Karen Henry, Shane Michael, Chelsea Woodard, UF/IFAS Extension, Seminole County, Sanford, FL.
Situation/Objective: Belonging is an important essential element of 4-H Youth Development. Research by DeCubellis and Barrick (2020) showed interactions with friends as a major factor in member retention. One opportunity for this interaction is at 4-H Awards Night. After months of virtual 4-H programs and club meetings it was essential that we offer 4-H members an awards night that would provide a sense of belonging. The Seminole County 4-H staff determined that a drive through awards night was a viable and safe solution to offer. Objective: The objective of the Seminole County 4-H Awards Night was to create a sense of belonging for youth after months of virtual 4-H club meetings and events. Educational Methods: Youth in the program expressed disconnection from their peers and requested an opportunity for an in-person program. To address this, a youth-adult partnership of the 4-H Council and 4-H agents implemented a drive through awards night. Participants preregistered and were assigned a drive through timeframe based on club, allowing 4-Hers from the same club to see their friends receive awards. Masked 4-H members drove through, walked up to table positioned outside to receive awards and be photographed. Results: Sixty participants attended Awards Night. Survey results from participants indicated that as a result of attending the Seminole County 4-H Awards Night (n=12) that 100% felt safe in this 4-H program, 92 % felt supported by other kids in this program, 83% felt like they mattered in this 4-H program, 100% felt welcome in this 4-H program. Conclusion: Belonging is a key element to keeping youth engaged. Research by Pratt and Bowman (2008) show that positive impacts, such as behavior change, can only be made if participants remain in Extension programs, such as 4-H, over time. These impacts include healthy choices and contribution to community (Lerner, 2013).