Urban Extension: A Professional Development Offering

How Harris County CES address the multitude of issues and priorities in their community through educational programming:

Harris County Extension implements educational programming that is relevant to urban issues and attracts minority and under-served audiences. One example of this focus is the Sustainable Communities Project.

The program is highly relevant to Harris Co unty, which is one of the nation’s most populated areas, thick with commercial buildings, roads, businesses, and residential neighborhoods. In such an urban community, the National Geographic Society reports that “most inhabitants… have nonagricultural jobs.” It is not surprising, then, that youth in Harris County have little information about or exposure to urban agriculture, which could serve to lessen the impact on residents of the food deserts that exist in several pockets of the county, limiting access to affordable and quality food. The Sustainable Communities Project is conducted at two college preparatory schools within two Houston food deserts, and is designed to provide educational programming to urban youth, offering them trainings and activities over a period of five years. The purpose is to connect youth and STEM, agriculture, and agri- business through opportunities to explore various career fields in agriculture, life sciences, health, and community sustainability, thereby improving their college readiness.

How Harris County CES attracts, develops, retains, and structures competent talent:

In order to achieve the above goals, Harris County found it necessary to adjust staffing positions, job descriptions and their pattern to meet urban needs. The list below describes the personnel necessary to attain the objectives previously described, as well as their responsibilities.

• County Extension Director. Goal: To oversee all project operations

• County Extension Agent – Urban Youth Development. Goal: To provide day-to-day leadership and guidance, assisting with coordinating and monitoring all project activities. Also responsible for relationship-building between school faculty and staff, parents, and youth participants. This position was adjusted to ensure the needs of the schools were met. This agent also provides reports, oversees the budget, and collects evaluations and program aide trainings for the project. • Extension Program Aide. Goal: To assist with project operations; provide on-site representation and implementation of activities. This position was adjusted to meet the operational needs of school gardens.

• County Extension Agent – Family and Community Health. Goal: To coordinate events and activities around food and nutrition, and to organize family events to incorporate parental involvement.

• County Extension Agent – 4-H & Youth Development (Agriculture & Livestock). Goal: To coordinate programs such as: ‘Ag in the Classroom,’ ‘Egg to Chick,’ and entomology -focused activities.

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