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4-H virtual state congress comes to an end

Normally the Pearl River County 4-H would take part in a two-day state congress meeting on the campus of Mississippi State, but because of COVID-19 the congress was moved online and came to an end July 31.

In years past members of 4-H would participate in a variety of contests, tours and workshops at congress, but because this year’s iteration was online those activities weren’t possible.

Instead, members got the opportunity to participate in five modules offering unique educational opportunities.

Pearl River County Extension Agent Alex Shook said the modules offered were focused on S.T.E.M. and agriculture, family and consumer sciences, healthy living, citizenship and leadership and career readiness.

The congress as a whole could’ve been cancelled, but Shook said the organization wanted to continue offering unique opportunities to its members, even during a pandemic.

“I think it was important to offer this virtual congress because even though we could not offer (the usual) contests, we were still able to offer these kids some educational opportunities to improve themselves and to continue to build life skills,” Shook said.

4-H had offered virtual lessons, contests and workshops prior to the congress in order to keep members engaged and active during the pandemic.

It’s a far cry from the normal in-person meetings and events the organization usually hosts, but like everyone else in the current environment, 4-H has had to innovate.

“We have been encouraged to try and adapt as much programming as possible for virtual use, although we are somewhat limited depending on the subject area,” Shook said.

Mandates from Gov. Tate Reeves have forced the organization to continuously alter plans as the situation regarding COVID-19 has changed.

Shook said that in a perfect world they’d be back to meeting face to face, but with the current guidelines in place that’s not possible.

“Until we see a lessening of those mandates this is where we’re at as far as continuing to offer educational opportunities to youth,” Shook said.

There is still a possibility of 4-H members getting to compete at the state fair in Jackson that usually takes place in October.

However, those plans aren’t set in stone, so Shook said the organization is being flexible when planning for the future.

“The agricultural commissioner seems to be committed to offering a livestock show at the fair, so from our standpoint we are preparing to take part in that with the statement that it’s subject to change,” Shook said.

There’s currently a lot of uncertainty regarding how public events will proceed in the future given the fluid situation of COVID-19.

Right now, organizations like 4-H are taking a wait and see approach as more information and guidelines come out.

“I think, like many organizations, we’re all just kind of waiting to see what happens. The thing is we want to return to normalcy like everyone else does, but of course we have to adhere to those guidelines to attempt to make the public as safe as possible,” Shook said.