AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The Alabama Cooperative Extension System hosted the annual Alabama 4-H Midwinter Virtual Leadership Retreat Feb. 5 and 6. However, like many events within the past year, it was forced to take a new approach. The 4-H Midwinter retreat is designed specifically for high school seniors. The goal of the event is for the youth of Alabama to interact with 4-H and gain leadership skills, while also motivating 4-H members to stay active in their community through service and outreach.
“This is one of the best youth and adult partnership programs,” said Alabama Extension 4-H Specialist Joy Scott.
Traditionally, student state 4-H ambassadors, who are chosen by 4-H advisors, plan the retreat. Planning a retreat for students across the state is difficult in itself, even without a global pandemic. The 31 student ambassadors faced a daunting task: plan a virtual retreat for the youth of Alabama. With flying colors, they planned the retreat in its new, unprecedented form.
After receiving a $4,000 grant for the event from the Alabama 4-H Foundation, the cost was only $15 for each participant. According to Scott, this was instrumental to make the retreat more accessible to the youth of state. Over 131 students participated, representing 39 counties.
Retreat in Motion
Before the retreat began, each participant received a Midwinter Retreat box in the mail. The box included the following items:
- water bottle
- sunglasses/ sunglass cord
- cell phone holder
- happy grams (handwritten notes from the student state ambassadors)
- workshop supplies
- space-themed cut-outs to color and decorate for their virtual meetings
For the first day of the retreat, participants were able to socialize through various virtual breakout rooms.
“Although each of us were in a room alone, it was easy to forget because it felt like we were in a room with 130 of our closest friends,” said State 4-H Ambassador President Marion Bell.
For the second day, the participants enjoyed four workshops.
- Escaping the Space Race
- Your Money, Your Life
- Exploring the 4-H Universe
- Leading Your Way Through Difficult Conversations
To end the retreat with a bang, the participants listened to guest speaker Destin Sandlin, a personality of the YouTube page Smarter Every Day.
Active Through Adversity
While conditions for the retreat were not ideal, the positivity and adaptation of the state ambassadors mesmerized 4-H advisors.
“COVID has done everything but stop the Alabama 4-H state ambassadors from putting on a spectacular Midwinter,” Vice President Colton Cook said. “This year has certainly been different, but the state ambassadors have worked hard to give the event of the year for 4-Her’s.”
Without meeting face-to-face, the state ambassadors and youth of Alabama were able to overcome unprecedented circumstances. Little can hinder the determination and teamwork of the Alabama youth.
For more information about the Alabama 4-H Midwinter Virtual Leadership Retreat, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.