of recommendation from their high school principals.

Educational sessions at the conference will focus on understanding various leadership styles and getting to know themselves better. Participants also will participate in numerous activities designed to promote teamwork. They will spend a morning whitewater rafting, for example, and an evening playing capture the flag.

“Leaders will emerge,” Ardern said of the various activities.

Learning the importance of the civic service, participants will make shoe soles from milk jugs and old blue jeans. The soles will be sent to Sole Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides shoes to children in Africa to help combat diseases that often spread through the feet of children without shoes.

The sessions will be taught by Clemson University Extension agents and other experts. Each participant with leave the conference with a “Vision Board,” a plan to lead in their communities. That could include volunteering time, starting a 4-H club, running for student council or anything participants can imagine. The conference concludes July 2.


South Carolina 4-H
South Carolina 4-H is the youth-development program of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. More than 92,000 young people in South Carolina participated in 4-H programing last year. Programs cover animal science, agriculture, science, engineering, natural resources, healthy living, leadership and much more.