My name is Julie McMillan, I am the Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Science in Gulf County. I started in March 2020 around the same time that the pandemic went into full effect for many of us. It didn’t matter to me because I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be and couldn’t be more excited to serve my community through my new dream career.
I joined Gulf County 4-H when I was 8 years old as a member the Big River Riders Horse Club. The club gave me the opportunity to compete in local horse shows, attend monthly meetings and go to Camp Timpoochee each summer. By the time I turned 12, I was going to regular 4-H Summer Camp, Horse Camp, Livestock Camp and Marine Camp. As an early teen, I had the opportunity to be a counselor at the camps that I so loved. Other summer events included a chance to compete at the University of FL among my peers giving presentations, demonstrations, and attend leadership workshops for what we now know as 4-H University. My Mom said I only came home for the weekend in the summer to wash my clothes and eat, which was mostly true. 4-H has contributed significantly to who I am today. I was able to learn responsibility, leadership skills and how to make good choices while connecting with youth who would become lifelong friends. None of this enriching experience would have been possible without the Extension Agent, 4-H leaders and volunteers who gave many selfless hours to planning and preparing hands on experiences for all of us.
Before I became an Agent, I was a 4-H volunteer and parent. Little did I know all those years ago, I would end up marrying a fellow 4-Her from our horse club who’s Grandmother was our club leader. She is still our horse club leader today and an inspiration at 80 years old. My husband Russell brought two beautiful girls, Brooke and Hayleigh, into my life that are now young adults but who were involved in 4-H until the youngest graduated high school last year. Russell and I received news that we were going to have another little one last spring and Lily Ann was born in September of ’20. We get to continue the tradition in our family and she will be our next 4-H adventure.
My background has primarily been in Education. I started out teaching at a small private school and then spent many years at an Early Learning Center. Upon obtaining my Bachelors of Science Degree in 2012, was given the opportunity to join our county school system as an elementary educator. I am still known mostly for my love and passion of horses. We run a small horseback riding on the beach business and have given riding lessons to people of all ages. This fall brings me back to school as a student. I have been accepted into the Graduate Program at the University of FL in the School of Agricultural Education and Communication to pursue a Masters Degree in Extension Education. My strengths are in the area of Agriculture and Animal Science but I am also actively pursuing opportunities to teach life skills that will help youth excel with Artificial Intelligence. I am looking forward to continuing my education and expanding our 4-H programs and experiences for youth in our county and District.
If you are new to social media, it can seem a little overwhelming! Hashtags are a way to connect the social media content you post to a specific topic. They make it easier for the reader to find information around specific topics for further interest and conversation. After all- that is what social media is about- conversations! Even if you are using a private group, you can use specific 4-H hashtags and handles for your conversation. As you become more comfortable with using social media for your club, you should consider using hashtags. Both National 4-H Council and Florida 4-H have specific hashtags you can use as appropriate. This article breaks down the differences between hashtags and handles, when to use them, and includes a “cheat sheet” for 4-H specific hashtags and handles that you can use as a reference.
Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the “#” symbol that make your post searchable. For example, if people are looking for information about 4-H poultry programs, you can add the hashtag “4HPoultry” and your post will show up in their search. As you become more comfortable with using social media for your club, you should consider using hashtags. Both National 4-H Council and Florida 4-H have specific hashtags you can use as appropriate:
Example: You have a 4-H volunteer in your club who participated in 4-H activities as a youth and is now teaching your current club a hands-on specific skill. They are doing such as great job and you want to thank them in your Facebook group. You might use these popular hashtags: #FL4HAlumni #4HGrown #FL4HVOL
You can also use hashtags for events.
Example: 4-H Residential summer camp for youth in the panhandle is at Camp Timpoochee or Camp Cherry Lake. As you advertise or post about camp, you might use: #CampCherryLake #4htimpoochee #FL4HCamps
If you are the administrator of your group, you are able to pin hashtags on your group page that group members can easily see to generate interest. This can save time, so you don’t have to search through all posts and allow you to organize topics.
Handles are the name of an individual or organization preceded by the “@” symbol. When you use a handle, it connects your post to that person or organziation’s page and can be seen by that person’s or organization’s friends or followers. Use the handle @Florida4H if you post has information relevant to the Florida 4-H population. It is always a good idea to use your county 4-H handle to connect your post to your county’s page and followers. For example, @yourcounty’sname4-H.
As we look at the ever-changing social media journey, we think how can we keep up? Honestly, we probably never do and that’s okay. Social media can be an efficient way to communicate with 4-H families and also recognize the great things 4-Hers are doing! While you should never rely on only one form of communication to connect with every age group, social media can be an effective strategy. While Facebook is not the “go-to” platform for youth, most parents and community stakeholders are on Facebook. This article covers the basics of setting up a Facebook Group for your 4-H club the right way. Facebook is an approved platform through the University of Florida to use for 4-H, but there are some guidelines that need to be followed:
1. Ask your local 4-H agent to be an administrator with you. Two sets of eyes are better than one and they can help you follow the right path for youth protection and be a resource for correct branding and logos. Also, if your 4-H agent is an administrator, it is really easy for him or her to share posts to the county 4-H page (when appropriate).
2. Create a Facebook Group instead of a Facebook Page for your club. Unlike Facebook Pages, you can change Group privacy settings and limit who can see information. Anyone can follow a Facebook Page whereas a Group can allow only approved members to see information. We must be sensitive to the personal information we share about our youth. How do I create a Facebook group? Steps for creating a FB Group
3. Follow the emblem guidelines for the proper use of University of Florida’s 4-H name and brands. UF IFAS Extension 4-H Graphics. Don’t forget that your club needs to be chartered in order to use the 4-H Name and Emblem.
4. Know who has a publicity release in your club. Youth with no photo release should not be shared in private groups and club leaders who will share information in the group must be aware of these limitations. Participation Release
5. If social media isn’t your “thing,” enlist help from another volunteer! You could also delegate responsibilities to one of the youth officers in your club to help with posting and interactions (with supervision of course).
Now you might be thinking what should a 4-H club talk about on Facebook? How will this Group be helpful? Here are a few ideas:
- Upcoming events
- Sharing of information and questions
- Advertisement for your club
- Recognize youth (if you have parental consent)
- Pictures, videos, and articles
- Challenges and surveys
- Information from the District and State programs
4-H volunteers are the true leaders who help our youth succeed by providing meaningful experiences every time programming is delivered. Our hope is that you feel empowered to incorporate positive engagement with youth by using relevant and innovative communication as technology advances. To learn more about incorporating social media for 4-H clubs or becoming a 4-H volunteer, join us next Thursday, March 18th at 6pm central/7pm eastern for our webinar on social media for 4-H clubs. You can also contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office UF IFAS Extension Office or visit Florida4-H.org.Social Media Tips
A 4-H family gathered together at a show.
Are you looking for another way that you can aid your child in becoming a healthy well-adjusted adult? You help can them by allowing them to enter a relationship with a horse. Most kids are naturally drawn to horses and may benefit greatly in what they can gain from them. Some life skills learned from caring for equine are character building, healthy living, leadership skills, and responsibility, just to name a few. Plus, if your child is out at the barn caring for their horse, they are less likely to be stuck on their phones on the couch. Therefore, their physical health will benefit from doing chores and riding as well. Horseback riding offers many aerobic-exercise benefits such as building muscles, boosting balance, and increasing coordination and flexibility. Lifting saddles, water buckets, and cleaning require physical movement as well as gives a sense of self accomplishment of “I can do this all by myself.” When youth are responsible for the care of a horse, it teaches them to put others needs above their own and they learn empathy.
Emily, 4-H member, sitting on her horse, Slyder.
Did you know 4-H has a horse program? The goal of the program is to teach and provide young people with an opportunity to participate in activities that foster the love for the animal and achieve their goals. The activities are designed to improve citizenship, sportsmanship, horsemanship, character, competitive spirit, and discipline while making youth aware of life around them. When thinking about the 4-H horse program, there is the potential for participation in horse judging, public speaking, demonstrations, hippology and quiz bowl. Participation in these activities can help a youth improve in many areas to gain a better education and they don’t have to necessarily have a horse. There is also horse showing for those who own a horse. Showing equine will connect youth from all over the world as horse family while teaching them to prepare, build the courage to compete, enjoy the rewards and deal with disappointments. Hopefully, the disappointments will drive them to succeed and work harder while furthering their leadership skills. Afterall, taking control of a thousand-pound animal to work through challenging tasks will require skills that promote a child’s self-competence.
If you are looking for something new to spark an interest in your child, consider the 4-H equine project. Horses are fun, help teach great life skills, and kids adore them. They will keep youth positively engaged during their difficult years from pre-teen and into adulthood. If you are unsure of what your county has to offer in the way of equine 4-H programs, give your local UF IFAS County Extension Office a call and they will help you or connect you with someone in the field or visit http://florida4h.org.
*“Please note pictures were taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we remind people to social distance and wear a mask for the personal safety of self and others.”