4-H Participants Thankful as Summer Fair Season Begins
PROCTOR, Minn. – The return of in-person activities and programming is a sigh of relief for not only educators, but those taking part in programs such as 4-H.
“There’s something about being together in a classroom or in a room together to do things,” said Nicole Kudrle, extension educator for 4-H youth development in north St. Louis County.
It’s no secret the past year has been mentally draining for all of us in a variety of ways.
“We saw that youth needed to stay connected to one another and they weren’t getting that through school anymore,” said Kudrle.
For Kudrle, the past year challenged her to come up with ways to connect youth with the mission of 4-H.
Thankfully, virtual programming via zoom and social media sites proved to be beneficial for aspiring youth in St. Louis County.
“We learn through doing,” said Kudrle. “We actually had quite a few brand new participants for the first time who joined us virtually.”
“There aren’t a lot of programs that continued to try and do online, but 4-H was like, we’re fine, we’ve got this,” said Eleanor Eastvold, secretary for 4-H St. Louis County Ambassadors.
With a solid stance on moving forward no matter the circumstances, kiddos, teens, and young adults continued connecting with the heads, hearts, hands, and health.
“Recently we just did a beach cleanup, we wanted to be outdoors, and we’ve met at parks before,” said Ginger Giddings, president of 4-H St. Louis County Ambassadors.
“So 4-H isn’t just about animals anymore, that’s usually the name that people bring and think, I have to have an animal to join 4-H, it absolutely isn’t,” said Kudrle.
Aside from animals, 4-H’ers participate in STEM activities, robotics, cooking, gardening, art, and aerospace just to name a few.
“It helps with team building, expanding skills, and working with other people,” said Giddings. “It works your creativity and critical thinking skills.”
Now as more residents in St. Louis County become vaccinated, these hands-on learners are back to participating in the local county fairs, showing the judges what they’ve learned over the past year, even on a virtual platform.
“We get to see the growth in our youth, we get to see the growth in the program, and the judges also get to see how passionate youth are about certain project areas,” said Kudrle.
“Pretty much my whole summer evolves around the county and state fairs,” said Fraya Webster, 4-H leadership club and horse club.
For Webster, it’s the end of a chapter this year as she participates in a horse club.
“Being able to have a club like horse club and meeting people with similar minds and interests to you and having that network of friends, you always have people you can ask,” said Webster.
As her tenure comes to an end with sadness set aside, she’s happy to know the program continues on in good hands and encourages all youth to get involved as early as possible.
“It’s a really welcoming place if you’re shy but you want to be involved in something, 4-H is a great place to start,” said Webster.
“We’re just excited to see what the future brings for everybody,” said Kudrle.
4-H leaders in St. Louis County say after the success they’ve experienced over the past year, virtual and hybrid programming options are here to stay.