Orange County Center Staff Honored With State and National Awards

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Three staff members of the Orange County Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension were recently recognized for professional achievements and exemplary performance in service of the residents of Orange County and the Extension profession overall.

Suyapa Mejia-Guevara, Program Assistant for the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), was awarded the Circle of Excellence Gold Award at the 2022 NC State Extension Conference held in Greensboro on November 4. Suyapa has served with N.C. Cooperative Extension since 2003 and delivers EFNEP programs in English and Spanish. EFNEP is a Federal Extension program directed to low-income populations, empowering them with knowledge and skills to prepare healthy and safe food on a budget.

A group of people pose with their awards.Ivelisse Colón has served as the Family & Consumer Science Agent in Orange County since 2016. She was awarded the Family Health and Wellness Team Award as well as the Social Media Education Team Award by the North Carolina Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences in Atlantic Beach, NC, on August 17.

A group of people posing with awards and a certificate.

In addition, Ivelisse’s team won first place in the Southern Region and 2nd place at the national level for the Social Media Education Team Award for their program entitled “NC FCS Living Well Challenge” which strived “to improve the agents’ physical and mental health during the pandemic.”

Jonathon Smith, Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development and Interim County Extension Director, has served in Orange County since 2017. He was awarded the following honors by the North Carolina Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals at its annual conference in Manteo on September 7.

  • Radio/Audio Program Communicator Award for the 4-H Teen Talk Podcast (former Orange Program Assistant Sarah Maddry was a co-recipient. They placed first in the Southern Region as well.)Three people pose with 4-H Clovers.
  • Diversity & Inclusion: Expanding the 4-H Audience Award (April Crider, Juntos Coordinator at Carrboro High School, was a co-recipient). The 4-H Juntos Program engages Latinx youth with positive youth development opportunities and works to unite community partners to provide these youth with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to achieve high school graduation and post-secondary education. Juntos was developed by NCSU. In the 2021-22 year, 244 teens were served with a 100% graduation rate with 72% of graduates enrolling in higher education.
  • Excellence in Animal Science Programming Award. 4-H and Livestock Extension professionals from Caswell, Durham, Orange, and Person Counties established the 4-H Feather Classic to provide an accessible, local poultry project for youth. Launched during COVID-19, the team made use of Zoom and other technologies to educate 33 youth ages 5 to 14 from June until October. Brandi Boaz – 4-H Agent Caswell County, and Sarah Maddry – 4-H Agent Alamance County also received this award.
  • Jim Khaler Excellence in STEM Award (Sarah Maddry co-recipient). Burke, Orange, and Richmond Counties partnered to host the Sourdough Citizen Science Project for 103 youth ages 11-18 in January 2021. The team created videos and other digital resources to help participants learn to use their starters to bake sourdough products. Data collected supported NC State’s Wild Sourdough Project.
  • Search for Excellence in Teen Programming Award for the Level Up Leadership program (Sarah Maddry co-recipient)
  • T C Blalock Young Agent (4-7 Years) Award

In addition, Jonathon was one of four North Carolina recipients of the Achievement in Service Award presented by the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 13. This award recognizes 4-H professionals who have performed exemplary service and have worked in the 4-H youth development field for 3-7 years.

 Lastly, Smith was also recognized at the 2022 North Carolina State Extension Conference with the Search for Excellence 4-H Agent Award and the Search for Excellence Overall Agent Award presented by the North Carolina Grange.

The staff of Orange County Cooperative Extension have the goal of making positive impacts on the county and state through research-based educational programs in the areas of family & consumer sciences, agriculture, community & rural development, and 4-H youth development. These awards are just a few highlights of the work the team does on a day-to-day basis. Congratulations to all!