LAURINBURG — While Scotland County Cooperative Extension may be most commonly associated with agricultural consulting services and 4-H youth programs, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
In cooperative extension’s annual public report on Monday, some 40 people viewed a video depicting the full range of the agency’s activities in Scotland County last year — from instilling healthy habits by teaching kindergartners how to make healthy snacks to testing which strain of Bermuda grass grows optimally in southeastern North Carolina.
Lonette Marsh, an extension intern coordinator based at N.C. A&T State University, applauded the Scotland County office and noted the irony that so few people understand its many functions.
“Sitting here tonight listening to you, if I had never heard of Cooperative Extension, I would say it is the best thing since sliced bread,” Marsh said.
“’We often get that … I’ve been working with Cooperative Extension in some capacity since I was nine years old because I started out as a 4-H member. But if you ask my family members ‘What does Lonette do?’ they really don’t know.”
In 2015, Scotland County Cooperative Extension interacted with 13,850 people, conducted 102 educational programs, and provided safety certification to 89 farmers, landscapers, and food service employees. Its 4-H program served 572 youth, and a weekly line dancing class introduced by the Extension and Community Association is averaging 50 participants.
Scotland County was also one of four extension agencies in the state to pilot a summer Youth Work Readiness program for middle school students. The eight-week program introduced students to the “soft skills” necessary for success in the professional world.
“Sometimes you may go to McDonald’s or Burger King and you have them waiting on you and the first thing they say is ‘What do you want?’ not ‘Hello, how are you?’and when you finish the order they may say thank you or they may not say thank you,” said extension advisory board member Dorothy Tyson. “Those skills are being missed by our youth.”
“Those skills” include nonverbal communication, conflict resolution, eye contact, posture, and other areas critical to positive personal presentation.
“Hard skills will get you an interview, but soft skills will help you to secure the job,” Tyson said.
“The objectives for the participants were knowledge and awareness of workplace ethics, demonstrating their ability to perform basic job tasks efficiently and timely, and to handle themselves in an appropriate manner when dealing with hostile situations.”
In applying for the program, students had to describe someone whose leadership skills they admire and secure a reference letter from an unrelated adult. The 10 students to complete the program visited N.C. A&T State University, and each earned 20 hours of work experience at businesses and agencies like AT&T, Partners in Ministry, Scotland County Parks and Recreation, Scotland County Memorial Library, Hi-Lites, and the Scotland County Arts Council.
For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Scotland County Cooperative Extension drew $147,000 in funding from Scotland County, $125,000 from N.C. State University, $51,000 from N.C. A&T State University, and $23,700 from grants, user fees, and donations.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.