It's my one month internship-iversary! Here are the highlights …
My first road trip beyond the boundaries of Fayette County. My supervisor and I traveled to Nicholas County Fair where we were given the opportunity to judge items submitted by members of the community. There were different categories of goods to judge including textiles, baked goods, canning, photography, horticulture, jewelry making, and even antiques. It was interesting to see what items people chose to submit, and even more interesting to learn how to judge, which can be subjective at times. Free dessert is always a bonus. Chocolate zucchini cake, you stole my heart.
Towards the middle of the week I accompanied an FCS Assistant to the Chrysalis House. During this visit we presented "Rethink your Drink" materials and counseled the women on sugar and caffeine intake. The objective was to try to raise awareness of how many calories from added sugars are in popular beverages such as soda, energy drinks, and kids' fruit punch. At the end of our lesson we shared a healthy Strawberry Limeade drink with our participants.
Later that day I ventured to the Lexington Public Library Central Branch with my supervisor. We held a program about couponing that had a very successful turn-out. Going along with our thrifty theme, I had the opportunity to present a recipe to our participants and share price comparisons from different vendors. I made "Zucchini and Corn" and researched produce prices at the farmer's market, Kroger, and Aldi.
We rounded out the week teaching the 4H Safe Sitter curriculum at Meadowthorpe Elementary. As a part of this program we taught rising 6th graders babysitting basics, including topics such as business development, safety awareness, and childcare skills. I had the opportunity to speak with the students about food safety, including examples of safe snacks that would be appropriate for young children. They had a fun time practicing how to hold, feed, burp, and change diapers with the "dummy" babies.
Back at the Chrysalis House we held another session with the women and discussed dairy. It seems as though the dairy group is one of the more commonly known food groups. So far, every group I have had the chance to talk with about dairy has already been aware of the benefits of consuming dairy, including basic knowledge about calcium and good food sources. After the lesson we shared a strawberry banana smoothie with our participants.
Next, my supervisor and I went to the BCTC campus on Leestown Road and talked with a group of teenagers about the "Rethink your Drink" curriculum. After discussing healthier beverage options we presented them with a booklet of simple and healthy snack recipes (made by yours truly), and assisted them in making a few of the recipes, including a healthy fruit smoothie. Although they were a little skeptical of our recipes at first we convinced them to give the snacks a try, and they were surprised to discover they liked what we had to offer.
Later in the week I accompanied an FCS Assistant and UK graduate student to Kenwick Center Camp. During our visit we discussed MyPlate and the different food groups with the kids. Our time with them was very interactive. We played an icebreaker game with a frisbee, asked them to give examples of their favorite foods from each food group, and involved them in a friendly competitive relay race. For the relay race, we placed paper bags at one end of the gym labeled with different food groups and gave them paper cut-outs of different foods to categorize into the bags. Not only did we educate them on some foods they had never heard of, such as hummus and lentils, but we also got them moving and practiced team-work.
Then, my supervisor and I were off to "Cooking on a Coin" at the Lexington Public Library Village Branch. This program is offered by the library for kids in the surrounding neighborhoods to learn food safety techniques, nutrition, and cooking basics. We kicked off the program with a germ simulation activity and discussed the importance of proper hand washing technique. Afterwards we learned about MyPlate, discussed the food groups, and used www.choosemyplate.gov to calculate each child's daily caloric needs based on their height, weight, and physical activity level. We rounded out the lesson by preparing Overnight Oats, which is a great breakfast that can be prepared ahead of time.
We polished off the end of the week by attending the Lexington Farmer's Market downtown on Saturday morning. This week we demonstrated the recipe Very Berry Salsa for shoppers and passed out insulated bags for their fresh produce. The salsa was a big hit!
In between the highlights of the last two weeks I have found time to do some organizing around the office, to practice my paperwork capabilities using KERS, attend various meetings, and to begin planning my Special Project (more info a little later). There is always something to do if you look around hard enough to find it. Speaking of finding things, while elbow deep in organizing the FCS agents' closet of reinforcement materials I stumbled across the recipe my classmates and I developed way back during my first bachelor's degree! It was really encouraging to see firsthand how our work is being used for the community.
You may recognize a few things from my previous blog post, but there are still a lot of first experiences to be had in this position, such as each opportunity to work alongside not just one agent but multiple employees in extension. It has often been said that what works for one may not work for all, and that is certainly the case for the professionals in extension. They are free to be as creative as they wish with their lesson planning and programs. Working alongside different employees not only offers a much wider perspective of FCS and extension, but also a wider array of teaching and communication techniques. Despite their differences in how they get the job done they are all very similar on another front....why they choose this job. They care. It is plain to see that each and every one of them is invested in their work. Each has their own passion, but each of them care about the people they are working with and invest themselves not only mentally but financially as well. It takes a very special person to be willing to invest in the community to such an extent.
What works for one may not work for all, and this applies not only to professionals but also to people in the community. If there is one take-away message from the last two weeks that I will carry with me through my professional career it would be that of practicality. In the DPD program at UK we are required to take courses such as nutritional biochemistry, advanced nutrition, and medical nutrition therapy, which to students seems like tedious work. These courses are absolutely necessary to thoroughly understand the practice of dietetics, but if we cannot use the knowledge we gain in a professional setting then what good is it? My professors have said it countless times, but I never really understood its importance until members of the community began to look to me as a professional for advice. Furthermore, there are oftentimes extenuating circumstances (finances, culture, religion) that may render what we have learned in class impractical for a group of people. As a future dietitian, I hope to use my experience in extension alongside my education as preparation for providing practical advice for my clients.
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.