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Red Carpet Ready Teens!

4-H teens from across the Florida Panhandle convened at Camp Timpoochee February 17-19 for our Northwest Teen Retreat. This event is planned for teens by a committee of teens and adult advisors. The youth selected the theme of “Lights, Camera. Action”. This leadership event is a time for youth to participate in workshops and explore sparks related to different 4-H project areas.

The event kicked off with a pep rally and district games. This was followed by open recreation and camp tours. On Saturday, the youth participated in a Mindfulness workshop, as well as a workshop to learn about 4-H awards and scholarships. All youth took part in a service project, Boggy Bears. Teens cut out and sewed cloth teddy bears to donate to disabled youth attending Camp Boggy Creek next summer.

The youth had a choice of several fun shops to learn about 4-H projects, contests, and opportunities. Fishing, Tailgating, Dance, Cake Decorating, and Forensic Entomology workshops were offered to help youth explore their sparks. The event ended with a Red Carpet Dance and slideshow developed by Jefferson County teens. One youth shared:

My favorite part of Teen Retreat is getting to meet other 4-Hers from across the panhandle of Florida.

For more information about the 4-H Northwest Florida District Teen Retreat, or to join the committee to plan next year’s event, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office. Additional events for Teens to explore careers and sparks include iLead, 4-H University, and 3rd Executive Board

Meet the Author- John Lilly

John teaching youth about drones

John teaches youth about STEM and agriculture during his drone class.

John G. Lilly grew up in Hamilton County, Florida.  He attended Tuskegee University on a football scholarship, where he earned a Bachelors’ degree, and Florida A&M University, earning a Master’s Degree; both degrees were in Agricultural Education.  He taught Vocational Agriculture at Hamilton County High School and was the FFA Advisor, then joined the Alachua County Extension Office as Courtesy Agent in 1986.  In 1988, he was the  4-H Coordinator in Jefferson County, initially with FAMU.  In 2000, his position was transferred to UF/IFAS Extension with an Extension faculty appointment.  In 2009 he became the Jefferson County Extension Director.

Lilly’s major programs are based on input from an effective advisory committee and input from local clientele:  1)Expand, Strengthen and Support School Activities and Community Clubs, 2) Expand Youth Knowledge through Camping and Environmental Education Activities.

He has enrolled more than 30% of age-eligible youth in Jefferson County in 4-H Clubs.  Enrollment in nine 4-H community clubs; and in sewing, cooking, natural resource/activity, home school and school Clubs has increased 2%-3% each of the past several years. However, due to COVID, enrollment is down significantly. His 4-H programs are designed to serve all youths, even the non-traditional youths such as at-risk and handicapped.  Participation of black and other minority youth is above the parity level for youth and considerably above the overall minority percentage within the County – 30%. In addition to the traditional 4-H work typical of most counties, Lilly, personally and through his 4-H program leadership, targets “at-risk” and special needs youth, integrates these particular youth with the general 4-H participants.

youth in the woods

John hosts an environmental field day for Jefferson County students to teach them about conservation and invasive species.

For the past eight years, Jefferson County 4-H had the largest overnight 4-H Summer Camp attendance in the state (111 in 2019).  Since 2003, Jefferson County 4-H has received nearly $200,000.00 from local merchants and fundraisers to send youths to Summer Camps. In addition, one of the county commissioners has organized an annual 4-H fundraiser that nets between $10,000-$18,000 annually.

The Natural Resource / Environmental Education base of much of the County’s youth programming is broad and diverse.  Respondents to the Florida Needs Assessment Survey indicated that educational programming addressing at-risk youth issues was a “high priority.” A non-aggressive activity like sport fishing and other environmental-focused educational programs may reduce youth risk factors – that help keep them out of trouble. A unique aspect of the 4-H camping program is the specific subject matter that addresses educational needs and interests at the county level.  Jefferson County 4-H Camps utilize the resources of the natural surroundings for campers to attain life skills in interpersonal communications, group living, personality development and leadership.  The camp setting provides a unique learning environment in which mental, physical, social, and spiritual growth is maximized.

youth outdoors during a day camp

One of John’s most popular summer programs is a Field to Fork day camp, where youth learn about growing, harvesting, and preserving food, as well as careers related to the food industry.

John focuses on strong programs such as Fishing for Success, Project Learning Tree curriculum, Cherry Lake summer camping, Ecology Field Day, Arbor Day Celebration, the Leon/Jefferson Counties Wildlife Day Camp, and Shooting Sports are excellent teaching activities.  This focus provides an opportunity to teach life skills and foster individual growth and development – the lifeblood of 4-H while instilling a sense of stewardship in our young citizens.  These activities also lead to increased awareness and understanding of the environment and its impact on future quality of life.   These programs have solid support from the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA NRCS staff, local Farm Bureau, County Forester, and Plantation owners. UF/IFAS and FAMU specialists participate and support many of these environmental-oriented programs.

John encourages all community clubs and county council members to participate in service projects. The 4-H Adopt-A-Road Project, the upkeep of the 4-H nature trail, the Arbor Day Event, the annual landscape project at Jefferson Senior Citizens Center, and the holiday nursing home visits with the teen council is intergenerational concern for seniors.  Generosity was certainly exemplified after hurricane Michael destroyed Panama City. John recruited several teens from the teen council. They spent an entire Saturday moving and piling tree limbs, garbage, household debris, and miscellaneous items. These resilient teens worked around utility workers, fallen power lines, utility poles, and even worked through the rain. These teens have displayed practical application of Extension’s youth leadership to the Disaster Relief efforts.  Significantly, youth show a touching generosity toward each other and a level of tolerance of differences, which is obviously the result of teaching by Lilly.  He is conscientious in recognizing (often and in large measure) volunteerism by adults and the youth themselves.

John insists on making the environment inclusive of youth with psychosocial, physical, economic and behavioral distinctions that often bring about their exclusion from other organizations and groups. As a result, an unusually high percentage of enrolled intermediate-aged youth continues through high school, and most youths are enrolled in multiple activities, events, and clubs.  This “positive recidivism” is a hallmark of his 4-H programs.

grilling day camp

John also teaches the Florida 4-H Tailgating Cookery Contest, where youth learn about different animal proteins, food safety, and grilling safety.

John Lilly is the kind of agent who each year sends hundreds of youth who outgrow age criteria for 4-H enrollment into the future, knowing that they have been loved. John strives to offer every youth of Jefferson County a 4-H experience that strengthens their sense of belonging, generosity, independence, and mastery.

John Lilly

John Lilly

Senior Spotlight: Jada Mosley, Jefferson County

Jada Mosley joined 4-H at age nine and has been an active and reliable member to age 18. She has been a proud and energetic member of the Jefferson County 4-H Teen Council. Her bubbling smile and cheerful personality is infectious to other members.  Jada was elected Secretary in 2018-19 and President 2019-20 of the Jefferson County 4-H Teen Council. She was past District III Council Sgt-At-Arms. Per my observation of Jada presiding over the club meetings, she clearly demonstrates that she can run meetings in a productive and orderly fashion using Robert’s Rules of Order. Her leadership skills are superb.

Two youth holding trophies

1st – 4-H University

In 2017, Jada was recognized for her exceptional communication and presentation skills when she received the first-place trophy at 4-H University (state level) for her team illustrated talk entitled “Stay Alive Don’t Drink and Drink.” The past five years, she has participated in county, district, and state (4-H University) doing various presentations.

Volunteerism is the vital component of 4-H, and this young lady devoted over 300 community service hours. A loyal citizen in her community, Jada spends time working on community service projects. Jada volunteers each year with the 4-H Adopt-A-Road roadside cleanup project. As part of the service project during camp counselor training, she helped remove debris and landscape the Jefferson County Senior Citizen Center. She helped bag toys during the holidays for needy youth by participating in the JOY (Jefferson Outreach for Youth) Project. Jada also makes her visits to both nursing homes in Monticello during the holiday seasons. Jada has served as a camp counselor at both day and overnight summer camps for five consecutive years. In 2019, her peers at Camp Cherry voted her as the most dependable camp counselor.    

Youth cleaning up debris after Hurricane Michael

Jada cleaning up debris

Jada was one of our Hurricane Heroes. When Hurricane Michael caused mass destruction to the Florida Panhandle in 2018, Jada, along with her peers, spent the entire day in Bay County moving and piling tree limbs, garbage, debris, and other miscellaneous materials.  These diligent teens worked around utility workers, fallen power lines, utility poles, and even worked in the rain until the job was completed.

Our hearts are content knowing that Jefferson County 4-H has equipped this young woman with tools necessary to be successful post-high school.  She plans to attend Tallahassee Community College this fall and major in Early Childhood Education.

“My most significant accomplishment I have experienced in 4-H was getting out of my shell and being myself.”

Jada said “the thing I’ll miss the most in 4-H would be all the camps I have done. I’ll miss the kids and of course the agents.”  She, of course, will be missed as well.  Jefferson County 4-H wishes Jada Mosley much happiness and success in her future endeavors.

For more information about 4-H in your county, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office or visit

Author: John G. Lilly:
John Lilly is the 4-H Youth Development Agent in Jefferson County

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!

Reflections from Graduating Seniors: Kheica Jones

Kheica’s prepared public speech at county events her senior year

I will never forget the day Kheica and little sister walked into the Jefferson County Extension Office interested in doing a 4-H Demonstration at County Events. Two shy and very timorous little girls.  Perhaps they could organize their presentation, but the thought of presenting it in front of an audience- no way! They proved me wrong. They organized their demonstration and presented it at County and District Events.  Receiving both blue 1st place ribbons and blue quality rosettes. Since her demonstration at age ten, Khecia made a lasting impression in Jefferson County 4-H.  She embraced 4-H slogan “Learning by Doing” wholeheartedly as a member.

Khecia’s first 4-H team demonstration, as a junior

As a junior and intermediate 4-Her, Kheica was a member the Elite Sewing Club.  She also served as president of the Jefferson Elementary School Clubs (both 3rd & 4th grade years). She also participated in consumer choices judging contest and received the highest individual score at the North Florida Fair.

As a senior 4-Her, Kheica served as president and vice-president of the Jefferson County Teen Council. Last year, she participated in general public speaking at the county, district & state levels. This year Kheica will be doing a team demonstration at 4-H University entitled: Creamy Shrimp Linguine. She served on the 4-H NW Teen Retreat Planning Committee. This summer will also be her fourth year as a camp counselor at the day and overnight summer camps.

Khecia has helped plan several community service projects, including a roadside clean-up this spring.

Giving back to her community is paramount to Kheica. She has accumulated over 400 hours of community service hours from roadside cleanup, the 4-H Nature Trail Clean up, northwest Florida service project (Chemo Kits for Cancer Patients), nursing home visits, and landscaped the senior citizen center.

When I asked Kheica what life skills she learned that she attributes to 4-H, she shared: “I have learned life skills such as teamwork, dedication, and perseverance. I have also learned the important of community service.”  Kheica said her most memorable moment as a junior 4-Her was participating in 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking and doing her demonstrations at County & District Events.

Khecia Jones, an exemplary student, achieved top honors as Valedictorian of the 2017 graduating class. After graduation, she plans to attend FAMU on a full scholarship and major in Biomedical Sciences.

Our heart is content knowing that Jefferson County 4-H equipped this young woman with tools necessary to be successful post high school.  Jefferson County 4-H takes pleasure in wishing Khecia Jones much happiness and success in her future endeavors, and we invite her to join 4-H as a volunteer to help other youth benefit from 4-H the way she has!”

If you are interested in joining 4-H to learn leadership and communication skills, or if you would like to help teach youth in your community as a 4-H volunteer, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit