The value of 4-H youth-adult partnerships during COVID-19

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4-H youth and adult leaders participate in a workshop during the 2020 DE 4-H Leader Forum.
4-H youth and adult leaders participate in a workshop during the 2020 DE 4-H Leader Forum.

The value of 4-H youth-adult partnerships during COVID-19

by Ernie Lopez, June 2020

 

The importance of youth engaging in meaningful relationships with caring adults is one of the most valued elements in all of life. Time and talents both shared and taught from one generation to the next, bring value, self-worth and confidence to youth. For over one hundred years, 4-H youth development has made a priority of engaging youth with caring adults in clubs, camps, afterschool, and various other settings.  

As successful as that priority has been, the challenges of the last three months has cast an even brighter light on the importance of learning and sharing between youth and adults. The emotional strain and toll of isolation have been chief concerns among educators and practitioners who work with youth of all ages. Due to the need for social distancing, the cancellation of school and other youth development activities, 4-H has pivoted to meet the needs of youth and their families by intentional, direct and consistent means. By crafting communication that engages rather than dictates, the space between connecting youth and adults remained open. Shifting platforms of learning from in-person to online, enabled connections that had once been unheard of, to occur overnight. 

Time and talents both shared and taught from one generation to the next, bring value, self-worth and confidence to youth. 

Time and talents both shared and taught from one generation to the next, bring value, self-worth and confidence to youth. 

Kaitlin Klair poses in front of the screen during a chat with state camp attendees!
Kaitlin Klair poses in front of the screen during a chat with state camp attendees!


From club meetings to trainings and tutorials, the ever constant availability of leaders and 4-H staff to connect with youth remained consistent and, in some cases, enhanced.  

A perfect example of this adjustment is the shifting of the 2020 Delaware 4-H State Camp to an online platform of learning and engagement. For over 72 years, this camp has met at Camp Barnes, however, due to social distancing restrictions, our 2020 camp had to adapt. This, in turn, led to the development of an online camp format to continue the direct interface between youth and young adults who volunteered as counselors and facilitators.   

While the transition has been by no means seamless, the connections remain the same: youth engage with caring adults in an environment focused on their success and achievement. The feedback has been tremendous. 4-H embraced and enhanced its brand as a facilitator for engagement and used technology to break the cycle of isolation that many youths had felt over the last three months.  

The 4-H motto is “learning by doing,” and Delaware 4-H has learned to do more in new ways for the greater good, all the while solidifying its commitment to youth-adult partnerships that build trust, confidence and care in the lives of our young people. 

While the tragedy of COVID-19 will leave a legacy that will not be forgotten, its ability to change the way connections are made will be remembered for decades to come as isolation was broken down by a drive to learn and learn together by groups who had been forced apart. Our youth-adult partnerships have grown more robust in this time of social distance because of your commitment to making the best better. 

 

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