Luerssen Honored Nationally by 4-H Youth Development Professionals


Holly Luerssen, Lincoln and Langlade County 4-H Educator, UW-Madison Division of Extension, received the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals (NAE4-HYDP) Excellence in Camping Award at the annual conference NAE4HYDP on November 11. 16, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. Luerssen, with his colleagues Megan
Suehring (Shawano County 4-H Positive Youth Development Educator), Laura Huber (Wood County 4-H Educator), Kaitlyn Benarde (Marathon County 4-H Educator), Michael Rusin (4-H Educator -H Clark County) and Anne Williams (Oneida County Educator 4-H) were honored for their development and leadership as part of the Camp in a Bag program “Lumberjacks: Build Your Future” at the summer 2020.

The goal of the Camping Excellence Award is to recognize outstanding efforts in the development of youth through 4-H camping in regards to practice, evaluation or research by members as individuals or in as a member of a team. In order to be eligible for the national award, the Lumberjacks: “Building Your Future” camp program first won top honors at the Wisconsin Association of 4-H and Youth Development Professionals, as well as on behalf of the Midwest region.

Residential summer camp is a feature of many counties in northern Wisconsin, especially Langlade and Lincoln counties. It was evident that a typical in-person camping experience would not be possible for young people during the summer of 2020, due to COVID-19. To accommodate, Holly and several colleagues worked on developing a hybrid summer camp program that included a written program with project materials, static video instructions, and virtual campfires with everything needed.
program material assembled in a bag. The Lumberjacks: Build Your Future Camp in a Box served nearly 1,000 youth from 400 families in the 7 counties of north-central Wisconsin. A hybrid camp model was created to serve youth with and without internet access.

The program (at an elementary reading level) was provided with the required materials. To support the campers, educational videos were shared; live “campfires”, including guest speakers, interactive games and songs, were hosted on Zoom; and a closed Facebook community was created allowing families to share camp experiences. This model allowed the participants to form a real community of learners.

The program included three days of camp. Arts and Crafts, Astronomy, Mindfulness, STEAM, Group and Aquatic Recreation, Wildlife Ecology, Physical Education, Camp Cooking, Music, and Career Considerations have been included. The camp schedule was modeled on the traditional overnight camp experience. It started at ‘sunrise’ with the making of bunks, raising the flag and making breakfast and ended with a skit night in the evening, lowering the flag and getting ready for bed.
Families were encouraged to create their own home camp space during the three days. Photos shared via the virtual community showed families camping in a variety of ways, from using their living room to pitching tents in the backyard.

Educators took advantage of partnerships with public and private entities to make the camp an even richer experience for participants. An educator reached out to the Raptor Education Group, Inc. (REGI) to ensure their programmatic efforts could be shared with young people statewide. Partnerships with private companies also enriched the educational experience, with a local maple syrup producer and distributor donating maple syrup samples and invited an educator to record the establishment of the company. , in PONSSE, a family business that specializes in lengthwise forest cutting. machines and their information systems by donating professional booklets encouraging young people to learn about forestry practices and equipment. Professional “Lumber Jill” Kate Witkowski donated her time to explain how she became interested in woodworking sports and how kids can get involved too.

Colleagues worked together to secure funds from local and national sponsors to ensure that the camp kits were affordable for all young people. At most, the camp in a box kit cost $ 10 per basic kit, thanks to financial support from sponsors such as the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation, the Lincoln County Safe and Stable Families Grant, the Wood County Solar Project and several. counties and community 4-H clubs or committees.

The National Association of 4-H Extension Youth Development Professionals (NAE4-HYDP) is the professional organization for those dedicated to the promotion, strengthening, improvement and advocacy of 4-H youth development profession. The National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals is an internationally recognized, non-profit, non-partisan association of professional youth development educators. NAE4-HYDP is one of the largest
professional associations for youth development workers with a diverse membership of nearly 4,000 youth development professionals.


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