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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Ohio 4-H Highlights: February 2021

  1. Connecting during COVID

    Olivia with the blue ribbon Jean mailed her.

    For a teenager like Olivia Preston, who doesn’t text or play video games and prefers taking notes by hand, becoming a pen pal was a natural fit.

    Jean Straley had been recovering from a broken back in a nursing home when Olivia’s letter arrived in her mailbox.

    Included with the letter was a photo of 13-year-old Olivia holding her rabbit, Black Beauty. From the letter and photo, Straley got inspired to write stories about the rabbit, which she told in letter after letter.  

    Coming up with stories kept her entertained. Bingo had ended soon after the pandemic began. No more card games with neighbors. And meals together turned into people sparsely spread across a dining hall, one person per table, just eating, not talking much. Being so far away kept people from hearing each other.

    “I enjoy talking to people, and we couldn’t do much,” Straley said.

    Her daughter visited, and so did the women who assisted her a little bit each day, but many hours went by without anyone to talk to.

    Jean Straley sitting in a chair, holding a photo and coloring page from Olivia.So Straley conjured up stories about Olivia’s rabbit and detailed them in letters she couldn’t wait to tuck into envelopes and send off.

    Last spring, the Berlin 4-H’ers 4-H Club started the project to connect with seniors in Delaware County during the pandemic.

    Most sent one or two letters, but Olivia and Straley were both so excited about hearing from each other that they kept it up. They’re still writing.

    “Having something in hand is kind of fun,” said Olivia, who is in seventh grade at Big Walnut Middle School. “The letters had all these different pictures. It was really sweet.”

    In one, Olivia said she didn’t enter her rabbit in the fair because she didn’t want to risk getting COVID. A week or so later, she opened a letter from Straley containing a paper blue ribbon on which Straley had cut out and pasted “Black Beauty #1.” In the story she made up, the rabbit had won after escaping her cage and finding her own way to the fair.  

    “It gives me something to do,” said Straley, who is 77. “I don’t like to just sit there and do nothing.” Olivia with a letter ready to mail.

    And there are only so many puzzles she can do or television shows to watch before monotony kicks in. Letters broke that up. After all, Straley spent most of her life calling people or mailing letters when she couldn’t see them in person. For most of her life, there was no email, texting, or Facebook.

    While there is all of that now, Olivia doesn’t really use them. She doesn’t have a cell phone, and though she has an iPad, she’d rather write out notes from classes. 

    That ease of writing may be why she had no trouble starting the first letter to Straley. Olivia naturally mentioned her rabbit, which she’s had for nearly two years, the sometimes cuddly, sometimes temperamental pet that will thump her foot or bite Olivia’s finger when she’s hungry or discontent for some other reason.

    Every letter she wrote, Olivia thought about the possibility that she could be brightening up Straley’s day, even by a bit. And she loved knowing a letter would eventually be on the way to her house detailing another adventure her rabbit had taken.

    Story by Alayna DeMartini.

  2. Zooming along with virtual meetings

    Members of the Circle 62 4-H Club with their scavenger hunt items.

    The pandemic is not slowing down 4-H clubs that have found creative ways to make virtual meetings fun and engaging.

    In Union County, the Scissors and Sandwiches 4-H Club hosts color meetings, where members are seen on-screen wearing the same hues. The Circle 62 Club in Columbiana County sends its 30 members on in-house scavenger hunts. They receive a list of items prior to the meeting and then submit photos with their finds to the club. Previous hunts included searching for cookie sprinkles, toys that make noise, and an extension cord. “These hunts keep everyone involved and have been great fun for our kids,” said Paula Bardo, club advisor.

    The fun activities have not replaced a 4-H staple—club demonstrations. Members of Scissors and Sandwiches submit a video sharing their skills via Flipgrid, a web-based teaching tool. This has allowed members to complete demonstrations that were more unique than could have been done during the traditional in-person setting. Demonstrations have included a tour of a member’s wood workshop while discussing shop safety and informational presentations on vegetable care directly from the vegetable garden.

    4-H professionals in at least 15 counties are offering virtual countywide club meetings to provide an educational program and meeting space to clubs.Screen capture of a virtual meeting. According to Frances Foos, 4-H educator in Madison County, club advisors were struggling with how to host virtual meetings. “This program helps do the groundwork for volunteers, so they don’t worry about creating a virtual meeting space or program,” said Foos. The meetings feature topics members may not normally encounter—such as fire safety, paleontology, and tapping trees for maple syrup—then Foos connects each topic to a 4-H project that members can complete.

    4-H club leaders also have a new tool this year to make meetings easier. The Ohio 4-H Grab & Go Meeting Toolkit offers seven meeting agendas and accommodates both in-person and virtual meetings.

    In true 4-H fashion, 4-H professionals, volunteers, and members continue to make the best better even when faced with the challenges of a global pandemic.

  3. Ohio 4-H Equity Month

    Three black kids with a stationary bike. A chalk mural with a 4-H clover, moon, and other drawings is behind them.

    In February, Ohio 4-H focuses on equity and inclusion with four weekly themes: Belief Systems, Race and Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality, and Don’t Dis My Ability: Disability Awareness.

    The True Leaders in Equity team of 4-H professionals partnered with youth leaders to develop weekly activities and conversation prompts, an online challenge to discover Ohio sites to explore the diversity in our state, social media posts, reading lists for youth of all ages, and more.

    4-H member Sydney Fannin from Warren County kicked off Belief Systems week with a video introduction. Clues posted on Facebook led readers to discover the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and a final video conversation with Samina Sohail, MD, explaining Islam and answering questions.

    Later in February, 4-H professionals will have the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion, A middle-aged woman working at a a loom with two teenage girls watching.“Let’s Talk About Race,” with Kathy Lechman, PhD, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

    Find all the Ohio 4-H Equity Month details at

  4. Save the date! Support Ohio 4-H Camps

    Although it is cold outside, 4-H’ers have warm memories of summer camp. Due to camps being canceled in 2020, many still face a challenging financial situation as they wait for additional camper income when it is safe to reopen.

    Save the date for the Ohio State Day of Giving on March 22 and support the 4-H Camping Fund (#315239) or the camp of your choice. Your gift matters. Together, with your support, Ohio 4-H camps will remain strong and ready for campers.

    Ohio State Day of Giving March 22, 2021Don’t want to wait? You can donate now to the camp of your choice.

    Let’s make a difference together. Find this and all 4-H funds at

  5. Faces of Ohio

    Jerome Scott

    Each month we highlight an Ohio 4-H alumnus. Ohio 4-H alumni have amazing stories to share, from their personal experience in 4-H to how they have given back to the program. This month we feature Jerome Scott, Adventure Central 4-H alumnus and current financial consultant for PNC Bank.

    Like most alumni, Jerome Scott got his start in 4-H at a young age. “My 4-H experience began as an 8-year-old, inner-city child at Adventure Central’s summer day camp program in Dayton,” Scott said. Adventure Central is a partnership between 4-H, OSU Extension, and Five Rivers MetroParks focused on positive youth development. After five years of day camp, Scott joined Adventure Central’s Job Experience and Training (JET) program.

    “This is where the majority of my 4-H experience began,” Scott said. “JET allows teens at Adventure Jerome with a purple ribbon.Central the opportunity to enter the workforce. We were offered training on how to conduct ourselves in interviews and team meetings, coaching on how to develop resumes, and were taught how to develop and obtain 21st-century skills, like leadership, technology, and problem-solving.”

    His favorite 4-H memory was at the Ohio State Fair. “As a participant in this program, I was given the opportunity to compete in Workforce Preparation Day. This is a competition that involves mock interviews and visual displays that share what we learned throughout our summer. I loved the experience of competing and representing my county! This event is where I was introduced to the vastness of 4-H and gained my appreciation for the organization I had been a member of for so long, and when we were done, we got to experience the state fair!”

    After Scott’s time in 4-H was over, his connection to 4-H didn’t end. “I spent 10 years in 4-H, and after I graduated from high school, I stayed involved through mentorship and volunteerism as well as serving on the Ohio 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees while a student at Ohio State. Volunteerism is huge for me, and it was only fitting for me to give my time, knowledge, and resources back to the same place that raised me.”A man and his son.

    His involvement at Adventure Central continued after his time at Ohio State, where he spent four years as a group leader and JET mentor. And his experience has come full circle: “Now I am the proud parent of an Adventure Central participant!”

    4-H gave Scott a great passion for diversity and inclusion. “As a child growing up in Trotwood, my experience in 4-H was the first time I was put in a place in which no one looked, dressed, or acted like me, and I loved it! I loved the opportunity to experience other cultures, hear the perspectives of different people, and use those perspectives to unite us. The lessons I learned about diversity are lessons I still use to this day.”

    Not only did 4-H help Scott see life in a different way, it taught him skills that he uses every day.  “I am currently a financial consultant for PNC Bank. We were all taught basic principles of perseverance, community, leadership, and the skill of building positive relationships, that have assisted me in the success of my career.”Young man wearing a white shirt, khaki-colored hat, in front of a bush and red building.

    Scott shared his advice to 4-H youth. “Be open and never stop. Your experiences in 4-H are going to take you out of your comfort zone, and that can be extremely uncomfortable. Those uncomfortable moments are where I developed the skills that allowed me to succeed in all my future endeavors. I didn’t realize the value of these skills until years after my time in 4-H was over.”

  6. Calendar of events

    Strawberries in a heart-shaped bowl.

    Feb. 23, Senior Series Heart Health Webinar (Zoom)—1 p.m. Join Franklin County Senior Series Program Assistant Loretta Sweeney for an informative session on the risk factors for heart disease and steps to reduce your risk. Register at Registration deadline is Feb. 23.

    Feb. 24, Wellness Wednesdays: Steps to a Healthier Heart (Zoom)—noon. Ohio State University Extension-Franklin County invites you to join the Live Healthy Live Well team for a heart-healthy program. Register at

    March 5, Food Waste: Trends & Updates (Zoom)—11 a.m. Brian Roe, PhD, will share about the economic, environmental, and social implications of food waste; the implications of the COVID pandemic on household-level food waste; and recent recommendations for reducing food waste among consumers proposed by the National Academy of Sciences. Register here.

    March 10, Wellness Wednesdays: Steps to a Healthier Heart (Zoom)—noon. We invite you to join the Live Healthy Live Well team for a heart-healthy program. Register at

    March 11, Ohio 4-H Awards Recognition (YouTube Premiere)—7 p.m. Join us to honor the Volunteer Awards honorees, Hall of Fame inductees, Tenure Milestones, and Teen of the Year and Teen Hall of Fame inductees. Register by March 9 at

    March 20, Family Hiking Day at Canter’s Cave (Jackson)—noon to 4 p.m. Join us at Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp for Family Hiking Day! An afternoon of camping favorites—guided hikes, s’mores, hot chocolate, coffee, campfire, and canteen open. Harrison Powell Lodge and Foundation Lodge will be open to view updates made since the last camping season. Admission is $5 per person (kids 5 and under free). Masks and social distancing are required. You can contact Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp by email at or by phone at 740-286-4058.

    2021 Buckeye Fresh Mini Meat Cutting Workshops (Columbus)—Workshops are Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participants will choose one of the following sessions: March 26 and 27, April 9 and 10, April 23 and 24, May 7 and 8, or May 21 and 22. After the workshop, participants will have a better understanding of anatomy, muscle myology, cutting guidelines, food safety, meat quality, the role of processed meat, and government regulated non-meat ingredients (i.e., salt, phosphates, nitrites, etc.), finalized by conducting hands-on cutting tests to understand the impact of yields on profit margins. Anyone 18 and older can attend. Cost to attend is $125. Email Lyda Garcia, PhD, at with questions or to register.