(04/30/20) BENTON, La. — As most end-of-year school celebrations have been canceled or postponed until the state’s stay-at-home order is rescinded, LSU AgCenter youth development professionals have found a way to recognize senior 4-H Club members virtually.
“We were saddened not only because we would not be able to recognize our senior 4-H members the way we normally do, but also by comments from parents about the disappointment felt by students who are not getting to have so many of those traditional senior experiences,” said Bossier Parish 4-H agent Jeannie Crnkovic.
The Louisiana 4-H program is administered by the LSU AgCenter and promotes many educational activities that rely heavily on youth leadership, citizenship and project completion.
As most annual 4-H recognition and awards programs were also canceled due to COVID-19, Crnkovic and others wanted to find a way to acknowledge senior 4-H’ers who will soon be exiting the program.
Social media has since exploded with options for recognition focusing on career achievements, favorite 4-H memories, greatest lessons learned from 4-H participation, and education or career plans after graduation.
Senior Spotlights soon began popping up on parish 4-H Facebook pages across the state, highlighting high school senior 4-H member career achievements and sharing comments from the youth about how being a part of 4-H has affected their lives.
“My favorite 4-H memory was being able to attend the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. I went there not knowing many people, but I came back with many memories and friendships that will last a lifetime,” said Bossier Parish senior Jennifer Reneé “Jenny Rae” Langston.
“I’ve always been told that you get out of something what you put into it. 4-H brought that saying to life,” said Franklin Parish senior Maddi Taylor.
“Being a member of 4-H has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have gained valuable life skills that has prepared me for college and beyond,” said East Carroll Parish senior Karvan “K.J.” Powell Jr.
“The greatest lesson I have learned in 4-H is to not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone. 4-H really pushed me to always make new friends and to step up into a leadership role when it was needed,” said Bossier Parish senior Holly Gabrielle Tony.
“4-H has had a major impact on my life. It has helped me develop leadership skills and helped me build confidence in my speaking abilities,” said Caldwell Parish senior Rowdy James Michaud Jr.
“At this time, we knew we couldn’t have an official awards program where our seniors would be recognized, so this was a way to give them the recognition they deserve,” said Caldwell Parish 4-H agent Jana Bennett. “The responses really show the impact 4-H has had and recognizes what they have done in 4-H and also their career path.”
Senior Salute is another AgCenter-sponsored program currently underway to celebrate high school 4-H Club graduates.
High school graduate nominations are being collected from parish agents through May 24 to be compiled for a state video to be posted in June on various social media platforms.
“I’m so proud of the efforts of our 4-H agents and volunteers in recognizing our very deserving senior 4-H members,” said AgCenter 4-H Youth Development department head Janet Fox. “These young people deserve to be recognized in creative, meaningful ways.”
Another approach used to recognize graduates began when Christi Turner, a Bossier Parish 4-H parent and state 4-H Fashion Board volunteer, initiated the Louisiana 4-H Adopt-a-Senior program.
After seeing numerous similar Facebook groups honoring graduates in the Bossier-Caddo area, she decided to start a group dedicated to honoring 4-H graduates statewide.
Turner does not have a graduate this year but has worked closely with senior members on the fashion board. Her son, Jayce, is a junior and serves as a state 4-H shooting sports ambassador where he has made many friends across the state who are graduating from high school this year.
“We just wanted to give back and do something special for them,” Turner said.
The private Facebook group is designed to protect the privacy of the youth while connecting them with caring adult sponsors. A parent can first request to join the group and is then directed to nominate their graduate for consideration.
More than 200 parents are members of the group so far, and about 32 graduates have been adopted, Turner said.
The group recommends that donors adopt no more than two seniors to ensure that all nominees are recognized. Graduates are sent inspirational cards, gift cards and other congratulatory gifts once a week through August.
“We were really looking for a way to keep in touch and spotlight the youth even though we can’t see or interact with them,” Crnkovic said.
More information about how to adopt a Louisiana 4-H senior is available online at https://bit.ly/la4-Hseniors.
Holly Tony, a senior at Haughton High School in Bossier Parish, plans to attend Louisiana College at Pineville in the fall and then pursue a career in social work. Photo provided
4-H’er Rowdy James Michaud Jr. volunteers at the 4-H trivia game during Ag Expo in Monroe. The Old Bethel Christian Academy senior plans to study engineering at Louisiana Tech University. Photo provided
Franklin Parish High School senior Maddi Taylor participates in an AgCenter beef show. The 4-H’er will be attending LSU in the fall to study animal sciences. Photo provided