Challenges, Opportunities, and Adaptations of a College Preparatory 4-H Youth Development Program during COVID-19




virtual program, program methods, COVID-19, program adaptation, positive youth development


SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has proliferated across the United States, and in the process, it has disrupted all sense of normalcy. Because adolescents are in a critical period for growth and development, youth are particularly susceptible to negative impacts of disruption from COVID-19. Therefore, sustaining youth development programs is essential to ensuring positive youth development occurs despite significant challenges. Unfortunately, the implementation of programs that maintain safety precautions can be challenging. Many programs have been forced to either cancel all activities or to transition program elements to a virtual format. Rural Medical and Science Scholars (RMSS) program administrative staff made the decision to transition to a virtual delivery. Despite only having a few weeks to reshape the program, RMSS administrative staff were able to innovatively adapt to new challenges in order to deliver a successful program. The success of the program extends beyond its participants. By understanding potential program barriers and successful adaptation methods, other youth development programs will be better equipped to sustain program activities and youth outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, this will ensure negative developmental impacts of COVID-19 are lessened in adolescents and positive youth development is cultivated through program support, stability, and structure.

Author Biographies

Emily M. Davis, Mississippi State University

Emily Davis is a second-year medical student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and plans to pursue primary care with an emphasis on child advocacy and trauma-informed care. She graduated summa cum laude from Mississippi State University in 2021 with a bachelor's dgree in chemistry and a concentration in child advocacy studies.

Ann P. Sansing, Mississippi State University

Ms. Ann P. Sansing is an Extension Instructor at Mississippi State University.

Jasmine R. Harris-Speight, Mississippi State University

Jasmine R. Harris-Speight is an Extension Associate II at Mississippi State University.

Mary Nelson Robertson, Mississippi State University

Mary Nelson Robertson, PhD, CHES, serves as the PROMISE Initiative Project Manager and Post Doctoral Fellow for the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion at Mississippi State University. Dr. Robertson’s official name reads as Robertson, Mary Nelson in alphabetical order by last name.

David R. Buys, Mississippi State University

David R. Buys is State Health Specialist and Associate Professor at Mississippi State University.


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