My name is Ilana Shimmel and I’m the 4-H Program Assistant in Flagler County. I was in 4-H from age 8 to 18, a member of the horse program, so being the program assistant for 4-H is very dear to my heart. I’m fortunate enough to have the ability to share my passions and lessons learned to others in our community. I have learned so many new great things while being on board, in addition to having the experience of meeting teachers and visiting many local schools working on Tropicana, embryology, and potato farming. Even though schools shut down right after spring break, I am certain many youth gained so many great skills from 4-H. Even though we are uncertain to what the 2020-21 school year will look like, the Flagler County 4-H office is getting very excited for the upcoming year, with many new great things to come!
Along with many other things, Flagler County 4-H was impacted pretty hard by this pandemic. Our local horse shows, fair, archery competitions were cancelled back in March. It has affected all of our members but our graduating seniors took the biggest loss out of all of them. It’s always bittersweet going through your final year of 4-H and senior year of high school. You spend your last year raising an animal for fair or putting in countless hours training for your horse show or practicing your skills for one of many end of the year competitions. It’s an end of a chapter. A good chapter but it’s still sad when it’s over. This year our seniors didn’t get a chance to experience that, but they marched on. It’s something they had no control over and they took it all in stride.
I personally believe that 4-H is responsible for the way our seniors reacted when they found out that the best part of senior year was being cancelled. Of course they were upset, anyone would be. But after that they picked themselves up and dusted themselves off, they helped one another. From helping friends sell their fair animals through social media, to giving moral support, to finding ways to do our everyday lives online. These kids persevered through the hardest time in their young adult lives, with a smile on their face, together.
4-H isn’t just about raising an animal or building things or even winning blue ribbons. It’s about teaching children lifelong skills that they might not have learned otherwise. It’s about taking those shy kids who don’t talk much and turning them into leaders, someone younger kids will look up to. Its preparing them that future job that involves a lot of public speaking. It teaches problem solving skills for that internship they get after college. It prepared me for this very job.