2022 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – 4-H Youth Development
J. Sprain, UF/IFAS Extension, Osceola County, G. Carter, UF/IFAS Extension, Duval County, S. Ghosh, UF/IFAS Extension, Polk County, S. Michael, UF/IFAS Extension, Seminole County, S. Ellison, UF/IFAS Extension, Florida 4-H Program, S. Conner, UF/IFAS Extension, Clay County, R. Guidugli, UK Extension, Kentucky 4-H Program, R. Robertson, UK Extension, Fayette County.
Situation: Travel restrictions, quarantines, and safety considerations have made participation in global exchange programs daunting. During the pandemic, even youth with the resources necessary for travel no longer had the same opportunities to complete an exchange. While coordinating exchange programs has become more difficult, youth need opportunities to develop cultural competencies, empathy, and connection arguably more than ever before. To succeed in this today’s modern global society, students must be far more knowledgeable and curious about world regions and global issues, attuned to diverse perspectives, able to communicate across cultures, and disposed to acting toward the common good (Boix Mansilla, et al., 2013). In response to these needs, this team of youth development professionals from UF/IFAS Extension, UK Cooperative Extension, and Together for Human and the Environment initiated and delivered a six-week, summer virtual exchange program for teens in Florida, Kentucky, and Iraq. Methods: One, six-week, virtual exchange program was developed and offered to youth 14 and older living in the participating states/country. The program was delivered with a two-pronged approach, synchronous and asynchronous. Participants met on Zoom each Saturday for 6 weeks. The sessions were specifically designed to encourage interaction and sharing amongst participants to foster relationship development. In addition, youth received weekly assignments to complete between meetings. These assignments were designed to challenge youth to learn more about their own culture. Results: Based on a post program evaluation, 100% of participants were able to define culture, demonstrate the ability to communicate cross-culturally, self-reported a greater understanding of Iraqi culture and self-reported the desire to participate in a future cultural exchange experience. Conclusion: Becoming a world-minded person often begins with global awareness and grows as individuals begin to appreciate the viewpoints, experiences, and worldviews of others, (Merryfield, 2001; Noddings, 2005), which is what these participants experienced through this program.