Mendez relishes job at Wright Co. Extension

CLARION – Since July 2013, Teresa Mendez has been like a guard dog: sniffing out potential programs for Wright County residents and putting them together with Iowa State University field specialists.

Classes and programs are developed, people are invited to attend. Valuable learning takes place.

In short, Mendez loves her new job, she said.

“Many times we don’t know how many people might attend a certain class offering,” she said. “But the best part is the outcome and the impact the class has on the people who participate. If they can take something new from the program, it’s satisfying.”

Mendez said she looks for others with expertise in a field to help put on various programs.

For example, during Fire Prevention Week fire truck rides for kids in the community are traditionally given. Building on this, Mendez and Clarion firefighters teamed up prior to the rides for fire safety training.

“Families with their younger children learned about fire escape routes,” she said. “Then they mapped out their own fire safety routes for their own homes. Everyone received hands-on fire extinguisher training, as well more information on smoke detectors.”

The program was given to participants in both English and Spanish.

Also last fall, Mendez along with leaders from county public health, the local hospital and senior housing staff members, met to brainstorm possibilities.

“We developed a Family Health Fair which was hosted at our local library,” she said. “As we worked, more government entities joined in for our three-hour, come-and-go event. We had make-and-take-it exhibits; we did diabetes testing and blood pressure checks. Each booth had some interactive activity associated with it.”

Both the fire safety training and Family Health Fair are slated to become annual events.

“In October, we had about two dozen people from across Wright County come for a meeting to help determine what our priorities might be,” she said. “The top need was identified for us to work to strengthen families, but close behind was leadership development and programming connected with using ag technology. That direction helps to put together programs and presenters.”

As the Hispanic population in Iowa increases, ISU Extension continues to seek ways to serve them, according to Mendez.

Exito En El Norte, or Success in the North, is a continuous program for Wright County Latinos.

“It is a five-week program for participants to better understand our cultural differences,” said Mendez. “We look at things like parent-teacher conferences, what do grade points mean? Recently we had two participants study for, and receive, their GED certification. They are now attending ESL classes offered in Clarion by a faith-based organization.”

Kevin Moss, chairperson of the Wright County Extension Council, said the council identified more and more areas for which programs were needed.

“We needed someone who could organize and work with different groups of people,” he said. “There are many program specialists at Iowa State University. Other times we need to partner with organizations and people with other areas of expertise. We are finding if anyone has a good idea, Teresa is open and enthusiastic to find a way to get that program to happen.”

Mendez said she looks forward to the coming months as more and more opportunities become available for educating and reaching out to area individuals and families.

“Some of our classes have fees attached to them, but many do not,” she said.