Two members of the Boys and Girls Club build a model of the Lower Mississippi River using masking tape and sewing pins to test how sediment diversions work. Photo provided by 4-H Youth Wetlands Program.
For over 100 years, Louisiana 4-H has provided enriching, hands-on experiences for our youth — and others have noticed.
This has led to 4-H agents and specialists becoming leaders for youth development outreach and opportunities in their communities and across Louisiana.
“4-H has a wonderful relationship with the community,” said Lekeisha Lucas-Powell, the East Carroll Parish 4-H agent. “We often collaborate on projects to provide meaningful opportunities to make a positive impact on youth and the community.”
These relationships are only strengthened by the continual high-quality and enriching experiences and leadership 4-H provides to communities and the state.
“It is such a pleasure working with the Vermilion Parish 4-H office every year,” said Adrienne Theriot, Vermilion Parish School District supervisor of middle school instruction. “Their staff provides well-rounded learning opportunities for all students in our district to engage in activities they may not have time to experience during the school day. These hands-on lessons help our students grow and develop into caring and productive citizens.”
Some partnerships and collaborations span decades. Louisiana Sea Grant and Louisiana 4-H have partnered on Marsh Maneuvers, a coastal ecology educational program for high school 4-H’ers, for over 30 years.
“Our long-term relationship with Louisiana Sea Grant allowed us to build a truly unique program that is one of the best experiences that Louisiana 4-H offers,” said Catherine Fox, Youth Wetlands Program specialist and co-director of Marsh Maneuvers.
Other partnerships and collaborations developed more recently. Launched in 2016, the Youth Conservation Corps is a partnership between Orleans Parish 4-H and the Audubon Nature Institute to provide youth with learning and service opportunities related to the environment and conservation.
“I shared leadership responsibilities with the youth volunteer manager at Audubon Nature Institute,” said Derek Landrum, a Louisiana 4-H agent. “My role was to provide positive youth development expertise. I developed age-appropriate learning activities for eighth through 12th graders and recruited partner organizations to plan service projects that were age and skill appropriate.”
It’s not just 4-H staff who are youth development leaders. 4-H volunteer leaders reported working with almost 100 community agencies and nonprofits across the state to provide over 6,220 youth with educational experiences and opportunities to give back to their communities and connect youth to community resources.
“As a result of these collaborative efforts, youth learned about their community and opportunities to give back and make their community a better place for others,” said Meggan Franks, the Louisiana 4-H volunteer and leadership specialist.
As COVID-19 restrictions rolled back later in the spring of 2021, West Feliciana 4-H Agent Katlin Lucas found that collaborative programming helped reaffirm the value of 4-H in her community after over a year of socially distanced and virtual events. Lucas collaborated with the 4-H Youth Wetlands Program and teachers at West Feliciana Middle School to put on Wetlands Days for sixth through eighth grade students.
“After COVID, it was very important to me that schools see that we are interested and care very much about the academics of the students,” said Lucas. “Wetlands Days truly helped rebuild that relationship, recruit volunteers, and teach youth about 4-H and agriculture. It helped show the community how much 4-H cares about our youth.”
Teachers at West Feliciana Middle School also feel that Wetlands Days was a success.
“The work 4-H does and the programs they bring to our school enrich the learning experience we are able to provide to our students,” said Ali McMillan, literacy and intervention specialist at West Feliciana Middle School. “Students engaged with each other in critical thinking related to the topics presented at Wetlands Day. Through hands-on activities, they were able to be active participants in their learning and take ownership of the process.”
Lucas also sees events like Wetlands Days as a valuable recruitment tool for her 4-H program.
“It gives youth a chance to meet their 4-H agent and other 4-H’ers, and they don’t have to come to us first — we are coming to them,” Lucas said. “My hope is that through events like this our 4-H program will grow and grow!”
Lucas isn’t the only person who sees the benefits in collaborative programming. Iberia 4-H partnered with Boys and Girls Club in New Iberia for its 2021 4-H Healthy Habits program funded by the Walmart Foundation. Together, they educated youth on healthy living and nutrition.
“Collaborating and partnering with other youth-serving organizations helps broaden the reach of the 4-H program,” said Maddox Miller, an Iberia Parish 4-H agent. “By expanding our audience, we are able to make a larger impact on the communities we serve.” ■
Iberia 4-H partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana for their 2021 4-H Healthy Habits program funded by the Walmart Foundation. Together, they created community gardens and educated youth on healthy living and nutrition.
Left: Maddox Miller, Iberia Parish 4-H agent, talks to members of the New Iberia Boys and Girls Club about the importance
of healthy living and eating. Photo provided by Iberia 4-H. Right: Iberia Parish 4-H’er Blake Gisclair assists
Boys and Girls Club members with planting strawberries. Photo provided by Iberia 4-H.
Iberia Parish 4-H’er Blake Gisclair teaches a healthy living lesson on the “parts of the plant we eat” to
Boys and Girls Club youth. Photo provided by Iberia 4-H.
East Carroll 4-H hosted the 4-H STEM Challenge at the 2021 Louisiana Soul Food and Heritage Festival in Lake Providence. Funded by TC Energy, this 4-H event offered experience-based activities and experiments led by 4-H teen leaders and community volunteers. Youth learned about robotic concepts, engineering and technology process skills, and life skills that included teamwork, communication, critical thinking, sharing and planning.
Left: A youth participant completes the Boats and Buoyancy Challenge at the 4-H STEM Challenge during the 2021 Louisiana Soul Food and Heritage Festival. Photo provided by East Carroll 4-H. Right: David Dixon, an Alcorn State University drone pilot and former 4-H’er, leads a presentation on drones in agriculture at the 4-H STEM Challenge event during the 2021 Louisiana Soul Food and Heritage Festival. Photo provided by East Carroll 4-H.
A youth participant tests his balloon-powered race car after designing and building it at
the 4-H STEM Challenge during the Louisiana Soul Food and Heritage Festival. Photo provided by East Carroll 4-H.
Students at West Feliciana Middle School got the chance to explore Louisiana’s wetlands, wildlife and ecology through a series of hands-on activities during 4-H Wetlands Days. The event was a collaboration between West Feliciana 4-H Agent Katlin Lucas, teachers at West Feliciana Middle School and the 4-H Youth Wetlands Program.
Left: Two students collect “alligator eggs” as part of an activity where they learn about alligator conservation and management
during the West Feliciana Wetlands Days. Photo provided by 4-H Youth Wetlands Program. Right: Eighth grade students at
West Feliciana Middle School build a model of a coastal community. Photo provided by 4-H Youth Wetlands Program.
Two students collect macroinvertebrates for a water quality activity during the
West Feliciana Middle School Wetlands Day. Photo provided by West Feliciana 4-H.