(11/27/23) POLLOCK, La. — Youth from 13 parishes across southwest Louisiana came together in the spirit of discovery, unity and a little friendly competition at the 2023 Southwest Region 4-H Challenge Camp.
4-H Challenge Camp, which was held at the LSU AgCenter Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center earlier this month, included two days chock full of activities designed for 7th and 8th graders. The focus was teaching them to understand and demonstrate the ability to work cooperatively in problem-solving exercises.
The youth, who came from different areas of the state and have varied backgrounds, learned to identify barriers to effective communication within a group and used various methods to express ideas to group members.
Brennan Uzee, assistant 4-H agent from Calcasieu Parish, said it was a joy to see children come out of their shells and meet friends they might remember for a lifetime.
“It’s really cool to see them when they first get here,” he said. “They’re kind of shy and nervous, but once we’re done, they never want to leave.”
Uzee said it was as rewarding an experience for the 4-H agents as it was for the youth to see their growth over the course of the two-day camp.
Southwest Region 4-H coordinator Lanette Hebert echoed Uzee’s sentiments, adding that there is a good reason the camp was geared exclusively to 7th and 8th graders.
“This is a really impressionable age group, so it is the time for them to learn communication and team-building skills, and we help them to apply those back to everyday life once they go home,” she said.
Students at this age can be more interested in their mobile devices and other outside influences, Hebert said. Challenge Camp offered a way to engage or reengage interest in 4-H activities that may have begun to wane.
“This is the age group when 4-H enrollment begins to decline, so it’s crucial for them to have a unique experience like Challenge Camp,” she said.
Acadia Parish 4-H agent and parish chair Kayla Segura said that winning challenges that take the combined efforts of all team members built and strengthened bonds between youth that may have never met each other outside of camp.
“The one thing I notice most about the attendees is that, when leaving, they all say that they’ve met new friends from other parts of the state,” she said. “They look more forward to the next event, whether it be 4-H University or Junior Leadership conference because they can’t wait to see the friends they met here.”
The 2023 Southwest 4-H Challenge Camp, held earlier this month at the LSU AgCenter Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock, brought together 7th and 8th graders with diverse backgrounds from 13 parishes to learn about communication through a series of team-building competitions. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter
2023 Southwest 4-H Challenge Camp attendees work together on a team building project where they try to turn a tarp over using only their feet while not stepping off. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter
Brennan Uzee, assistant 4-H agent from Calcasieu Parish, gives instructions to attendees of the 2023 Southwest 4-H Challenge Camp, which was held in mid-November at the LSU AgCenter Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center in Pollock. Photo by V. Todd Miller/LSU AgCenter