Being a State 4-H Ambassador in a Virtual World |

Being a State 4-H Ambassador in a Virtual World

Matthew Marrs
South Dakota 4-H Ambassador

WHITEWOOD, SD –I was all set, “locked and loaded” so to speak during the 2019 State Fair when I interviewed virtually from the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension Office in Belle Fourche to the 4-H State Ambassador Selection Committee in Huron for a chance to be named a South Dakota State 4-H Ambassador. Why virtually in September 2019? Simple answer: I had high school football practice and first game of the season at that time. “Virtual-ness” was a real time saving blessing. And hey, I was selected!

If you were to ask me: “What is your favorite part about the Ambassador program? My answer is: “networking and getting to know my peers from across the state.” And, we had fun doing that last autumn in Sioux Falls. We had big plans to meet quarterly in the coming months across the state leading up to the week-long Teen Leadership Conference (TLC) on the SDSU campus in Brookings the first week of June.

Fast forward to March 2020. COVID19 hit and so did lockdowns, lockouts, hunkering at home and cancellations. TLC was a casualty, sort of…

It was not reasonable for 80 teens and adult supervisors to meet on campus during the pandemic. But with virtual technology, we could still come together. And we did. My role and duty as an Ambassador was to help plan and serve on the TLC committee. I took a mental leap to wrap my head around what would have been in-person connection to an on-line connection. Thus, TLC “Virtual Vision” was birthed.

In April and May the TLC committee redesigned all the workshops and presentations to be reachable on ZOOM video conferencing. The conference was condensed from a full 12-hour day to a 2 -hour session on the computer over a 4-day period in June. On a “normal” year, TLC boasts 75-80 attendees; however, with COVID19, virtual attendance reached 45 members and was considered successful.

My greatest take away from being a 2019-2020 4-H Ambassador is when faced with adversity, don’t turn and run, take a deep breath, work through it.

Though my years as a 4-H youth are winding down, I want to encourage the next generation of youth to check out your local 4-H Club. Ideally, start at age 8; however, I was 10 years old when I began my 4-H journey. It’s never really too late to join as long as you are under 18 years of age. There are so many project areas to study and learn from. I followed my interests and the projects I became involved were: Beef, Welding, Automotive, Range Science and Food-Nutrition. There are hundreds of projects to choose from. Additionally, I was involved in county activities such as Shooting Sports, Jr. Leaders, Promotion & Expansion Committee and the county fair.

I should also point out another bonus of joining 4-H is being eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Youth Loan. Operating loans of up to $5,000 are available to individual youths ages 10 to 20 to finance income-producing, agriculture-related projects.

The month of October is when the new 4-H year begins. Here are a few links to help you get started:

4‑H Home Page