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Story in Brief

Beginning in mid-March, Ben Hill County 4-H staff reacted quickly to the onset of COVID-19 by planning and delivering virtual 4-H programs to stay connected with a core group of older youth. Through online meetings, judging practices, and special activities, the county took advantage of student accessibility. Students were home and not engaged in competing activities, so 4-H virtual activities were a way to stay connected and continue to build relationships with those youth as well as fill a void created by abrupt life changes. Junior club meetings and senior club meetings included special guests from the community who came on live to speak with the youth. Committee meetings were also held to plan summer day camp and the annual awards program. The youth quickly became involved in a community service project they could do virtually. They sent in inspirational quotes that were designed with scenic backgrounds on business size cards to send as “pocket messages” to frontline hospital workers in neighboring counties. County poultry judging practices went online, even though it was doubtful there would be a face-to-face district contest.To keep them interested, a date for a virtual county contest in April, with prizes, was announced. Attendance at practices increased, and the county contest winners were excited with their special prizes. In June, traditional county 4-H summer day camp was turned into a virtual event with this core group of teen leaders helping to plan and prepare five afternoons of experiences for rising 5th – 7th graders. Special representatives from across the nation came on the day camp sessions live from NASA, Yellowstone National Park, and the Federal Reserve Bank to teach lessons and interact with students. Teen leaders were also involved in teaching lessons that went along with their project work. Prior to camp, participants picked up an activity bag at the Extension office that included craft and lesson supplies that went along with daily activities. To keep seniors and juniors together into the summer months, Topic Tuesdays and Friday Fundays were initiated. Students gathered virtually for a different topic discussion each Tuesday, while Friday get-togethers were strictly virtual fun and games.