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4-H Teen Retreat: Growing Leaders with Help from Farm Credit

Teen retreat participants can earn credits towards their camp counselor certification.

Teen retreat participants can earn credits towards their camp counselor certification.

Each summer Florida 4-H camps are bustling with 4-H volunteers, staff, and youth enjoying their week long residential camping experience. As a significant delivery mode in experiential learning, residential camping annually is home to nearly 4000 youth participants and 250 volunteers and agents. Within this mixture are some very important teens that give up their week as a “camper” and graduate to the role of “Counselors” or “Counselors-in-Training (CIT).” These teens, ages 13-18 sacrifice alone time, electronics, and sometimes their sanity in order to fulfill their leadership role at camp and place their campers needs ahead of their own. We’ve seen them overcome struggles, we’ve seen their growth, and we want to pay them back for all the countless hours they have dedicated to the program!

Therefore, the 2016 4-H Teen Retreat is scheduled for February 19th-21st at Camp Cherry Lake for ages 13 to 18! This is no ordinary camping experience for Counselor and CIT age teens. There will be no responsibility of campers but definitely the responsibility of having fun while teambuilding with other teens across the Northwest District. In doing so, teens will participate in workshops, fun-shops, listen to a key note speaker to inspire the leader within them, and then finish up the weekend with dancing, fun activities, and more. All camp rules and dress codes apply for the weekend. This fun-packed weekend costs $90 (scholarships may be available) and you can send payment and registration forms to your local 4-H Agent at the county Extension Office. This program would not be possible without the generous support of Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.  Teen Retreat is just one of the ways that Farm Credit is helping 4-H grow future leaders.  NWFL-BLACK LARGE with Tagline

Furthermore, within the 4-H Teen Retreat mini camping experience, teens will have the opportunity to discover the spark within themselves, ignite that spark, and see personal growth with the guidance of 4-H through activities that foster Leadership, Confidence, Compassion, Curiosity, and Creativity. Teens will gain leadership skills and confidence in their abilities as leaders and productive members of their community through workshops focusing on teamwork and personal goal setting. Next, teens will experience growth in compassion as they work together to complete a service project by contributing to “Sole Hope,” an organization that helps place closed toed shoes on the feet of children in third world countries. Lastly, teens will express and grow their curiosity and creativity in “fun-shops” offering projects in photography, videography, nine-square, and para cord bracelet making.

Teens that participate in the 4-H Teen Retreat will leave camp with an arsenal of leadership skills, problem solving strategies, community service ideas and much more to take back to their counties. Teens may also expand their leadership potential by participating in some of UF/IFAS 4-H Priority Programs such as community clubs by becoming an officer or enhancing their current position; participation in citizenship and leadership through 4-H Legislature (June 27-July 1) participation in county events and attending 4-H University (July 25-29th.) Below are links to the State Events page where youth can customize their 4-H experience and tailor participation in events to fit their own personal leadership goals.

MorgancabinBy participating in 4-H, youth are reported over twice as likely not to participate in risky behavior and are over 3 times more likely to contribute to their communities as compared to non-4Her’s (Florida 4-H: Facts & Impacts.) In the 2014 4-H Common Measures Statewide Survey of 4-H Seniors, 92% reported they know how to deal with stress in positive ways, 84% agree they learned things that helped them make a difference in their communities, 98% agreed they respect people from other cultures, and 95% agreed they can apply knowledge in ways that solve real-life problems through community service. These statistics show that through participating in 4-H activities and events, youth are becoming more competent, productive citizens in their communities. This in turn leads 4-H youth to be better prepared for leadership roles within the workplace.

Take advantage of everything 4-H has to offer by kick-starting 2016 with the 4-H Teen Retreat! For more information on how to sign up for the 2016 4-H Teen Retreat contact your local 4-H Agent and complete the registration form below. For resources on leadership please visit these EDIS publications referenced in this article.

  • Teen Retreat Registration & Medication Forms:

  • Florida 4-H Camping Facts & Impacts:

  • Florida 4-H Facts & Impacts:

  • 4-H Common Measures Statewide Survey:

‘My Head to Clearer Thinking:’ Managing Stress

“I pledge my head to clearer thinking” is part of the 4-H pledge. Clear thinking helps us to make wiser choices/decisions but when we are under a lot of stress our thinking can be cloudy and our bodies can experience short and long term negative effects.

Some consider me to be one of the most positive, inspiring people they know but I too have to deal with stress. Recently a lot of change has happened in my personal and professional life. Like many, I just pushed through with my daily routines. My body had been giving me clues, tension in shoulders, headaches, and the final kicker, elevated blood pressure. Gasp!

Stressed defined in “Fact Sheet on Stress” by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as the brain’s response to any demand. Yes, any demand can be a stress trigger. Often we see the word “stress” in a negative way but not all stress triggers are negative. For example, finding out you just landed your dream job and will have to move. What creates high stress in one person may not do the same in another person.

Prolonged unaddressed stress will have negative effects mentally, physically, or both. Know your personal stress thresholds and do not ignoring those signals. You don’t want to get the frowny face from your doctor like I did.

Though stress is a part of life, being prepared to deal with it is key to successful living. If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to be more healthy, coping or reducing stress in your life and have many health benefits.  There are several great publications from University of Florida IFAS Extension concerning recognizing and dealing with stress. Below are just a few.

To read more of the NIMH’s Fact Sheet on Stress go here:

Here are a Few Stress Busters:

  1. Be creative (Have you tried the adult coloring books?)
  2. Laughter (Find your favorite funny movie/person and laugh out loud but not at work.)
  3. Have a good support network & get the help you need.

Florida 4-H Club Grows Compassion through Community Pride Grant

Fire Ants 4-H Club members prepare and serve meals for hospice patients and caregivers to develop compassion and empathy in their community.

Fire Ants 4-H Club members prepare and serve meals for hospice patients and caregivers to develop compassion and empathy in their community.

There are many genetic traits you’re born with that can’t be changed.  But what about traits such as compassion and empathy?  Can they be learned?  A new study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that adults can indeed be trained to be more compassionate and empathetic.  But rather than wait until adulthood to grow this trait, youth involved in 4-H have the opportunity to grow compassion beginning as early as five years old.  Giving back has long been one of the essential elements of 4-H programs where youth are given the opportunity to practice service to others.

The Fire Ants 4-H Club is one such club in Washington County that gives its members a chance to practice compassion and giving through its service project with Covenant Hospice. For the past two years, the Fire Ants 4-H Club has partnered with Covenant Hospice to provide volunteer services for its clients. 

It began with a few members and parents volunteering to make a meal for a client.  Last year, club officers applied for a Florida 4-H Foundation Community Pride grant to grow their efforts with the purpose of providing healthy, home-cooked meals for Hospice clients.    Members and parents spent a day preparing and cooking made-from-scratch meals and then portioning them into individual serving containers.  Over 100 individual home-cooked meals were frozen and delivered to clients.  Members have also served at the past three annual Covenant Hospice banquet that honors patients and caregivers.  

Community service has the ability to become life changing not just for those receiving the service but especially for the youth involved.  4-H’ers are learning through hands-on experiences that they can make a difference and that their efforts are important.  Getting involved in a cause or effort that matters to youth helps develop skills and experiences that carry over into adult life and cultivate a sense of compassion for the world in which they live.  If we grow youth who are more compassionate and empathetic, what does that potentially mean for our world?  We are more likely to have youth who are socially responsible, who have a heart for giving back and helping others, who have positive relationships with peers and adults, who have improved communication and critical thinking skills and go into careers that feed their passions and interests. 

What will you do in 2016 to grow compassion? 

For more information on 4-H clubs in your county, or if you’re an adult who wants to work with youth to help them grow compassion and empathy to make help your community thrive, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit 



Making a Fresh Start in 2016

The New Year is a great time to make a fresh start to live a happier, more balanced life.

The New Year is a great time to make a fresh start to live a happier, more balanced life.

Happy New Year!  This month, our blog will be focusing on tips and ideas for making a fresh start. Do you have a New Year’s Resolution yet? If so, how do you plan to make sure you will achieve your goal? How can you assure yourself it is not simply a wish you will wish every January, simply to forget by February? There is a huge difference between a goal and a wish. Which category your New Year’s Resolution falls into, depends on you. Here are three tips to make this year’s goals stick:

  1. Tell someone! To tell someone about your goal gives them the permission to ask about your goal. This is called an accountability partner. Usually, a workout partner will help with getting you to go to the gym or workout. Maybe fitness is not your goal, it could be you strive to have a closer relationship with God. You could give a friend permission to call you if you don’t show up to church on Sunday. Perhaps your goal is to further your education so you can apply for a promotion or a new job. Tell a friend, and ask them to check in with you from time to time regarding your progress.
  2. Believe it! The best way to achieve a goal is to believe it is possible. If your goal is to get back to school, sit down and figure out when you will graduate.  Mark it on a calendar, believe it will happen and achieve the goal, whatever it is.
  3. Start it! You can only get there if you take the first step! Let’s say you want to get back to school, call the admissions office on Monday and see what is needed to start the process. As the 4-H Extension Agent, I have assisted many young people with college applications and the financial aid maze. It can take time to get everything together to g0 to college. Don’t expect to start classes right away, but don’t let delays stop you. You can start classes later in the year.

What do you do should you get off track? Start again! If you did not meet your goal, or haven’t reached your goal yet, keep working on it. I started a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan three years ago; I plan to continue the plan and finish in 2016! Be positive with yourself and if you do not complete your goal, continue to work toward it in 2017.

Prudence Caskey is the Santa Rosa County 4-H Extension Agent. She works with youth ages 5-18 to develop life skills. She can be reached at or by calling the Santa Rosa County Extension office at (850) 623-3868.