Being a Leader

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Have you started thinking about what’s next? After the pandemic, after vaccinations, after we all feel like we can safely move forward, what’s next? Lots of folks are researching what we want, what we will need, and are looking at the after effects of the pandemic on us now. As we shift to a new way of life that will hopefully include many of our pre-COVID-19 social protocols, we have an entire generation of folks who will need help readjusting to norms that they aren’t used to.

Generation Z, or Zoomers as they are tagged, is the population born between 1995 and 2010. They are between the ages of 11 and 25, and range from middle school to beginning professionals. This generation is considered to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generation according to researchers. This is also the generation who is going to be most profoundly affected by the social fallout from the pandemic.

Think about it. All of these youth have experienced traditional schooling. They have also been, during their most formative years, adjusting to virtual learning from institutions that were forced (and perhaps not well prepared) to leap into that learning format. They went from keeping full schedules of practices, lessons, and social engagements to suddenly having none and being told not to leave their homes. This generation has been wide open with technology (they don’t remember a time before digital communication), which means once vivid lines for most of us have blurred for them – the lines between work, education, and entertainment; public versus private; and always being “on.”  Things that were clear for us are not for them. This is probably why recent studies show this generation has felt more overwhelmed by the pandemic. More youth are reporting panic attacks, anxiety issues, and depression. As we move back toward a face-to-face society there will be some key things this generation will need to practice and relearn, such as eye contact – looking in the eye of the camera isn’t the same as a person. This generation is now entering a workforce that is fluctuating between work at home and office. When you are just starting in the workforce, working from home will take focus, self-motivation, and accountability; things many young workers will need to develop as they figure out their job responsibilities, which may be difficult to do remotely.

How can you help? In 4-H we are always looking for those generational leaders who came before (baby boomers, Generation X, millennials) to help us work with youth in safe, caring, and nurturing environments. Volunteers who can right now embrace technology to reach these youth and build those adult-youth relationships, so when we are back face-to-face, they will know you and trust you, and be ready to meet and work their way back to balancing face-to-face situations, technology as a tool, and life. Something the generations before them have done. We hope you are willing to make that difference someone made for you. After all, have you thought about what’s next for you?

For more information, please Shea Ann DeJarnette, 4-H Youth Development with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by email at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.