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By Claudene Wharton
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nevada 4-H Youth Development Program has developed a variety of activities to continue to engage 4-H youth throughout the state as the school year begins and fall draws near.
“People are accustomed to us kicking off various 4-H programs around the beginning of the traditional school year, and despite COVID-19, we are still getting a lot of inquiries about afterschool programs, as well as clubs and other 4-H activities,” explained Carrie Stark, Nevada 4-H program director with University of Nevada, Reno Extension. “Our staff and volunteers are working incredibly hard to constantly build and adapt programs to serve our youth, as COVID-related restrictions are a bouncing ball, changing regularly.”
Stark said that there are a number of statewide and local programs that will be offered. Staff and volunteers are making plans to deliver them either in person, virtually or as a hybrid of the two, depending on local restrictions and health conditions at the time the programs are offered. All programs and events will strictly adhere to COVID-19 restrictions in place at that time.
Several local 4-H programs will still be offering 4-H afterschool STEM programs, at schools, Extension facilities and various other locations if in person. And, many 4-H clubs are still planning meetings and activities, whether in person or virtually. There are also at least a couple of camps planned so far: a 4-H Mindfulness Camp for ages 13 to 19, Oct. 5-9, at the State 4-H Camp in South Lake Tahoe if in person; and a 4-H Fall Break STEAM Camp for ages 5 to 12, Oct. 6-9, at the Women and Children’s Center of the Sierras in Reno if in person.
In addition, there are several statewide activities and programs being offered, or in the works. All participants should strictly adhere to current COVID-19 restrictions. Offerings include:
Thoughtful Thursdays (Every other Thursday)
These are 5- to 10-minute videos by Nevada 4-H professionals on timely topics such as communicating feelings, financial management for youth, and civic engagement and service to community ideas. They are pre-recorded and posted on social media.
4-H True Leaders to Service Month (September)
Nevada 4‑H youth will be pledging to give service to their communities during September, as part of the Nevada 4-H True Leaders in Service Initiative. The initiative is not only a way for 4-H youth to keep active and engaged in positive activities, it’s also a way for all 4‑H members to say “thank you” to their communities, counties and state for the support they have provided to 4‑H for over 100 years. Participants are encouraged to find creative ways to provide service to their communities.
Virtual Clover Challenge 4K Fundraiser for the State 4-H Camp (Sept. 13-26)
Participants will use a fitness tracker, smart phone or good old-fashioned stopwatch to clock how long it takes them to complete this 2.5-mile challenge. They can run, walk, rollerblade, skateboard, mountain bike, skip around the neighborhood, hike a favorite trail, or do any 2.5-mile physical activity they can safely complete. The registration fee, which includes a t-shirt is $35, and participants can compete as an individual or family. Proceeds support the State 4-H Camp at South Lake Tahoe, which, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions this summer, was not able to generate revenue needed to adequately maintain the facility and grounds.
State 4-H Expo (September – October)
State 4-H Expo activities will still be held, either entirely virtually, or some local in-person as well, depending on COVD-19 restrictions at the time. Contests and events will include static exhibits, animal shows (livestock breeding, rabbit, poultry, dog and horse), communication demonstrations and speeches, shooting sports, and STEM challenges. The events will take place throughout September and October, with a final virtual awards ceremony at 3 p.m., Oct. 17, to celebrate all of the participants’ hard work.
National 4-H Week (Oct. 4-10)
For over 100 years, 4‑H has inspired families, shaped careers, helped develop future leaders and impacted communities. Nevada 4-H youth, alumni and volunteers will join others across the country to celebrate the impact of 4‑H. Specific activities will be planned and announced as the week draws nearer.
4-H Discover Your Future-Career Awareness Webinar Series (Thursdays, Oct. 29 – Dec. 17)
Youth, ages 13 to 19 will learn about different careers needed in our state, including engineers, farmers and ranchers, architects, veterinarians, conservation officers and biologists, firefighters and more, from individuals who are currently in the field. Youth will have the opportunity to interact with presenters and ask questions. Registration information will be available in September.
For more information on Nevada 4-H’s school-year and fall programs for youth, go to the Nevada 4-H website; contact the local University of Nevada, Reno Extension office; or, in northern Nevada email firstname.lastname@example.org, and in southern Nevada email email@example.com.
In her role as Clark County 4-H STEAM coordinator for Extension, Sarah Monique Somma was charged with creating curriculum to educate youth in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). In one of the programs she designed, Somma set out to not only educate youth in culinary arts, but also to increase their appreciation for other cultures and incorporate concepts of chemistry and science.
The program, “Cultural Awareness Through Culinary Arts,” consisted of seven 90-minute sessions during which Somma cooked a dish from another country, while also discussing the country’s culture with youth. She chose recipes that lended themselves to talking about chemistry, such as how capsicum, which makes food spicy, is a good molecule for thinning your blood; or how brining actually acts as a preservative allowing food to stay edible for longer without refrigeration, important in parts of the world where refrigeration may not be available to everyone.
“So much can be learned about a culture through the food choices that people make,” Somma said. “The rich cultural history and creativity involved in culinary arts spans the globe and can serve to unite people everywhere. When people are able to find common threads and interests instead of differences among us, we can create harmony.”
Somma originally planned to deliver the course in person in Las Vegas, at some middle schools and at Extension’s A.D. Guy Knowledge Center. But, COVID-19 hit, so she adapted her plans to offer the program to youth ages 11 to 15, live online, via seven Zoom sessions in July. She set up two to three different cameras in her kitchen at home, so that she could effectively communicate with the participants during the sessions. She would begin talking about food and how it can bring people together, and then introduce the recipe and its ingredients. A former teacher, Somma’s enthusiasm for teaching and interacting with youth is abundantly apparent.
“We actually had some really good, lively discussions and interactions while I cooked,” she said. “I dove into things like the country’s languages, ethnicities, geography, biodiversity and economies, and then would pose some questions to spark discussion.”
After informing the participants that the Philippines had been a Spanish colony, for example, Somma asked them how they thought that may have influenced the Philippines’ culture. She talked about the indigenous people of Puerto Rico, and asked how their cultural activities might help them celebrate and preserve their culture and traditions.
During the four-week program, the youth took virtual journeys to Madagascar, India, Philippines, Bolivia, Honduras, Puerto Rico and Nigeria.
“I really had a great time, and the kids were really fun,” Somma said. “In this climate of pointing out differences, food is one thing that can always bring people from different cultures together. We need to do more things like this with our youth in order to provide hope for a more united future.”
By Tiffany Kozsan and Claudene Wharton
This spring and summer, five youth in the Nevada 4-H Youth Development Program dedicated some of their time during the COVID-19 quarantine preparing four wild horses and one burro for adoption. On Aug. 1, the girls showed off their work with animals, at Nevada’s first-ever Halter-started Wild Horse & Burro Event and Adoption auction.
The girls, part of University of Nevada, Reno Extension’s Washoe County 4-H Horse Program, received the animals, all not yet a year old, from the Bureau of Land Management as part of a pilot program between Extension and the bureau to place wild horses with adoptive families. They spent 100-120 days preparing the horses for human interaction and adoption.
The bureau, which already operates a similar, effective program with the Nevada State Prison where prisoners train the wild horses, is always looking for new ways to rehome healthy wild horses. They saw positive results from a partnership with the bureau and 4-H in Idaho, so they wanted to pursue a similar program here in Nevada.
“They trust 4-H and trust Extension, and they know they will be able to work with youth already familiar with horses to foster and provide training to prepare these horses to be companions at new forever homes,” Sarah Chvilicek, 4-H Program coordinator, said. “They want to find a way to rehome wild horses because the horses are healthy animals, and they want to give these animals a chance.”
At the Aug. 1 show and auction attended by about 50 people and held at the University’s Equestrian Center in Reno, the girls showed the animals, conducting a freestyle demonstration, which included music, costumes and maneuvers. They were also judged on their ground handling, the animals’ health and presentations about their work with their animals. The ground handling competition included leading the animals through an obstacle course by hand, as the animals were still too young to ride.
As two of the horses and the burro were already adopted by the families who trained and raised them, the other two horses were put up for bid after the show. Individuals interested in adopting the horses had to meet the Bureau of Land Management adoption requirements. “Loki” was purchased for a $500 donation at the event, and “Finn” was purchased for a $900 donation the following week. Proceeds were split among the bureau, the Washoe County 4-H Horse Program and the girls who raised the horses.
“These young women demonstrated the intent of the 4-H Pledge – pledging their heads, hearts and hands – to raise these magnificent animals. The 4-H and BLM partnership is proof of Nevada’s appreciation of our wild horses and burros, and we are so pleased we could help provide these animals new forever homes.”
After the success of the pilot program in Washoe County, the bureau and Extension plan to expand the program into other counties.
By Hannah Alfaro
Margaret Paoli, an Elko County 4-H Program volunteer leader for 20 years, is helping 4-H youth navigate online learning by ensuring they are well supported and staying connected. When Margaret's children graduated from the Elko County 4-H Club, she decided to continue working with 4-H youth and continued to raise guide dog puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Now, she’s setting up regular online meetings for all club participants to make sure they’re on track with their individual projects, such as raising market rabbits and goats.
“After both my kids graduated from 4-H, I stayed on because I really enjoyed working with the kids, especially because you get to see them start as 9-year-olds and then continue learning and growing through high school,” Paoli said. “The biggest impact for me has been seeing the success of the kids in the program and being able to support them.”
Paoli says her goal during this time is to make sure the 4-H youth have someone to turn to for help while participating in projects, and that they are staying connected with each other and staying on track to be successful, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Margaret has been a great leader for years and years, and she is always trying to figure out how best to make opportunities accessible to youth,” Jill Baker-Tingey, Elko County Extension educator, said. “She has kids do a variety of projects so they can embrace whatever they are interested in. She gives her all and is so supportive of every youth in 4-H.”
As a youth, what 4-H programs and activities did you participate in?
I was part of the Washoe County 4-H Club and the Leg of Lamb Club where I raised sheep. I started at 9 years old, so I participated for nine years until I was 18. I also participated in the Washoe County 4-H Show.
Looking back on your experiences in 4-H, how do you think those contributed to you being successful in your studies?
My experiences with 4-H really taught me responsibility and gave me a strong work ethic that showed me that anything is possible if I put my mind to it. All these things that I learned apply to real life, especially with where I am right now. I graduated with my degree in animal science from Colorado State University and am now a graduate student at Iowa State University studying animal physiology and managing the Sheep Teaching Farm. Not only did I learn practical things in 4-H, like raising and managing sheep, but life skills as well, like how to balance working with the livestock with school work. Since I learned that at a young age, I’m able to confidently balance those things now.
What is your fondest 4-H memory?
Aside from being able to raise and work with the actual animals, it was being able to participate in such a tight-knit club that supported everyone around them. We all supported each other in all that we did, and I loved being surrounded by such a great group of people. I’m still friends with a lot of them now.
Why do you think it’s important for youth to get involved with 4-H today?
The most important thing that 4-H can give youth now is to help them prepare for the future. Without my experiences in 4-H, I would not be where I am today. It opened so many doors for me and allowed me to create a lot of connections within the community that were invaluable. The opportunities that 4-H presented were so unique to the program, and I know youth could benefit so positively from them. The program also provides a support system to help everyone accomplish their goals.
4-H Youth Development
4-H is a community of young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills.
Alfaro, H., Kozsan, T., Wharton, C., 2020, 4-H 4 Nevada Vol 20, Iss 2, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, Newsletter
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