2020 First Timer Annual Session Scholarship Recipient Reflections

Abigail Hasty, Georgia

I started my position with UGA Extension in October 2019 and have really enjoyed my first year! In my role, I have heard a lot about NEAFCS but did not know much about it. This 2020 conference opened my eyes to all the ways I can benefit from being a member of the NEAFCS family.  During the conference, I was able to learn from experienced speakers in the field about ways I can grow my own program in Baldwin County, Georgia. This conference also gave me the opportunity to connect with other agents around the United States. I really appreciated the chance to attend the conference on the First Timer Annual Session Scholarship and look forward to using these resources and attending many more sessions to come!

Alyshia Victoria, Tennessee 

Wow what a year 2020 has been! After all of the challenges that we have been faced with as professionals this year, it was truly a pleasure to attend the NEAFCS Virtual Conference. While the format of a virtual event is not as fun as in person, this format allowed me the opportunity to attend a national conference in a time when it was greatly needed. Being able to connect with other agents who are passionate about FCS programming across the nation gave me motivation to dive in deeper within my own community. This information is valuable anytime, but this year it was especially helpful in allowing me embrace the guidance and creativity of others. Transitioning to virtual platforms has created a need to explore different technology, which was shared widely at the conference. I am so grateful to have been able to attend the conference this year and gain all of the value with a scholarship from NEAFCS. Thank You! 

Amber Allen, Missouri

A quote that was shared during one of the sessions I attended was, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”-John Quincy Adams. I feel this quote summarizes my first experience at the annual session. The conference sessions and networking opportunities inspire me to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.

By attending various sessions, I was able to learn more about my profession and the innovative programming that is occurring across the United States. The information that I learned at the pre-conference I was able to apply instantly to my programming. Still being within my first year of the profession I learned a wealth of knowledge from others with more experience within NEAFCS through 1:1 networking. This conference also challenged me to do more and become more. Through the encouragement of peers, I choose to join Professional Development: Program Development Subcommittee. Had I not attended the conference I would not have truly understood the benefits of joining a committee. Attending the conference allowed me to hear the benefits of committees through presentations, first-timer events, and talking to others through 1:1 networking.

Overall, my first experience was one filled with gratitude to be able to dream more about what I want my future as an Extension Professional to encompass and the innovative programs I can bring to my communities.

Andrew Bingham, Idaho

When I received word that this year’s NEAFCS session would be virtual I was disappointed. I went to graduate school in Utah, live in Idaho, and was excited to drive down and reminisce during my visit. Not only that, but I had been accepted to present this year and the close proximity provided me the opportunity to pack material for an interactive, hands-on presentation. In all honesty, my disappointment sapped a lot of the enthusiasm I had going into this conference, resulting in low expectations. However, despite my attitude I walked away from this year’s session energized. Never before have I been around so many Extension professional so willing and eager to engage in multi-state collaboration. It has been less than a month since the conclusion of the conference and I have already communicated with 40 colleagues over email, met with two over Zoom, have three more scheduled, and many other opportunities for future collaboration. While there are certain aspects of a conference that could never be fully appreciated or enjoyed in a virtual setting, there were definitely silver linings with this year’s circumstances, namely the flexibility to attend every session you desire and make new connections. And that silver lining has me looking forward to the future with hope and excitement that a year from now I will get to meet my new network in person.


Ashley Beard, North Carolina

I am so appreciative of being able to attend the 2020 NEAFCS Conference as a recipient of the First Timer Annual Session Scholarship. Over the past year being a new FCS agent, I have heard so many stories about past NEAFCS Conferences and how amazing they are. From riding horses in Colorado to eating all the chocolate in Pennsylvania, I knew I wanted to be a part of these conferences. Although this year looked a little different, I think this will still be a conference we talk about for years to come.

The time spent on this conference was so evident with the carefully crafted portal and sessions that were so relevant. The speakers at the sessions were highly energized and you could feel it through the computer. I feel like I took away so much in my first NEAFCS Annual Conference that inspires me for future programming. I was even able to show our county WIC Director a website that she was so excited to use! My favorite thing about this conference was in the sessions where everyone would put in the chat box their name and the state they were from. It made me feel like I was in the Miss Virtual Conference pageant shouting “Ashley Beard from North Carolinaaa.” In all seriousness, it made it so personal to be in sessions with so many people and find out that you have so much in common with.

My first experience at an Annual Conference makes me so excited for the future ones!


Christine Zellers, New Jersey

As a new employee at Rutgers Cooperative Extension in January 2020 I was looking forward to going to Utah to attend my first time NEAFCS conference.  Of course as April rolled around I became nervous about the possibility of flying cross country to attend a National conference during a pandemic.  When I learned the conference was going to be remote I was both disappointed and relieved to hear that I would be able to attend despite the pandemic.  The conference, while missing the beautiful landscape of Utah, afforded me opportunities to attend many wonderful presentations and learn a great deal about the workings of NEAFCS.  Meetings for social time were still held and I was able to attend those and the conference gave me a sense of overall well-being that I was not alone in my new found struggles of working virtually during COVID.  The friendliness of the organization and the professional welcome and opportunity were all evident even in a remote setting.  I was so impressed by the conference and its organization that I have agreed to be the treasurer for my local affiliate and have joined the national advocacy committee.  The conference was a source of support and inspiration and was just what I needed!  Thank you for awarding me a first timers scholarship and I look forward to being a second timer, in person or virtually in 2021!

 Deeona Johnston, Colorado

The NEAFCS 2020 Conference was great.  As a new agent, just rounding out her first year, it was extremely helpful to be able to attend the conference even in a virtual setting.  I was excited about many of the sessions!  A lot of the programming materials in my office were old and outdated.  I really wanted to come away with new programs that I could implement into my community, and I found many!  Although it would have been nice to meet everyone in person and have that social aspect of the conference, I am grateful that through a virtual platform we have access to the sessions afterwards.  This allows us to get the most out of the conference.  We are able to see multiple sessions that occurred at the same time. 

As this was my first NEAFCS conference I attended the first timer’s and new member event.  This was extremely beneficial.  I learned about leadership roles and the benefits that come with being a NEAFCS member.  There is so much knowledge that mentors try to relay to you, but somethings are always missed.  The first-timer’s event was helpful in filling in those blanks and informing us about opportunities that we have to further our careers!


Kylie Harris, Arkansas

As a new member to Extension and NEAFCS I was so excited to attend the 2020 National Conference this year. As with everything COVID-19 changed the way we attended to an online platform, but I am glad for the opportunity to be able to go back and watch the sessions I wasn’t able to attend. There were so many amazing sessions that I felt would be excellent opportunities to learn more about my chosen career field and NEAFCS. Being a part of this organization has opened my eyes to the wonderful people who work with extension and in other careers and helped create friendships that I will cherish for a lifetime. Even on a virtual platform this was an amazing opportunity that I feel privileged to have been a part of. 


Laurie Messing, Michigan

While 2020 has been a whirlwind of changes and challenges, the NEAFCS 2020 Annual Conference moving to a Virtual Conference turned into an opportunity for me to attend my first Annual Conference.  I was very grateful for the opportunity to attend utilizing a 1st Timer Scholarship from NEAFCS after being a long time Association member.  I’ve heard numerous stories from fellow members through the years after they attended the Annual Conferences and came back sharing wonderful programs and information from across the Country.  I have benefited professionally from the new knowledge they brought back to Michigan and shared with our Affiliate members and work teams.  

This year after attending, I can share with my colleagues my newly gained insight into new programs and opportunities highlighted by NEAFCS members during the virtual sessions.  I greatly appreciated hearing from the huge variety of speakers who each allowed me to learn about new programming, curriculum, resources and tools that will benefit my work for the residents in Michigan. It was interesting to attend the Business meeting and watch the process in action, as well the Awards ceremony which gave me ideas for future award applications.  While we were not able to be together in person, the conference offered so many valuable options to connect and network.  As I had expected and was excited about, the conference allowed me to see, hear, observe and engage with the vast network of NEAFCS professionals and really have a more in depth understanding of this great organization. 

Thank you for awarding me a 1st timer scholarship.  I look forward to seeing everyone in Michigan in 2021!


Lisa Cangany, Indiana 

Thank you for this opportunity to attend the virtual NEAFCS conference. It was so well organized and professionally done.  It was nice to learn from individuals from across the nation.

The opening session was a nice start to the conference.  Dr. Dave Schramm provided a very upbeat and informative session.  The three types of happiness and the “Happy Hacks’ were a much needed topic for our current situation. All the sessions I attended provided useful information and resources I can use in my programing; from sessions on the aging population, to nutrition, and dealing with the “winter blues”.  I am looking forward to sharing this information with my community.  

The network platform was easy to navigate with very few interruptions.  The ability to catch sessions I could not attend is a nice feature I plan to utilize.  Thank you again for this scholarship and the opportunity to attend the NEAFCS virtual conference.  


Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head, South Dakota

Annual conferences, in addition to being an excellent professional development opportunity, expand our professional practice through networking. Not only do we meet Extension Educators from other states but we also expand our network by learning about programs, implementation strategies, and impact. Learning how the needs of individuals, families, and communities are addressed in other areas of the country helps us to have a stronger impact on our local audience. Attending the NEAFCS Annual Conference gives us a wealth of information in a few days.

Renae Riedy, Kansas

Thank you for awarding me the first timer’s scholarship to attend NEAFCS Annual Conference.   Because of this scholarship, I was able to attend my first national conference.  While I would guess the experience of a national meeting is much different in person, the virtual option allowed me to attend as I was able, and still meet other commitments at home.  I enjoyed hearing what other states are programming in and seeing who their partners are.  It sparked new ideas for me, and also provided someone to contact if I had questions.

I also attended the Baking pre-conference workshop…I so enjoyed hearing about affordable or free resources that our office or our other education partners could use.  As I attended, I was sending messages to my colleagues on “how could we implement this” or “what do you know about that”, which sparked conversations I wouldn’t have necessarily had otherwise, sometimes across disciplines. 

Thank you again for sponsoring my attendance and for creating a format where this conference could still occur. 


Stacey Stangel, Ohio

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend the NEAFCS Annual Conference. The virtual platform afforded me a different experience than in person. The flexibility of attending so many different presentations and recordings that I could not have accomplished visiting meeting rooms on site enhanced the experience. As a first year FCS educator and first year NEAFCS member, I was very excited to be able to learn about how the other FCS educators around the country were addressing topics and needs in innovative ways. I came away from the experience realizing that we all have local resources and partners who can help. I have plenty of notes and resources to share with my colleagues as we assess and plan our programming to address the needs we identify moving forward at Central State Extension throughout Ohio. The demand for quality FCS programs in our communities is growing- the times may change, the people may change but the need for relevant FCS programming has not. I am extremely grateful to all the presenters and speakers from around the country in motivating me to seek out my communities’ needs and help them empower their lives.


Susan Harris, Nebraska

As a recipient of the 2020 NEAFCS First Timer Annual Session Scholarship, I was grateful to have made connections with other Educators around the country.  While session content is always beneficial, networking is so valuable – even virtually – and this conference did not disappoint.


Suzanne DeVos-Cole, New Mexico

I attended my first national conference ever as a new County Extension Agent and it happened to be the NEAFCS 2020 Virtual Event.  What a great introduction to the world of networking and information on a national level.  The conference was jam packed with opportunities to learn and meet new people.  This was quite a feat given the online constraints.  I attended a diverse number of programs of which the most useful will be Preserve Smart which helps with canning at a high altitude and will be of great use to all the members of my county.  All the sessions were recorded and available to view for 30 days after the conference was finished so I am still watching and learning.

I also joined a sub group which will give me an even greater opportunity to network and give back to all those that shared their programs, experience and expertise with me.  I was the recipient of a First Time Scholarship and I encourage all of you to apply and attend the conference.  It will further your horizons and make you feel part of a larger group.  Seeing so many enthusiastic people and hearing their words of encouragement gave me a renewed sense of energy and purpose.  I look forward to attending a conference in person one day and meeting many more FCS extension agents.


Tracey Latonya Saxton, Georgia

Being a "First Time" attendee at the NEAFCS annual conference was rewarding, fun, and engaging. Thank you again for rewarding me with a scholarship to attend.  I had the opportunity to meet long distance extension colleagues. The 1st NEAFCS virtual annual conference was a blast!!!


Virgilia "Vigi" Zabala, Florida 

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to attend NEAFCS this year as a result of the 2020 NEAFCS First Timer Annual Session Scholarship. From the very beginning, I felt welcome to NEAFCS and to the annual session. I had the opportunity to get a sneak preview to the conference during the First Timer webinar, where I was able to hear first-hand the experiences that would be available to us. My key takeaway was from Roxie Price, who insisted that we use the Session as an opportunity to learn, yes, but more importantly, as an opportunity to network. She also urged the first timers to set specific goals, such as finding a program we could implement in our own counties, and to pretend we were actually in Utah. That is, to limit the number of distractions during the Session hours. It was because of these recommendations that I came to NEAFCS feeling prepared and left feeling empowered.  

My experience as a first timer was further enhanced by the NEAFCS First Timer virtual meetup before the conference kick off, where we virtually introduced ourselves to folks from around the country. I had the privilege to be part of a team presenting at NEAFCS this year, so as I stated earlier, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to attend NEAFCS as a recipient of the First Timer Annual Session Scholarship so as to present with my team. This may have been anything but a typical experience for a first-time attendee, yet it was one that elevated my experience as an FCS agent and left me excited and hopeful for an in-person 2021 Annual Session. See you in Michigan!