Extension's Annual Staff Awards Celebrate Excellence and Innovation
The Exceeding at Extension Award recognizes individuals whose creative and innovative approaches spark admiration and inspire others — colleagues who have used creative approaches or piloted new frameworks that have made a difference in meeting key areas of need such as diversity/inclusion, program development, program support, addressing emerging issues and promoting academic engagement. Recipients of this award show a deep sense of commitment to the mission of Extension and are interested in promoting the organization through an excellent work ethic.
This year’s recipient of the Exceeding at Extension Award is Jonathan Ebba, a field specialist in Strafford County. He is a member of the Food & Agriculture program team focused on greenhouse production and controlled environment agriculture.
Ebba is recognized with the Exceeding at Extension Award for putting innovative ideas into action to address the needs of the industries he supports. A shining example of this are his efforts to develop a training program in partnership with the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. This certification program in greenhouse production of ornamental plants provides valuable job skills for incarcerated people and provides measurable benefits to these individuals both before and after their release.
Offenders who participate in this program work in operational greenhouse facilities within the correctional institution to learn greenhouse production and management skills. They apply their skills by growing crops of ornamental and edible plants for sale to the public.
Ebba developed this program as a response to a need expressed by the state’s greenhouse and landscape industries. A survey of the greenhouse and landscapers of the state to assess the severity of the labor crisis in profitability and to ascertain opportunities for Extension in facilitating workforce development with underutilized populations suggested this would be an avenue to explore.
This greenhouse production certification program provides offenders with meaningful work while incarcerated as well as horticultural job and entrepreneurial skills to take with them upon release, while addressing a significant workforce need within the landscape and greenhouse industry.
The greenhouse production certification program is just one example of Jonathan putting innovation into action. Several other examples were highlighted in his nomination. Jonathan is someone who sees opportunities to put innovation into action and he acts on those opportunities with excellent results.
The Excellence in Collaboration & Partnerships Award recognizes individuals or teams for their efforts to build effective collaborations within Extension or with partner organizations throughout the state including with academic departments within the University System of N.H. Recipients have leveraged partnerships to develop impactful programs and opportunities that engage the public and strengthen Extension outreach.
The 2022 Excellence in Collaboration & Partnerships Award goes to the Master Wellness Volunteer Program team:
- Zeanny Egea Alvarado, Nutrition Connections Teacher, Coös County
- Bettina Sietz, Administrative Assistant, Strafford County
- Heidi Barker, Healthy Living Field Specialist, Coös County
- Melissa Lee, Field Specialist, Merrimack County
- Rebecca Betts, Field Specialist, Rockingham County
Over the last two years, this team of Extension professionals has launched a new innovative program that is expanding the reach of Extension programming for multiple program teams, building youth and adult volunteers who will be embedded into our communities to build capacity for change.
In the spring of 2022, this team launched its second cohort of fully trained Master Wellness Volunteers. The cohort included 24 graduates pursuing three different service pathways: Community Resilience, Food Access and Walk with Ease, a mobility program for older adults. This builds on the work of the first cohort launched last year that performed multiple 4-H-related health and wellness projects.
Each of the projects and pathways have been developed to reach specifically marginalized populations such as older adults and low-income families. This year’s pathways include Health and Well-Being team programs as well as a collaboration with the Community and Economic Development Team.
Developing this program has meant creating and delivering 20 hours of core training with topics including health equity, social determinants of health, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and an understanding of Extension’s mission. An additional 20 hours of specialized training focuses on the volunteer’s chosen service pathway. The volunteers are now formally enrolled Extension volunteers who are committed to 40 hours of service work. Volunteers are currently creating their plans of action for community change, including delivering food demos at food pantries, helping older adults increase physical activity, working with coalitions on community needs assessments and teaching nutrition education classes for families.
The lift to get a program with this level of complexity off the ground has been immense. Feedback from the volunteers has been glowing, and other specialists are already planning new pathways for current and future cohorts to pursue, such as youth mental well-being, Boost your Brain (brain health) and vaccine education. Like other high quality volunteer programs, not only do these volunteers expand the reach of our educators, but they also receive extensive valuable personal and professional development – along with a sense of belonging to a like-minded community of practitioners.
This team more than doubled participation in one year and developed all new pathways of training each year of the program. The program has garnered national attention and is still growing.