Going Virtual

Leanetra Carter, 4-H'er in Adams County
Leanetra Carter, 4-H'er in Adams County

4-H provides programs, support online during pandemic

Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Carter and her family started eating more vegetables and fruits.

Even as COVID-19 puts a damper on activities of all kinds across the country, Mississippi 4-H agents and personnel remain dedicated to shaping tomorrow’s leaders.

4-H’er Leanetra Carter is one of those leaders, and 2020 was her first year in 4-H. In fact, she joined in the summer, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across Mississippi. But she didn’t let that deter her.

“I wanted a way to show my talents and practice my skills in contests,” Carter explains. “My mom and sister were in 4-H, and they encouraged me to join.”

In her short time as a member of the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s youth development program in Adams County, she has participated in various projects, including art, animal care, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She also signed up for Virtual Club Congress and tried a program area new to her.

Club Congress is an annual educational event that brings together senior 4-H’ers and provides opportunities for them to practice and improve their knowledge and skills. Attendees participate in hands-on learning experiences, life skills training, and leadership development activities. Traditionally, the event is held on the Starkville campus over 3 days.

We started eating more vegetables and fruits every day. We really like oranges and grapes, and I discovered that I like sweet peppers and bell peppers.

— Leanetra Carter

However, this year’s event was modified and conducted virtually to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Carter said the virtual platform was no trouble to navigate. She was able to join in the 4-H Healthy Recipe Competition easily.

Participants completed a learning unit created by Extension instructor and registered dietitian Qula Madkin. The unit included lessons on food groups, nutrition, and diet that taught them how to reference the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate dietary guidelines. They also completed quizzes to reinforce the lessons. Afterward, they created and submitted a recipe to Madkin for judging.

Selling jelly     

Carter said she had fun coming up with her taco recipe and learned new things about diet and nutrition. She and her family are incorporating some of those things into their daily lives.

“We started eating more vegetables and fruits every day,” Carter said. “We really like oranges and grapes, and I discovered that I like sweet peppers and bell peppers.”

Not only did the virtual platform of Club Congress allow 4-H’ers like Carter to try new program areas, it also kept members, volunteers, faculty, staff, and their families safe.

“Our number-one priority in 4-H is our youth and their personal growth and well-being,” says Cobie Rutherford, an instructor with the Extension Center for 4-H Youth Development. “The self-guided online modules allowed participants to explore all four program areas of 4-H, regardless of what project they are involved in regularly in their counties. When we ran the statistics on participation, they revealed a large cross-over among 4-H’ers and the subject areas they explored.”

Walking Taco Casserole

(feeds four)
By Leanetra Carter*

  • 1 – 1.5 pounds ground meat
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can green chilies
  • 1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce
  • 4 ounces reduced fat (one-third less) cream cheese
  • ½ - 1 bag of lightly salted or baked tortillas
  • 1 can of no salt black beans, drained
  • 2 cups leafy greens, such as shredded spinach or finely cut collards
  • 4 ounces or ½ bag shredded cheese

Shredded lettuce
Diced tomato
Light sour cream
Fresh or canned salsa
Jalapeno peppers (optional)


  1. Wash hands with soap and water.
  2. In 12-inch skillet, brown ground beef and onion on medium heat until ground beef is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Use a thermometer to check the temperature: ground meat is 165 degrees .
  3. Add green chiles, enchilada sauce, black beans, leafy green and cream cheese.
  4. Using one 9x13 pan, repeat layers: chips, meat mixture, cheese.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve and add toppings!

Spice it up!
Add Extension’s salt-free Taco Seasoning.
Mix ½ cup of salsa with ½ cup of fat free Greek yogurt for a healthy, creamy topping.
Add avocado to toppings to increase your intake of healthy fats.

* Thanks to Qula Madkin, Extension instructor and registered dietician, for reviewing Leanetra’s recipe.

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