Des Moines, Iowa — Extension work aims to bring the expertise of academia to the local level with a personal touch, and Clemson Cooperative Extension Service has garnered a slew of national awards to reflect that impact in South Carolina’s communities.
Clemson Extension professionals Amy Dabbs, David Dewitt, Stephanie Eidt, Drew Jeffers, Mallory Maher, Janet Steele and Rick Willey were named National Winners at the National Association of County Agricultural Agents annual meeting in August, while Justin Ballew was a Regional Winner and numerous others were State Winners.
“If you’re going to succeed in Extension, you must be driven to make a real difference in a lot of people’s lives,” Clemson Extension Director Tom Dobbins said. “What these recognitions by the NACAA mean to me is that we were well represented with great work and accomplishments — and that means we have been making a difference in lives. I am very thankful for the hard work and dedication across our system, and the individuals who were recognized are great examples.”
Dewitt and Willey were national winners of the Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes excellence in the field of professional Extension for members with more than 10 years of service.
An area agronomy row crops agent in Lee County, Dewitt has worked for Clemson Extension since 2012 and, since 2018, has led the statewide Extension Hemp team, as well as continuing his efforts with government advocacy and outreach. He works with tobacco growers, USDA programs and crop insurance, and serves as pesticide coordinator for three counites and county coordinator for his home county.
“The Distinguished Service Award is special to me because it is selected by my peers and is given to agents that have been employed for 10 years or more,” Dewitt said. “I really enjoy working with farmers and the ag industry especially the opportunity to work with hemp and tobacco producers all over the state and really honored to receive this award.”
Having served as the Extension 4-H Shooting Sports and Natural Resources specialist in South Carolina for 24 years, Willey led the South Carolina 4-H delegation to a 4-H national championship in shotgun and takes pride in mentoring his student interns in public service and leadership, many of which have gone on to work in Extension in both South Carolina and other states.
“I am truly honored to be nominated by my peers for the Distinguished Service Award,” Willey said. “It is always my hope that my work and efforts in 4-H programming over the years has made a positive impact in the lives of many youths and adults in South Carolina. The support by my fellow colleagues and their support with these endeavors is much appreciated. Together we help to ‘Make the Best Better.’”
Jeffers and Steele, meanwhile, garnered Achievement Awards, which are awarded to agents with less than 10 years of service in Cooperative Extension Service who have exhibited excellence in the field.
In his role with Clemson Cooperative Extension, Jeffers serves as county coordinator for Spartanburg County, a horticulture and natural resources agent and the South Carolina Certified Landscape Professional Program coordinator.
Jeffers provides pesticide education and training to commercial applicators and consumers, and creates educational videos and hold other classes on home and commercial horticulture topics.
“Receiving this award was very humbling,” Jeffers said. “I do my best to serve the citizens of Spartanburg County and of South Carolina, and I get great satisfaction helping people solve problems. I look forward to many more years doing a job that I love and that brings me much joy.”
Steele serves six counties as a forestry and wildlife agent. In addition to landowner outreach through one-on-one visits and group programming, she recently received Clemson Extension Innovation Grants to provide bus tours of forest management practices and forest products manufacturing facilities and to continue chainsaw safety and handling training.
“In addition to my day-to-day outreach to landowners in my six-county area, this award recognized my efforts in developing the South Carolina Women Owning Woodlands (SCWOW) program, particularly shifting to a virtual format during COVID-19,” said Steele, who cofounded the program. “The webinar format has been so successful that we will be launching our fifth SCWOW webinar series this month. We have enrolled over 450 participants in 15 states. Through our virtual platform, Clemson Extension’s mission has reached far beyond SC’s borders and continues to provide educational opportunities that support sustainable forest management.”
Dabbs’ entry, “Bee A Friend to Pollinators: Pollinator Education & Agricultural Literacy for SC Educators,” was the National Winner of the Search for Excellence award, while her poster submission, “Cultivating Communities: A Clemson Extension Program for South Carolina Community Gardens,” also won first place in the Extension Education category.
Dabbs has served as the Clemson Extension Statewide School and Community Gardening Coordinator since 2018 and leads the School Gardening for SC Educators program, an online training and technical support program she developed with colleagues at Clemson Extension.
“It’s truly an honor to share these awards with the many partners and colleagues who helped to build these successful Extension programs,” Dabbs said. “To be recognized as the best among our peers for educational programming is the highest form of praise. It was my pleasure to present the program overview to a room of enthusiastic Extension agents who were genuinely positive and excited about our work.”
Eidt and Maher, 4-H Youth Development agents in Fairfield and Oconee counties, respectively, were National Winners in the Newsletter category for their work as project coordinators on the South Carolina 4-H Honey Bee Project.
The program is an independent-study project that engages youth ages 5-18 in the active role of beekeeping, learning the basics of entomology and gaining an appreciation for the role of pollinators in our world.
Youth involved in the project set goals and plan activities to achieve those outcomes, actively maintain a hive and record their experiences in a record book and learn valuable life skills with the help of an experienced mentor.
“As Clemson Extension agents, our job is to deliver information to the general public of all ages,” Maher said. “Youth who participate in the SC 4-H Honey Bee Project are signed up for a newsletter about the project and this newsletter allows us to teach youth about pollinators in a different way. Putting together newsletters can be very time consuming, but it is great that Stephanie and I were recognized for our efforts, and we were able to showcase our creative side and our writing ability on the national level.”
In addition to the National Winners, Ballew was a Regional Winner for Website/Online Content. Clemson Extension also collected numerous awards for State Winners: Zachary Snipes (Audio Recording), Liliane Severino da Silva (Bound Book/eBook), Alana West (Computer Generated Presentation with Script, Learning Module/Notebook, Search for Excellence in 4-H programming), Tancey Belken (Educational Video Recordings), Ryan Bean (Event Promotional Package, Search for Excellence in Environmental Quality, Forestry and Natural Resources), Susan Lunt (Fact Sheet), Nicole Correa (Feature Story), Paul Thompson (Personal Column), Charly Greenthaler (Publication), Terasa Lott (Published Photo) and Charlotte Maxwell (Search for Excellence in Farm and Ranch Business Management).
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