Extension fosters the joy of learning

Published 10:38 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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By Tana Shealey 

Alabama Cooperative Extension System Coordinator

“Hello, Alabama Cooperative Extension, this is Tana,” I said as I grabbed the phone while my colleague, Audri, helped a person who had just walked into our office.

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“Yes, Jana,” the male voice on the phone said.

“No, sir, it is Tana,” I gently corrected.

“Oh. Okay. Well, Jana – uh Tana, my wife told me to call you because you are giving away weather radios,” the caller stated.

That isn’t exactly what our severe weather preparedness workshops are all about – handing out weather radios – but the caller did understand that Extension was offering something his family needed. 

Coupling teaching how to prepare for severe weather with providing materials to stakeholders to become prepared makes my job a joy.

Imagine being able to work with educators from around the country who develop classes that can be taught in small Lowndes County communities, at no cost to residents. Sprinkled amidst conversations about growing-up southern and the weather, I invite residents to attend our free classes on food safety and wild pig eradication. Our team makes plans to offer workshops on topics ranging from container gardening to cattle management to getting rid of those pesky pests that infiltrate our homes. 

Those are just a few of the educational opportunities available through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System or ACES, a sampling of what ACES is all about. 

In Lowndes County, our team works hard to mitigate fees for our classes. For example, we find community partners to purchase meals for free workshops held during lunch or for extended hours. Also, we ask for support from charitable groups, county and municipal leaders to purchase materials that school children may need to use while building raised bed gardens. That is what Extension does; we are the educational outreach arms of several universities.

Governor Kay Ivey declared the week of October 23-28 as Alabama Extension Week shining a light on the work of the ACES network which got its formal start with passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. Prior to that, there were many Extension programs, including our partners, the Tuskegee Extension Program, an effort which began with individuals driving a wagon throughout the Black Belt region while conducting on-the-farm demonstrations. 

Our goal is to share information about our many programs and schedule classes supporting those programs in our schools, churches, and public meeting places.

Extension has offices in each of Alabama’s 67 counties, and I am privileged to coordinate the programming opportunities in Lowndes County. The Lowndes County ACES Office has four team members and 12 regional Extension agents and education specialists who teach in Lowndes County. We are employees of Alabama A&M University and Auburn University.

As an ACES coordinator, learning and sharing knowledge through community based educational programs is my joy. Meeting and talking with the great people of Lowndes County is my pleasure. As we schedule our classes for 2024, I hope that you will take a moment to visit our website at www.aces.edu and learn more about and with us.