PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas — Over the last decade, Texas has reported high rates of teenagers turned unemployable work eligible adults who for various reasons missed out on the indispensable technical and competitive-edge defining soft skills to succeed in the 21st-century labor market. Prairie View A&M University’s Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) envisions a better life for Texans, especially youth who may have limited access to the experience and learned skills offered by membership in a 4-H program. National 4-H studies have proven 4-H members who are engaged in structured, afterschool and summer programs gain unparalleled leadership ability and caring mentorship that translates into youth who are more equipped for success in adulthood. CEP 4-H county agents work persistently on outstanding educational programs and collaboratively with the support of specialists and administrative associates on campus to achieve the goal of reaching the youth across the State of Texas. To that end, the Texas Extension Specialists Association (TESA), a professional state association of extension specialists, will recognize the accomplishments of these life-changing teams working together to impact the lives of young people with the presentation of the Distinguished Program Achievement and the Outstanding Administrative Support Awards.
Since there is so much ado about superheroes lately, The Fantastic Five references the agents receiving the Distinguished Program Achievement Award. These five fantastic heroes are Crystal Wiltz (Travis County), Guadalupe Castro (Cameron County), Shannon Johnson-Lackey (Tarrant County), Arvitta Scott (Brazos County), and John Ferguson (Cass County) who collaborate with Program Specialist Joice A. Jeffries located on PV’s campus. Jeffries has primary responsibility for developing the workshops and experiential lessons for youth on college preparation and career awareness delivered by the agents in the counties. All the agents work diligently to enlist adult volunteers from the community who are essential in helping to carry out these innovative and educational programs. Together, they enroll scores of youth in 4-H clubs and complete life skills projects on basic agricultural knowledge about clothing and textiles (Learn more about the Imani School Project).
This team is also expanding the impact of CEP programming by co-presenting with Jeffries at state and national conferences. Jeffries’ research findings indicate that 4-H’ers in grades 10-12 are nearly two times more likely to participate in science programs. The CAHS’ new Dean and Director of Land-Grant Programs, Gerard D’Souza, emphasizes, “The issues we face as a society are inherently complex, needing an integrated and interdisciplinary approach.” PVAMU’s county extension agents will continue to implement new research techniques and lessons about decisive leadership and character education skills to positively influence the life paths of children.
The impact of outreach programs is not achieved in isolation. It takes the connection with coworkers who labor tirelessly behind the scenes to support the statewide work of extension. Likened to superheroes, the Sensational Seven is the reference to these staff members. These seven sensational colleagues receiving the Outstanding Administrative Support Group Award are Inez Simien, Monica Brown, Elaine Shafer, Diane Turner, Caralita Solomon, Ophelia Theodore, and Annette Bowdre. Between these outstanding women is more than a century of experience. They know their work inside and out and according to Jeffries, “Run-the-Trap” to execute the processing of documents, securing supplies, making sure the staff has resources needed to plan, manage, and implement non-stop life-changing programs; all done, no matter what was asked of them, with a smile. “There is strength in unity,” D’Souza said about the recipients.
When the ladies were asked about receiving the award, they responded overwhelmingly with words of sincere excitement and appreciation “Somebody noticed,” one of them said. “Thank you for recognizing indeed the many times we’ve gone over and beyond what was expected and took action to demonstrate what we do matters and most importantly is respected.” Lastly, they expressed their thoughts about Jeffries who made the nomination. Everyone agreed, Dr. Jeffries is an outstanding person, a ‘Go-Getter’ who takes care of her business. She does exemplary work with the students and even takes time out of her busy schedule to send what is now known to be her signature personal email letting everyone know how much they are personally appreciated and deserving of this recognition on a regional platform.
The entire spectrum of publicly funded education relies on a diverse, highly skilled team. Every person on the team plays a part in equipping students on campus and communities across the state with the knowledge, skills, and reliability in PVAMU they need to succeed in a rapidly-changing world. The immeasurable impact going forward is a deep feeling of motivation and lifted spirits. Awards will be presented to the CEP teams on July 16, at Woodrose Winery in Fredericksburg during the TESA Awards Dinner where Cooperative Extension Program (CEP) and AgriLife Extension jointly recognize staff members from both organizations in various categories each year at the summer conference. Congratulations are extended to the twelve award recipients for a job well done.
Incentives such as these benefit the employer, the employee, and most importantly the community. When staff members are recognized and appreciated for the significant work they execute on a daily basis, morale goes up, and the work environment is more enjoyable. D’Souza encourages colleagues and students to continue to pursue excellence in all units of the College. “By celebrating outstanding accomplishments, we signal that excellence in our land-grant mission areas are not only encouraged but expected,” remarks D’Souza who started his tenure with PVAMU on July 1, 2018. In reflecting on the twelve 2018 award recipients, D’Souza continues, “Together, we can accomplish much more in the spirit of teamwork and collegiality as we seek solutions to problems faced by limited resource and underserved populations and seek to build ‘an institution of the first class’ as the Texas legislature envisioned.”
This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 1890 Extension Formula Program projects under Section 1444.
–Prairie View A&M University