2023 JCEP Public Issues Leadership Development Conference Scholarship Recipient Reflections

Erin Berentson, North Dakota    
I am so grateful I was able to attend the JCEP PILD conference as a first-timer this year as a NEAFCS scholarship recipient. I traveled with four other North Dakota State University Extension personnel, including current NEAFCS President, Julie Garden-Robinson (we are the two in the middle in the included group picture). A big focus of the conference was leveraging the power of the Extension System, and I learned an incredible amount in the few days I was there. The importance of advocacy was echoed throughout the event, and we learned more about the federal level of Extension and our partners and how that impacts our state and local Extension programs. Coming together as an Extension system to continue to share our impact was felt throughout the conference. One of the speakers said something that really stuck with me “Extension is the best kept secret, but the world’s worst advertisers”. I may have messed up a word or two from that statement, but it really makes you realize that YES, we are an excellent organization as a whole system, and we need to ensure everyone knows it! Attending the NEAFCS Association Meeting was a great experience, and it was so fun to meet many other members from across the U.S.! The networking opportunities were abundant and of course it was fun taking in some of the “extra” fun activities including sightseeing! Thank you NEAFCS for supporting me with a first-timer scholarship! Erin Berentson, MPH, RDN, LRD; Family & Community Wellness Extension Agent - Bottineau County, North Dakota State University Extension

Amanda Dame, Kentucky
PILD was an eye-opening experience for me as an Extension Educator. The ability for me to step outside of my silo and see the National reach of Extension as a unit was impactful. Often times as individuals we lose sight of the larger part our individual programs play toward the larger mission of Extension. After attending the conference my confidence in sharing my Extension story on a local and state level has increased.

Mackenzie DeJong, Iowa             
I am grateful to have attended PILD 2023 as a representative of Iowa and NEAFCS thanks to the scholarship provided for registration. Before the conference, I was extremely nervous about making connections in congress and sharing information on the hill, but thanks to the pre-conference online sessions and the information shared at the conference on Monday and Tuesday, I went into visits on the hill with much more confidence, and after having experienced it, I would feel confident going back and sharing more about what awesome things we are doing in Extension. I also feel more confident in creating impact reports and sharing information at a local and state level, as well. I understand where I fit into the “big picture” when it comes to sharing about what we do! Lastly, my favorite part of attending conferences is networking and sharing programming ideas cross-state, which I enjoyed at this conference once again.

Jasmine Greer, Virginia
As a newly appointed VP of Public Affairs, and agent of less than 1 year, the PILD conference was a great introduction to advocating for extension at all levels. I found the speakers to be engaging and the breakout sessions to be relevant and rich in information and engagement. I look forward to attending additional PILD conferences in the future.

LaDonna Hines, Oklahoma
This was my first time to attend PILD.  It was one of the best conferences I have attended in a long time.  The keynote speaker was very aspiring and motivated us all to stand up for our profession because we deserve it!   The tools during the conference equipped us to travel to the Capitol to speak with our state legislatures.  We were able to educate them about all the amazing programs we are teaching back home and the impact we are making in the lives of their constituents.  As County Director in the largest county in Oklahoma, it was powerful to visit them and let them know the value of Land Grant Universities!

Susan Latta, Kansas        
PILD is an important experience I wish all Extension Professionals should have.  I think it is important that this partnership is three-legged in that there are the Federal, State and Local partners and that we are all a part of the team.  We need to know what is going on in each person’s frame of reference.  It is extremely important for the federal partners to know what is happening on the local level and the impact that is being made. We also need to remind the federal partners that we are a resource for them.  We can let them know how legislation is going to or has affected the local people that we work with every day.  We can be a resource in that we are located in every state and every county in the United States.  While each extension system might look a little different, we are all making a difference in serving the people on the local level.  Thanks for making this opportunity affordable for KEAFCS to send someone to this conference.  I think it is important that we continue to have open dialogue with our federal legislatures, and I appreciate the opportunity this conference gives Extension to do this.

Gina Lucas, Missouri
The JCEP Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) Conference provided in depth information on telling the Extension story.  NEAFCS led the way with a professional front and back impact statement that provided an "at a glance" view of the work we do in Family and Consumer Sciences with opportunities to learn more by following the included links.  Extension professionals do the good work every day.  We make a difference in the lives of those in our community.  Sharing that story, collecting those numbers and calculating the value of that work is more difficult but so imperative.  Standing in our nation’s capital, speaking with policy-makers about our land-grant mission and the many ways that we are achieving that mission makes me so proud to be a small piece in this nation-wide system.  Our mission is old, woven into the history of our nation, but the Extension of today is adaptive and evolving.  We are constantly incorporating new research and providing updated information that addresses concerns as they emerge.  Who else is as adequately poised to meet the needs in our communities as we are?  This is the story that I have learned to tell at PILD.  We are uniquely designed, uniquely poised to meet the constantly evolving, more and more complicated issues as thy emerge with research-based solutions.  No one else can do what we do as effectively as we do it.

Margie  Mansure, North Carolina
The most important thing that I took away from the conference was realization of the importance of not only reporting, but informing public officials and funders about the impacts we are making in our communities. NEAFCS created a front and back impact report for various areas of FCS. NC is featured under Food and Nutrition.  Through the Extension Foundation, you can connect to Extension professionals across the country who are working on health equity and well-being issues. Go to extension.org, click on tools and then join connect. There is also a registry of FCS programs across the country, with descriptions and contact information.

Tricia Mathis, Utah
This was my first time attending the PILD Conference, so it was a new experience for me.   It was great to assemble with other Extension Professionals from around the country and glean from their wisdom.   In one of the general sessions, someone said that he hears all the time that Extension is one of the best kept secrets around - and it shouldn’t be.  I think this is a fair statement.  People should know about us.  They should know how much we are contributing to individuals, families and our communities and they should know how we can help them. I learned many new things about working with government, at local, state and national levels.  The conference gave me much to reflect on as to how I can do better at letting our stakeholders be aware of what we are doing.  The conference gave me a better glimpse of how we all do and can work together for the greater good.  It also made me think more about how I can promote Extension better and what I do in my community and state to increase Extensions reach.  Overall, it was a great conference and gave me a lot to consider about how I can improve my role in Extension.  Thank you for the registration scholarship!

Susan Moore, Georgia
I am very grateful to NEAFCS for paying my registration fee for the JCEP PILD Conference.  I learned a lot at the conference, and I was also able to present a concurrent session on UGA Extension’s Emergency Preparedness Response. Our NEAFCS meeting and the training we had at the conference really helped prepare me to speak to my legislators on Wednesday, April 18, 2023, in Washington, D.C. It was also really nice to spend more time with my NEAFCS colleagues and learn more about the initiatives going on in other states. I am happy to report that I was able to meet with legislative aides for five legislators (David Scott, Rick Allen, Sanford Bishop, Jr., Austin Scott, and Mike Collins) and got to meet Congressman Sanford Bishop, Jr. and Congressman Austin Scott.  I shared our NEAFCS Impact Statements and highlighted UGA Extension’s EFNEP and SNAP-Ed programs, ServSafe training, the Diabetes Prevention Program Prevent T2, and our emergency preparedness teams. I will be president of JCEP for my state next year, so I should be able to attend again, and I am looking forward to it.

Norma Munoz, Texas
PILD was such a rewarding experience in so many ways.  Hearing the reminder to always keep the bigger picture in mind and not lose sight of what and most importantly WHY we do what we do.  We serve a clientele that benefits from our educational programs regardless of our discipline and advocating from where were fit into this picture provides us a way to communicate our why and the impacts we make.  It was great to see a familiar face, our former AgriLife Extension Director, Doug Steele and hear what he and the rest of the panel had to share about our local, state and federal partners.  Our impacts, stories, local information help them help us.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join two of my colleagues in speaking with their congressman’s legislative director and congresswoman’s chief of staff to discuss our Healthy South Texas initiative and how we all play a part in the goal of the program.  Meeting Congressman Michael Cloud and having some time to share the programs and impacts in Nueces County was a great opportunity.  I appreciated his interest in what we are doing to improve the lives of his constituents.  I truly feel fortunate to have experienced PILD and it provided me with a learning experience that I will continue to use in my interpretation of Nueces County programs and in advocating for our programs, Extension mission and why I do what I do.