The Ottumwa Courier

October 5, 2012

ISU Extension programs aim to improve community

By ANDY GOODELL
Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — In what ways can the local community improve?

At the Mahaska County ISU Extension Office, 212 N. I St., they’ve got some ideas.

Natalie Ferguson-Spray, program coordinator with ISU Extension in Oskaloosa, said she’s creating programing to benefit the local community. Specifically, the areas of business and industry, family and nutrition are her focus.

“All these programs, they really are a puzzle because if families are stressed at home because of their teenagers and they are not getting along, then they take that stress to their workplace,” said Ferguson-Spray.

Ferguson-Spray, explained that the ISU Extension office in Ames has field specialists in these areas. She noted that core programming for each area of the state has been developed.

There are programming options for families looking to better manage their finances or those looking to start a new business, said Ferguson-Spray. Also available are programs that focus on improving nutrition among children and the older population.

“We have a really great program I’m hoping to do with some of the assisted living or some of the senior centers,” Ferguson-Spray said.

A big part of Ferguson-Spray’s job is determining which of these community-minded programs are needed first.

With the busy lives some families have, it can be difficult to set aside time to participate in classes to improve their lives. However, there are a few classes people can sign up for online and complete at home.

When it comes to improving business locally, Ferguson-Spray said it may be a good idea to have classes aimed at improving entry-level empoyees’ skills to help them move up in whatever business they are involved with.

“That’s kind of important — to be happy and to like your job,” said Ferguson-Spray. “Even if it’s not your dream job, what can we put in place to make it a better situation for themselves.”

Right now, Ferguson-Spray is in the planning stage when it comes to the programs to be offered at the ISU Extension Office in Oskaloosa. Ferguson-Spray is certified to facilitate two programs including a Family Storyteller class, which is a family literacy program designed to increase child literacy.

A program like this, which is aimed at parents of preschool children is important to not only the parents and the child, but local business owners, said Ferguson-Spray.

“Some day these preschoolers could be employees, so we need to invest in them now and see the value of that,” explained Ferguson-Spray.

Another program Ferguson-Spray is certified to facilitate is Strengthening Families, which is intended for parents and their children aged 10 to 14.

“It talks about the different challenges that teenagers go through — struggles such as drug abuse,” said Ferguson-Spray, explaining that the class teaches families how to  be better communicators.

Funding for other programming in addition to these two classes is in the works, Ferguson-Spray said.

To learn more about what ISU Extension does, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/mahaska/.

——————

Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com.