Growing up in foster care, Grace Kellner knows first-hand how much of an impact being part of 4-H can have on a child.
“4-H kind of helped me become who I am,” Kellner said. “4-H, when I joined in fourth grade, taught me who I was, and I wasn’t so shy anymore. I made a lot more friends and I’ve learned so much through it, so it’s important to me to help other people learn, too.”
With 4-H summer camps canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, however, 4-H leaders had to adapt quickly to ensure those kids were still learning, being engaged and feeling connected to the program. As a result, the 4-H Health Livin’ Summer program was born, and Kellner — a “very committed” 4-H participant who focuses on healthy living and nutrition science — was the ideal person to head up the program.
“Camp is a time when 4-Hers from different counties get together and have fun, stay fit and learn skills — because they can’t do this this summer, 4-H extension leaders have come up with the ‘A Healthy Livin’ Summer’ online program open to anyone, not just 4-Hers,” Kellner said. “It’s basically a way for individuals to enjoy daily, hands-on, healthy living activities which, in turn, creates everyday healthy living habits.”
As part of the program, 4-Hers will participate online by doing activites with daily themes such as Mindful Monday’s, Wellness Wednesday’s and Safety Saturday’s. Kellner said the program will “kind of make everybody feel like they’re connected again,” and that it’s, as extension leader Connie Sharp says, “all about living happy and healthy.”
Sharp said the program, much like 4-H itself, is all about connection and engagement.
“If you’re going to make a difference in the life of a child, you’ve got to connect with them,” Sharp said. “Ideally that connection is physical, meeting in-person at camp, but we can also connect through social media and online.”
Sharp also said that engagement is “really key” to making that difference, and to the health of the organization.
“If you can’t engage with them, your program is just going to stagnate and it’s going to be at a standstill.”
The program will begin on June 1 and continue through Aug. 2. Content can be found on Tennessee 4-H’s Facebook, Instagram and YouTube profiles. Participants can also earn prizes and traditional beads for completing activities. To earn a bead for each daily theme, participants must submit a minimum of three activities per theme. Submissions can be entered at tiny.utk.edu/HLSummer.