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Local 4H keeping members engaged during pandemic

As restrictions have eased across the nation in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pearl River County’s 4H has been hard at work finding ways to keep its members engaged.

One of the ways that has been achieved is by hosting certain events that translate well via online platforms, which includes several photography contests.

Normally there would be a photography exhibit at the annual 4H Congress, which has been moved online because of COVID-19, so the organization decided to still offer members the opportunity to take photos and share them virtually in a contest that is set to end June 15.

An additional contest focused on equine photography has moved online as well in order to give interested parties the chance to show their skills.

Pearl River County Extension Agent Alex Shook said moving the contests online was just one instance in which 4H has adapted to the new normal of living during a pandemic.

“The photography contests would’ve taken place during that time (anyway), this was just a different way to deliver that opportunity. That was just an adaptation by the 4H extension to keep it going and give kids something to do,” Shook said.

The organization’s state congress, which usually takes place on the campus of Mississippi State University and is comprised of a plethora of contests and educational opportunities, has taken the virtual route as well and will run from July 6 through July 31.

While the contest aspect of the congress couldn’t be moved online, Shook said there would be four educational modules members can use including Agriculture and STEM, Healthy Living and Family Consumer Sciences, Leadership and Citizenship and Career Readiness.

The congress is reserved for members between the ages of 14 and 18, and Shook said it’s disappointing the 4Hers won’t be able to take part in the normal variety of contests offered previously.

“It’s kind of a bummer. It really is something special that a lot of senior 4Hers look forward to,” Shook said.

A major reason the organization has been pushing so much of its normal resources online is to ensure members learn and grow from their interactions within 4H.

They’re exposed to opportunities and relationships they never had previously, which Shook said enables the development of well-rounded citizens.

Shook said the organization’s responsibility to its members includes growth and maturity; aspects 4H is still trying to help with even during a pandemic.

“4H is a youth development organization, so it’s important for us to continue to deliver education for youth by whatever means necessary,” Shook said.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action so the organization has done its best to maintain its relationship with members and keep them engaged.

At the end of the day everyone is struggling with the effects of the pandemic, and the hope is members can find some solace in 4H and the activities provided by the organization.

“The extension service has always been able to adapt to any situation we face and this is just our answer to keep kids engaged. We want to try to provide them with opportunities to stay engaged and not just stay at home playing video games all day,” Shook said.