2017 Awards

The Texas Extension Specialists Association recognized Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agents and associates for outstanding work with agency specialists at several events during the past few weeks.

The association, also known as TESA, represents the interests of AgriLife Extension specialists, associates and assistants within AgriLife Extension and the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program.

The association hosted its annual professional development conference earlier this month in San Antonio and presented several awards, while others were presented in front of peers at the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association in Odessa and at the Texas Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in Round Rock.

TESA provides and promotes professional improvement for its members, said Steven Klose of College Station, association president. To be recognized, agents must have developed outstanding educational programs utilizing the support provided by members of the AgriLife Extension specialist faculty and cooperated with the specialists in a joint effort.

The Outstanding Friend of Extension Specialists Award was presented to the Texas Pest Management Association and its executive director, David Oefinger in Austin.

Headquartered in Austin, the Texas Pest Management Association is the only statewide, multi-commodity, nonprofit producer organization in Texas dedicated to the development and implementation of integrated pest management, or IPM, programs. The organization promotes environmentally friendly pest control techniques.

According to the nomination, TPMA delivers unbiased, credible, reliable and timely solutions to pest problems of agricultural and urban customers. The program educates farmers, ranchers and urban Texans about the benefits of integrated pest management principles and how to access and safely use these tools to address pests in an environmentally friendly manner.

Oefinger has made personal visits to key stakeholders, legislators, producers and anyone else who can help with IPM and AgriLife Extension, the nomination continued. He reminds people of the value AgriLife Extension offers to Texans and the information that is produced. He assists agents when they need help getting information to producers about pests.

“When the sugarcane aphid first arrived in Texas, David was right there with the entomology unit and producers working on solutions and helping to find funding so additional scouts could be hired to help agents and specialists identify what types of crops were being affected and what methods could be used to control this destructive pest,” the nomination stated.

TPMA helps support AgriLife Extension’s 15 IPM agents located across Texas specializing in cotton, wheat, sorghum, pecans and corn as well as six program specialists who focus on urban IPM, school IPM, pecans and ornamental crops like roses and crape myrtles.

The TESA Professional Development Grant was presented to Janet Hurley, AgriLife Extension program specialist-school IPM in Dallas, who will use the $2,500 grant to train for and develop a Texas Rodent Academy for school IPM coordinators, pest management professionals and public health workers. The academy will be held Dec. 5-7 and will provide classroom and hands-on activities.

“The goal is to host this class at least once a year, but hopefully twice a year at our IPM Experience House here in Dallas,” Hurley said.

At its annual meeting, TESA also presented scholarships to Kayla Klose of Bryan and Mason Kaase of College Station. Klose will attend Texas A&M University and major in agricultural business beginning this fall. Kaase is a junior at Texas A&M in the department of accounting at Mays Business School.

Other award winners and information from their nominations are:

4-H Youth Development Agent Award – Amber Carroll, El Paso County. Under her direction, El Paso 4-H agriculture literacy programs reached out to over 11,000 students this year. In three years, she has raised 4-H enrollment in El Paso County 135 percent. For the 2016-2017 school year, Carroll started the Vet Tech program in the Clint Independent School District, where 36 students have provided 95 hours to El Paso Animal Service. They assisted in over 2,000 surgeries and have increased live release rates from 7 percent to 19 percent in the first seven months of the program. Carroll also has been a huge asset for the Kids & Kows & More program. She also speaks to agents across the district about the program and the benefits of it, which is teaching students the importance of agriculture in their lives.

Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Award – Cooper Terrill, Williamson County. Terrill began his AgriLife Extension agent career in 2013 as the agent for Falls County before moving to Williamson County in January 2016. He has helped identify producer cooperators for wheat and canola strip trials, been instrumental in coordinating small grains field days, and organized other commodity-type clinics/workshops for clientele. In 2015, excessive spring rains caused significant pre-harvest sprouting in winter wheat. To address and answer producer concerns, he put together an educational event with agronomic and economic specialists and insurance agents to address their concerns and help them make important marketing decisions. He also started the Williamson County Small Grains Field Tour and with his leadership, attendance has shown steady improvement.

Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Award – Lilian Mezquida, Cameron County. Mezquida has been instrumental in getting the Watch UR BAC Alcohol & Other Drug Awareness Program spread in the Rio Grande Valley. The programs message of impaired driving prevention is especially important, as Texas leads the nation in impaired driving crashes and deaths. Along with a 20-minute presentation, tailored to the age of the audience, Watch UR BAC provides hands-on activities to drive the message home. In October 2015, Watch UR BAC visited five campuses, educating nearly 3,700 students. In February 2017, Watch UR BAC visited six different schools, educating almost 400 students. With Mezquida’s help, Watch UR BAC has successfully spread a message of impaired driving prevention to youth along the border, and will continue to do so with her leadership.

Community Development Agent Award – Rhonda Cummins, Calhoun County. Cummins has been a Texas Sea Grant Extension agent since May 2008. She worked on a study of the economic impact of recreational fishing in Calhoun County. The study considers the impacts of spending by tournament anglers and other recreational anglers in the county. Tournament fishing is an important economic activity in the county, with tournaments on most weekends from May to October bringing tourists and their money to the county economy. Other anglers visit the county to enjoy its fishing opportunities outside tournament settings. Cummins is generous in her community involvement outside work, volunteering on a number of boards and activities. An example is when she realized local children needed an assessable lending library, she built mini-libraries and placed them throughout the county.

Support Staff Award – Brayla Leighton, Southeast District 9, College Station. Leighton has served as the administrative support for the Southeast Region program leader – agriculture and natural resources for the past nine years. She is a team player and excels in meeting the demands of supporting the program leader and other District 9 AgriLife Extension staff members as the need arises. In addition, she maintains all vehicle use and maintenance associated with District 9’s fleet vehicles and inventory of educational resources and displays. And when called upon, she is always ready to step in when needed to ensure deadlines of District 9 4-H activities and events are met.

For more information about TESA, go to https://tesa.tamu.edu/.

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