By Lindsay Doty
As good as it gets at the farmhouse.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Henry makes a mental checklist to prep for her Hendricks County 4-H Jr. Leadership meeting via Zoom. The 4-H Jr. Leadership president settles down in front of the computer at her family’s farmhouse in Danville (in a space temporarily away from her three younger siblings) to chat with 4-H leaders about community service projects and what’s next.
“The state 4-H staff spoke to us and complimented us on how well officers were leading the meeting,” Henry shared about a recent meeting.
She says the team discussed conducting hybrid meetings in the future (some in-person, some virtual) and looking ahead at what the 2021 fair could resemble.
“It’s not going to be a completely ‘normal’ fair but not a fair like last year,” she said.
The high school senior and lifetime, fourth generation 4-Her says the virtual meetings have been a drastic contrast from the usual mix-and-mingle events of the pre-pandemic program. (Think: young volunteers running the bustling Fair Cafe circa summer 2019).
“4-H is all about community and meeting people and being around people. Since the pandemic, it has been hard to get people connected,” she said.
But Henry and her team have worked hard to find engaging new ways to stay connected with 4-H members, conduct club meetings and advance project work. In December, she helped with the Jr. Leader kick-off, engaging around 40 young officers virtually with Kahoot! trivia games and breakout chat rooms.
“We are trying to make things fun and interactive. It is different than normal, but there are still a lot of things you can learn and grow from,” said Henry.
Despite the challenges, Hendricks County 4-H is growing.
“Our numbers are way up from last year,” said 4-H Youth Development Extension Educator for Hendricks County 4-H Kati Sweet.
She credits part of that enrollment boost to an anonymous donation in 2020 that funded the $15 enrollment fee for Hendricks County 4-H programs over three months.
After December, 972 4-H members had enrolled, with the donor paying more than 800 of those program fees (first and second grade Minis are already free). That number was up significantly from the 538 registrations from the same period the year before.
“During a time that has constantly changing health and safety guidelines, this donation has been extremely helpful in reaffirming the importance of the 4-H Program within the community,” said Sweet.
“This donor is providing the opportunity for youth to be a part of an organization that has adapted and changed to still provide important programming for youth, even in times of uncertainty.”
Hendricks County 4-H has recently added new programs, including a board game design club and a 4-H Family Welcoming Committee, guiding new members through what can sometimes be an overwhelming process.
“We are trying to live out our 4-H motto and doing what we can with the situation we are given,” added Sweet. “I am hopeful that this will give families a chance to try something new this year and will let them be a part of something that will help them grow.”
For 4-Her’s like Henry, who is in her 10th and final year of the program, it has been much more than a volunteer gig.
From her early childhood days of showing pigs at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds to becoming a Jr. Leader and Fair Queen runner-up as a teenage member, the program has taught her to be a leader.
“4-H is so huge in my life. It’s the biggest. The activities. It has shaped who I am,” said Henry.
She hopes other young people will join the 4-H family and embrace all it has to offer.
“Stick with it.”
All about Ellie Henry:
Interests: 4-H and theater
Actor she would most like to meet: Johnny Depp
Siblings: Two younger sisters and a younger brother
Animals: Shows pigs and poultry
4-H early memories: When she was little her pig got out during a fair showing.
Best 4-H Project category: Child development
Worst 4-H Project category: Foods
The biggest misconception about 4-H? That 4-H is just for farmers.
4-H Hopes for her last year in 4-H: To have a fair that’s more than last year.
Register for 4-H
To enroll in 4-H, head tohttp://v2.4honline.com/#/user/sign-in. 4-H is open to children in grades 3-12 at the time of enrollment. Mini 4-H is for youth in first or second grade at time of enrollment.
What does 4-H stand for?
Head – for thinking, planning, reasoning
Heart – for kindness and truth
Hands – to be helpful, skillful, and useful
Health – for strength to enjoy life, resist disease and be more efficient