Writer: D'Lyn Ford
ESTANCIA - New Mexico State University has hired two new agents for the Torrance County Cooperative Extension Service.
Tara Dellinger became the county's first full-time 4-H agent on Aug. 28. Sandy Cassen began work as home economist on Sept. 5.
Their arrival in Torrance County means an increase in local 4-H programs and educational activities is just around the corner.
Until recently, county program director Bill Neish shared responsibility for 4-H programs with former home economist Marilyn Mignery, who retired in May.
However, given the growing demand in Torrance for 4-H programs, NMSU decided to create a full-time 4-H position in the county in addition to hiring a new home economist. As a result, the county is poised for a major expansion of 4-H because Neish and Cassen will both assist Dellinger by devoting 50 percent of their time to youth education.
"We're going to have a much stronger youth program because we'll be putting a lot more staff hours into it," Neish said. "That's necessary because the population in Torrance County is increasing dramatically and demand is really growing for 4-H work."
Neish said the new staff will concentrate on recruiting 4-H members and creating more clubs. They will also recruit and train more adult volunteers to assist with 4-H.
Dellinger has first-hand experience with New Mexico 4-H. The daughter of a cattle-ranching family in Clayton, Dellinger began participating in 4-H when she was just five years old. She showed sheep at county, state and national events, and at age 9 she won a novice showmanship award at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair. In 1992, she was chosen to attend the National 4-H Congress in Chicago.
She was also active in the FFA. She earned state and American FFA degrees and served as a state FFA officer.
Dellinger earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural business and economics in 1998 from West Texas A & M. She previously worked for First National Bank of New Mexico from June 1999 to August 2000, but says an Extension 4-H position has always been her goal.
"Ever since I was just a little girl I've wanted to be a 4-H agent," Dellinger said. "This is my dream job."
Dellinger says she will work to strengthen leadership training through 4-H, reinforce showmanship programs, and build shooting sports in the county.
"I want to be able to touch kids' lives and help them be the best they can be," Dellinger said.
As the county's home economist, Cassen will work to strengthen 4-H activities such as sewing and baking. She will also introduce 4-H community events to bring the county's 4-H clubs together for activities.
Apart from 4-H, Cassen's responsibilities include home economics education for adults. She will work with homemakers clubs to plan activities and attract members.
She will also broaden the Extension Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Torrance county. Extension already employs one three-quarter-time nutrition educator for EFNEP, which offers eight- to twelve-week courses that teach low-income families to adopt healthy diets and better manage their food budgets. Cassen expects to hire another nutrition educator and an EFNEP program assistant.
"We're going to at least double our educational capacity," Cassen said.
Cassen earned a bachelor's in home economics and a master's in family consumer sciences from NMSU in 1995 and 1998, respectively. She worked as Extension home economist in Cibola County from May 1999 to August 2000.
"I want to get to know the community," Cassen said. "I'm open to anybody phoning or visiting me to talk about community needs."
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