How We “Do 4-H”

— Written By

Have you heard the old saying, “If you only do what you have always done, you will always get, what you always got?” This saying leaves out the caveat of a pandemic interrupting business as usual, but it has still been helpful for Caldwell County 4-H when planning to meet the needs of youth and families.

4-H continues to be forward focused, so our game is still the same – high quality youth development programs with caring adults and hands-on learning. However, programs and clubs have had to throw out the old playbook.

Caldwell County 4-H began moving programs online or into virtually connected groups in mid-March, which included public speaking and photography workshops, club meetings and volunteer training sessions through the spring.

Videos and pictures, like this one from Johnny Wilson Farms, substitute for in-person farm tours with youth this summer.

Videos and pictures, like this one from Johnny Wilson Farms, substitute for in-person farm tours with youth this summer.

Later in the spring, the state North Carolina 4-H office and N.C. Cooperative Extension, along with North Carolina State University, determined there would be no in-person programs with minors held this summer (until at least August) for the health and safety of the state’s communities. We know many children come into contact with or may be cared for by at-risk populations.

4-H tries to build upon a child’s natural curiosity and love of exploration! Adults who step back and allow youth to lead can see the progression in confidence expressed by members.

This is no different this year. It has been proven again by the work of four “Junior Leaders.” Junior Leaders are a group of older 4-H members who volunteer to work with other youth, often younger than them, during summer months, building soft skills such as leadership, communication and professionalism.

The hands-on approach to learning has not changed over the 100 years of 4-H! Junior Leaders is one of many examples. That experiential learning model has served communities well, and 4-H continues to apply the model during COVID-19 and as youth learn new subject matter.

As an organization, 4-H strives to:

  • Lead educational programs
  • Focus programming upon current and emerging needs;
  • Strengthen life skills;
  • Encourage volunteerism and community service;
  • And grow youth/adult partnerships.

If for no other reason, 4-H has recently encouraged local families to sign up for programs or stay active in 4-H Clubs to give youth of all ages something to look forward to. Caldwell County 4-H wants to be an involvement youth can count on.

4-H members with projects such as gardening, livestock, and cooking have been able to continue learning at home, but say they miss connecting with their fellow club members and adult volunteers.

4-H members with projects such as gardening, livestock, and cooking have been able to continue learning at home, but say they miss connecting with their fellow club members and adult volunteers.

One brother and sister who have participated in summer programs said they have been so excited to see people outside of their own household, and that it was their favorite part of joining! There is so much uncertainty, and that is uncomfortable for many individuals and families.

Why do we care so much about how young people fare today? Because we know the social-emotional needs of youth are great. For instance, 4-H knows that nationally, 7 in 10 teens are struggling with their mental health in the wake of COVID-19.

“More than half of those (approximately 1,500 teens) surveyed shared that the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness, with 64 percent believing it will have a lasting impact on their mental health,” reported the National 4-H Council’s May 2020 study.

Looking ahead, we also know youth will compete for tomorrow’s jobs, so North Carolina must educate and graduate people with the right knowledge, skills, ideas, and self-motivation; and we want to nurture young people to be good people too.

For more information about local 4-H, visit our website or give us a call at 828-757-1258. Caldwell County 4-H is a member agency of United Way, and it enthusiastically supports its partnerships.