Tech-savvy 4-H’ers in Mississippi are using their skills to help their communities get connected.

The Mississippi 4-H tech team is composed of 25 senior 4-H’ers who lead technology workshops on such topics as social media and digital filmmaking. Team members are selected through a competitive process and undergo intensive training.

Linda Mitchell, 4-H technology and programming specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said 4-H’ers interested in joining the technology team attend a 4-H-sponsored technology camp. At the camp, they complete a series of technology-related projects and are trained in specialized areas by experts.

Mitchell said communication skills are just as important as technical knowledge.

“Team members have to be able to communicate well because our focus is presenting and sharing information,” she said. “These young people have to be able to teach others how to do the work, so public speaking abilities are vital.”

The 4-H tech team works with businesses, schools and even mayor’s offices, Mitchell said.

“We do a camp for junior 4-H’ers and programs for several nonprofit organizations,” she said. “We work through the community, so a lot of service providers, including firefighters and police officers, are invited to attend the workshops.”

Mitchell said the 4-H tech team focuses primarily on computer skills, digital moviemaking technology and most recently, social media.

“When the tech team started about five years ago, we didn’t do a lot with social media, but now it is one of our biggest concentrations,” she said. “We recently helped Pontotoc and Lucedale create social media plans that included Facebook pages for the communities. The tech team members from those areas will be administrators over the Facebook pages for the first few weeks,” she said.

Mitchell said many of the 4-H’ers on the tech team have been offered jobs because of their extensive technology skills.

“We had one young lady receive a job offer at the Washington Post,” she said. “The person who offered her the job was shocked when he found out she was still in high school. That just goes to show how skill-building is important, and it shows the networking opportunities these 4-H’ers have.”

Marissa Landon, a member of George County 4-H, has been on the Mississippi 4-H tech team for two years. She said the team has expanded her knowledge of technology.

“I thought I knew a lot about technology before I joined the team, but I’ve learned so much more than I ever knew before,” she said. “I love technology, and I love helping people become more comfortable with technology, so I get a sense of satisfaction out of helping people who aren’t as familiar with it.”

Experiences with the tech team have helped her overcome shyness and feel more comfortable speaking in front of crowds, Landon said.

“A big part of what we do involves talking to people and helping them understand technology, so I’ve gained much better communication skills from it,” she said.

Landon said she plans to put her newfound communication skills to use by majoring in communications and concentrating in public relations at MSU this fall.