New employees sometimes experience an awkward transition period at the beginning of a new job. You meet a multitude of friendly faces and silently struggle to remember their names. You become preoccupied with the first impression you will make upon your new coworkers, and a constant inner dialogue of questions runs through your head.
"Am I in the way if I stand here?"
"Am I talking too loudly?"
"Did I really just do that?"
After going through the day-to-day motions a few times many of these worrisome details fall to the wayside, and you eventually establish comfortable routines and workplace relationships. Except workplace relationships in extension are closer to familial relationships, and routines in extension are basically analogous to unicorns. This week concluded my first two weeks as an intern with UK Cooperative Extension, and so far no two days have been alike. Luckily, Fayette County Extension Agents, Assistants, and Interns alike have quickly adopted me into their fun family.
Here is a quick run-down of my series of firsts:
Began bright and early at the Fayette County Extension Office. District 4 staff meeting was taking place that morning. As I watched and listened to the agents and their assistants interact with one another it was immediately clear that they are more like family than coworkers. Everyone was smiling and making jokes with one another. This impression was only reiterated when the district's director announced his retirement, and everyone in the room became teary eyed and shouted out their congratulations or thanks for his support. Many of those men and women have worked in extension for decades, and others for just a handful of years, but everyone was well affected towards him and his work.
My first trip into the community with an FCS Assistant to St. James Place Apartments. St. James Place is a part of the Foundation for Affordable Housing, Inc., a non-profit organization which houses veterans. During our meeting with the program's manager we learned about the various resources they provide for veterans, and how their efforts have helped veterans obtain job and financial security. We discussed plans for a nutrition program that would include topics such as nutrition guidelines, budgeting skills, and food safety/preparation. Later that day, we visited the Family Care Center and made plans for a similar nutrition program geared towards teenage mothers and their children. This was my first time learning about the Family Care Center and the services they provide to young mothers. I am especially interested in maternal and pediatric nutrition, so I am very much looking forward to working with this group.
My first weekend off work was well spent. In the service industry weekends off work were unheard of, so I took advantage of the Memorial Day holiday and spent time with my family in Maysville, KY. Returning to work on Tuesday provided another three days filled with firsts. I trained with the Super Star Chef team, a program designed to encourage youth to prepare their own safe, nutritious meals. We learned lessons that we will later be teaching to youth groups across the state, such as proper hand-washing, canning, knife safety, and label reading. It was my first time canning, and the bread and butter pickles we made were delicious. We also carved apples into birds, which was a really fun first experience.
At the beginning of my second week I had my first opportunity to teach. I went with my FCS Agent to Bryan Station Middle School and we taught a lesson about dairy. My mother would beg to differ, but I am honestly quite a soft spoken person and public speaking has always given me butterflies in my stomach. The 8th graders were a tough crowd at first, but as the day progressed I felt more comfortable being in front of the classroom. It was fun talking with them and helping them make homemade ice cream.
If there was one experience in the last two weeks that I had to choose as my favorite, then it would have to be teaching at the Chrysalis House, which specializes in treating substance dependent expecting mothers. Chrysalis House graduates are staying sober, earning their GEDs, and working in jobs to support their families. More importantly, they care about their families' health and were eager to learn and ask questions. I loved answering their questions. Since meeting with them my mind has been brimming with ideas.
I had another opportunity to work with youth groups, but the children were much younger this time. I had a chance to assist my supervisor in teaching a LEAP lesson. We read a story about apples and making apple pie, and then sampled different types of apples as a snack. My favorite part about teaching is making samples of food with the participants. I always thought trying new things was fun, and food can make almost anyone happy.
We rounded out the week by going to the market to pick up ingredients to use for our farmer's market recipe. This weekend we made Strawberry Salsa using local strawberries (Johnson Bros Farm), cilantro (Stonehedge Family Farm), and green onion (Smith Family Farm).
I must say, after studying at UK and working in the service industry for almost a decade, I felt confident that my knowledge of nutrition and customer service skills was enough preparation for this position. Even if I found myself in an unfamiliar situation in the beginning, I was positive that after a few days of working in extension I would be ready to tackle everything. Fortunately, the opportunity to work with extension agents has made it abundantly apparent of how little I truly know about what it takes to work in community service. Each new lesson helps me grow as both a professional and a member of the Lexington community.
A collection of stories as an intern with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, providing community-based nutrition education services.