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Purple Up! for Military Kids

Child hugging his military parent

Purple Up! on Friday, April 12th

Most people think of the color green when they think of 4-H, but on Friday April 12, 2019, 4-H youth and volunteers in Florida will Purple Up! to show support for our military kids and families.  Join us in showing support and celebrate our young heroes! Participation in the 10th annual Purple Up! day is easy – wearing purple and take photos to share on social media using #fl4h and #purpleup.

Why Purple Up?
Military youth have unique challenges. Imagine how you would feel about having long and repeated separations from your parent.  Imagine your mom or dad missing important events like birthdays, holidays, and school events. How would you feel about frequent relocation or moves, having to make new friends, get familiar with new schools, and find new 4-H clubs and teams to join? These are all common experiences for military youth!

Many military children take these changes in stride, but it’s also hard to rebuilding a world every time they move. UF/IFAS Extension and 4-H are proud to be a part of the military family – 4-H works with military youth centers across the nation and overseas to create some consistency for youth in these situations.

Why the Color Purple?
Purple symbolizes all branches of the military and is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue.  By wearing purple and sharing in a visible way, you can show support and thank military children for their strength and sacrifices.

Did You Know?
Florida has the fifth highest number of school-age military children in the country according to the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center. We also have over 50,000 active and reserve military members whose families worry that they are in harm’s way when they deploy.

Be creative….the goal is for military youth to see the support in their school, youth groups, and the community! If you don’t have or own a purple shirt, wear a purple ribbon, tie or headband. Just show your support and let our youth know we care about them!  Can’t make the Purple Up! date? Then do something another day in April, the Month of the Military Child!

Remember, take pictures of your group wearing purple and share them on social media using #fl4h and #purpleup.
This allows us to:

  • collectively honor military children and their families
  • let military kids see the support of their community
  • thank military kids for their commitment and sacrifice

For more information on Purple Up!, contact Dr. Paula M. Davis at UF/IFAS Extension Bay County at 850-784-6105.

For more information on 4-H in your county, follow us on Facebook, and contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

By Paula Davis, Janet Psikogios and Jennifer Simms

4-H is Grateful for Volunteers

A group of men and ladies standing.

Like these Jefferson County volunteers, every 4-H volunteer is making a positive difference in the lives of youth.

As a 4-H Agent, one of the things I am most grateful for is volunteers.  Our volunteers are leaders, cheerleaders, mentors, and advocates for our youth. It is with their help and service that many young people find their voice or passion and become healthy, capable, caring, and productive adults.

Volunteers assist by:

  • leading club meetings
  • serving as camp counselors
  • judging speech and demonstration contests
  • serving on advisory committees, and
  • utilizing their unique interests, skills, and abilities to serve the 4-H program and extend it to audiences which would otherwise be unserved.
Youth in life jackets and snorkeling gear.

Youth volunteers, like our 4-H Camp counselors, are such an asset to the county 4-H program.

In the process, our volunteers shape future leaders by demonstrating leadership skills, instilling a sense of community, and offering a positive connection with someone from a different age group or generation. And while they do not serve for praise or recognition, many volunteers get a great deal of fulfillment, self-satisfaction, and enjoyment in volunteer service, as they watch youth develop self-confidence, self-worth, and leadership skills

Whether they serve episodically or for many years, volunteers are a valuable and essential component of 4-H. Without their help, 4-H could not deliver the excellent programs that are the cornerstone of Extension.

To all of the volunteers in the district, thank you for all you do.

Learn more about volunteering with Florida 4-H or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension to learn about 4-H in your county and discuss your possibilities with your 4-H Agent.

We’ll be highlighting more about 4-H volunteers during the month of April, so be on the lookout for some great stories!

Celebrating A 4-H/Tropicana First!

Tropicana Speech Contest

Liberty County 4-H’s Annual 4-H/Tropicana Public Speaking Contest included a special guest speaker with a uniquely delivered speech!

Ms. Delmy Pineda, a sixth grader at W.R. Tolar School, suffers from Cerebral Palsy. Delmy shared with her therapist, Kara Bradley, her desire to participate in the Tropicana Speech Contest. Delmy knew this was her last chance to participate being a sixth grader, so together, the two set out to make this happen.

So why is this so different? Delmy’s primary vehicle of communication is via a speech assist device. Yes, a computer-generated voice provided through a computer program. A first for any competitor.

Delmy wrote her speech, “Who Runs the World”, presented it and won in her class! Although she did not win in her school competition, Delmy embraced the opportunity and really championed the spirit of the competition. With that spirit in mind, the school administration asked if she could present at the County Competition as an honorary speaker. Of course, Delmy was added to the program without hesitation. Delmy presented her speech utilizing her speech assist device, a first for the Tropicana Competition. Delmy received a standing ovation. At that moment, Delmy was running the world.

For more information about the 4-H/Tropicana Public Speaking Program, or any other opportunities for your child, please contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.  

Summer 4-H Camp Registration is Open!

youth at Camp TimpoocheeSummer camp…memories cherished and never forgotten.  Camp fires, swimming, canoeing and kayaking, roughing it old-school in cabins and bunk beds, camp songs and skits around the fire, life-long memories and friendships…these are some of the experiences your child can have at 4-H Camp Timpoochee or 4-H Camp Cherry Lake this summer!

Time to Unplug

4-H summer camps are places for youth to unplug and get some fresh air while gaining valuable skills that last a lifetime.  A core philosophy of 4-H camp is “letting kids be kids” by utilizing the learn-by-doing approach with a balance of routine and unstructured time within a nurturing environment where youth feel a sense of community and belonging.

Explore & Discover

Campers are encouraged to get out of their comfort zones to discover and explore their interests, talents, and values. Classes including creative dramatics, marine exploration, air rifle, mad science, and many other programs allows them to explore and excel.  Campers gain confidence, empowerment, and resiliency through these new experiences.  A sense of community and belonging grows from the traditional camp songs and dances they learn.  New friendships are formed from the multi-county dynamic that the 4-H summer camp provides where youth meet kids from other counties and walks-of-life.

NW FL Camp Schedule 2019

Who: Campers (8-13 years of age) & Counselors (14-18 years of age)

Where: Camp Timpoochee- 4750 Timpoochee Lane, Niceville, Florida 32578

Camp Cherry Lake- 3861 NE Cherry Lake Circle, Madison, Florida 32340

For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension county office. 
Youth in life jackets and snorkeling gear.

Youth volunteers, like our 4-H Camp counselors, are a great asset to the county 4-H program.










Introducing the 4-H Food Challenge!

Introducing the 4-H Food Challenge!

basket covered with a cloth

4-H Food Challenge Mystery Basket 

Being creative in the kitchen…using a surprise set of ingredients…making a tasty dish…frequent watcher of The Food Network?  Then the 4-H Food Challenge camp is the summer day camp for you!

Take a Sneak Peek 
Here’s a sample list of possible ingredients in the Fruit & Vegetable category:

  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup of celery, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups green bell pepper strips
  • 1/3 cup onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil, divided
  • ½ cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of cornstarch

Any idea what you’d prepare? What would you name your dish?

Participants in the 4-H Food Challenge camp will work in teams with 3 to 4 members. Teams will be presented with:

  • a food category
  • a set of mystery ingredients
  • 40 minutes to create a dish, prepare a presentation about their dish, and clean their work area

When time is up, teams will present their creation to a panel of judges describing their collaboration in creating the dish, food safety practices used by the team, how they worked together, and finally, a description of the dish including some nutrition information.

We all eat, so food safety and preparation are skills that we all need. 4-H Food Challenge campers will learn those skills along with nutrition knowledge, teamwork and presentation skills.  Look for this day camp opportunity in your local UF/IFAS Extension 4-H program this summer, and join us in putting our skills to the test!

*The 4-H Food Challenge is loosely based on The Food Network show “Chopped” and adapted from the Texas 4-H Food Challenge Contest.

Hosting Exchange Students with the 4-H Academic Year Program

The 4-H Exchange Experience in the NW District 

Two exchange students pose for a picture.

Sali and Gregor received a brief orientation to  4-H and life in the United States soon after their arrival.

Wakulla 4-H welcomed two international students via the Future Leaders Exchange Program at the beginning of September. The students, who are living with volunteer host families this school year, have become active 4-H members during their stay.   Sali Polotov is from Tajikistan and is interested in studying geological science. Gregor Johanson is from Estonia and is interested in the performing arts.  Both students attend 11th grade at Wakulla High School.

Eye Opening Experiences 

Since their arrival, they have been part of the 4-H District III Council and attended Leadership Adventure Week where Gregor led a workshop on trust and communication.

During a recent interview with the 4-H Academic Year Program (AYP) FLEX students, Sali and Gregor reflected on their experiences at the midpoint of their year. Gregor shared it had always been a dream to study overseas. He saw an Instagram advertisement and decided to apply. He did not know about 4-H and learned about it after being accepted to the Academic Year Program. Since coming to the United States, he said has experienced some surprises.  He was surprised by the American “addiction to fast and unhealthy food”  and he has observed “that it seems to be more prevalent in rural areas.”

“There have been a lot of things that have surprised me, good things and bad things. Some of the good things include much friendlier and welcoming customer service, as well as a wider range of options for everything everywhere.”
– Gregor Johanson

Sali shared that he was motivated to come to the United States because he wanted to see the reality versus what was depicted in movies he had seen in Tajikistan. While Sali said that he knew nothing about 4-H before coming to Florida, he has enjoyed the opportunities to participate in 4-H clubs, special events and volunteer work.

People gather in front of hurricane relief supplies they collected.

Sali Polotov joined other Wakulla 4-H members to deliver relief supplies to the NFREC office after Hurricane Michael.

One thing that surprised Sali about American life was how “American people love holidays.  They do all of their best to spend an unforgettable moment.”  Sali shared he has especially enjoyed his experiences volunteering in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, snorkeling with manatees and celebrating Christmas with his host family.

Both young men are looking forward to an upcoming trip to Disney World and having more adventures with 4-H before their year in the United States concludes.

The Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX)

Since 1993, the FLEX Program has provided scholarships for high school students from Europe and Eurasia to spend an academic year in the United States while living with a family and attending an American high school. Florida 4-H partners with the FLEX program through the States’ 4-H International Exchange Programs. Students have opportunities to engage in both short-term summer programs and academic year exchange experiences. Nearly 60,000 youth and families have been positively impacted by international exchange through States’ 4-H programs since 1997.

The FLEX program is a competitive, merit-based scholarship program funded by the U.S. Department of State. Students gain leadership skills, learn about American society and values, and teach Americans about FLEX countries and cultures. The primary goal of the FLEX program is to improve mutual understanding and develop and strengthen long-term relationships between citizens of the United States and other peoples and countries. There are currently 17 countries that participate in the FLEX program:  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.  Not all 4-H AYP students come to Florida through the FLEX program and students may come from other partner countries.

How to Get Involved with the 4-H AYP Program:

Families can become qualified to host an international student for the 10 month Academic Year Program by applying at For more information, contact Georgene Bender, Florida 4-H AYP Coordinator, UF/IFAS Extension Faculty Emeritus –

For more information about this program or other 4-H programs in your county, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Additional Resources: