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This week, 4-Hers from across Florida came together for an event known as 4-H University.  This event was formerly known as 4-H Congress, and 4-H Shortcourse (back in the 40’s and 50’s). It is an opportunity for high school youth to showcase project knowledge, practice leadership skills, participate in our state officer election process, and engage in service projects and workshops to explore their sparks and potential careers. This blog post is written from the perspective of a parent of a first-time youth participant.

Day 1: The Florida 4-H Foundation provided a charter bus to transport panhandle youth to and from Gainesville. But it wasn’t just any bus- it was a customized Florida Gator bus!  While I personally am not a Gator Fan, it was impressive and made our young people feel special. Having a charter bus also alleviated some of the stress (and expense) on parents, 4-H agents, and volunteers and made compliance with our youth protection policy much easier!

Once the youth arrived, they checked into their dorms, unpacked, and selected their workshops for the week. Workshops are structured to help youth explore their passions and interests, and learn about potential careers connected to their sparks. Workshops are hosted by UF faculty across several different departments- animal science, entomology, food sciences, engineering, and more!

Some youth also competed in state contests such as public speaking, demonstrations, or illustrated talks. Entries for the state photographic and graphic design contests were on display. Youth also listened to speeches prepared by candidates running for office for the Florida 4-H Executive Board. This year we had a record number of candidates- 19 for five positions (president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and reporter). The opening event was held at a recreational center where youth had the opportunity to skate, ride go-carts, rock climb, and get to know each other.

Day 2: Youth participated in service projects and workshops.

Dinner on day 2 was enjoyed at “The Swamp,” also known as the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. This was sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

After dinner, the state Share the Fun talent contest took place and was live-streamed on social media. This was followed by a dance before returning to the dorms.

Day 3: Youth participated in more workshops, and voting delegates from each county participated in a State Executive Board Meeting and cast their votes for state officers. That evening, awards for scholarships and national trips were presented during a banquet, and the new officers were inducted. This celebration was followed by a dance.

Day 4: The event was concluded with an Awards Breakfast and parade of champions, where all winners from all state events that occurred throughout the year were acknowledged. After breakfast, there was a Florida 4-H Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and youth loaded back up on the bus to head home!

4-H University usually occurs the last week of July. For more information, check out our website or contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office.

Heather Kent
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