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NMSU Extension agents receive honors at national conference

It was a big year for New Mexico State University at the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences annual conference, held virtually in September.


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Cindy Davies, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service Bernalillo County program director, completed a two-year term as the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences vice president of member resources in September (NMSU photo)
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Laura Bittner, interim director of New Mexico State University’s 4-H and Youth Development Department, received the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Science’s highest honor, Distinguished Service Award, during the organization’s annual meeting in September. (NMSU photo)

Cooperative Extension family and consumer science agents and specialists with NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences were recognized for their professional contributions to the association and their communities.

One agent retired from a national vice president position. One was elected president of the Western Region. Two received individual honors at the national and regional level for their contributions to their communities. Three county programs received awards at the national and regional level.

Cindy Davies, Extension program director in Bernalillo County, completed a two-year term as the national vice president of member resources.

This division has four committees – diversity, NEAFCS Journal, mentoring and membership-leadership.

With diversity, equity and inclusion in the national spotlight, Davies said, “the diversity committee focused on reaching the underserved audience in our communities. We addressed what that means for Extension regarding who we are serving and how we are reaching them.”

Through the years, Davies has mentored other Extension agents, including Rick Griffiths in San Juan County.

“Rick, with a strong financial background in consumer science, has broken into a professional field that is traditionally dominated by women,” Davies said. “He has been very interested in serving the national organization.”

Griffiths is the president of the New Mexico association chapter, and will serve on the NEAFCS national board representing the Western Region.

“Talk about diversity, Rick is the first male to ever be on the NAFCS board,” Davies said.

Laura Bittner, NMSU’s 4-H and Youth Development interim department head, received the Distinguished Service Award, which is the highest award presented by the national association recognizing the recipient’s leadership, outstanding programs, and personal and professional growth.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition,” Bittner said. “I’m fortunate to have colleagues across the state who inspire me, and whose example helps me to be a better Extension professional.”

Dianne Christensen, Extension professional in Bernalillo County, received the Western Region Past Presidents’ New Professional award for her programs.

The Past Presidents’ New Professional Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments of members within their first three years of employment. It recognizes their use of innovative and effective methods of conducting an Extension program.

The NEAFCS Community Partnership Award was presented to Otero County’s Extension professional Kelly Knight and team for the “Eat Well Otero” program.

The Community Partnership Award recognizes members for outstanding community partnership efforts in meeting the needs of families through collaboration with group, agencies and consumers.

As recipient of this award, Knight presented a workshop on the program at the national conference.

With the collaboration of health care professionals and restaurant owners in Alamogordo, the “Eat Well Otero” program addresses improving the nutritional offerings at local restaurants.

“Since 2017, nine locally-owned restaurants have been offering healthier food choices, cutting overall costs, and reducing food waste through this initiative,” Knight said.

Among the “Eat Well Otero” promotions in 2019 was the “Taste of Otero” event that was attended by over 500 Otero County residents. The event consisted of five tasting events hosted by locally owned restaurants where healthier menu items were sampled.

The “Eat Well Otero” program also received a Western Region first place.

Two other programs received regional first place awards, with one receiving third place nationally.

NMSU Extension’s statewide “Healthy Living Program” placed third nationally in the School Wellness Award, and first in the Western Region.

The School Wellness Award recognizes outstanding school-based programs to promote and improve physical, emotional, and/or social wellness of students, staff or families of students in the school community.

A team of 10 Extension professionals participated in the collaborative effort with schools and community partners to improve the healthy habits of youth and their families.

Team members, led by Nicole Jacobs of Bernalillo County, were Mindy Turner of Curry County, Shannon Wooton of Chaves County, Nicole Lujan of Sandoval County, Anne Marie Wilson of Valencia County, Sarah Kate Sharpton of McKinley County, Robyn Haynes of Lea County, Trisha Chaves of Socorro County, Desaree Jimenez of Los Alamos County, and Tom Dominguez and Amanda Benton, of Santa Fe; Bryce Jorgeson, Extension family resource management specialist, and Stephen Beck, former 4-H and Youth Development department chair.

NMSU’s Resilient Mothers, Resilient Children program in Dona Ana and Otero counties won the Western Region’s Human Development/Family Relationships category.

This award recognizes innovative human development/family relationship educational efforts.

Karim Martinez, NMSU Extension family life specialist; Beatriz Favela, Dona Ana County FCS agent; Kelly Knight, Otero County FCS agent; and Raquel Garzon, former NMSU Extension nutrition and wellness specialist, were team members for the program.

“The program was designed to ensure better mental health for the program participants,” Martinez said. “It taught adults healthy stress management techniques, mental and emotional coping strategies, resiliency capabilities, and how to extend these concepts to participants’ children.”