Internship provides hands-on Cooperative Extension work experience

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Preparing young people for careers in agriculture is the goal of the new LSU AgCenter internship program.

Tara Smith, executive associate vice president and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, said the idea is to allow college students to experience what the job of an extension employee entails.

“The program is still in its infancy, but positive results are already being seen,” she said. “The overarching goal of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Internship program is to share career opportunities that are available in Cooperative Extension with college students across the state.”

Smith said the extension leadership team identified the importance of engaging with current students, who are the pipeline for the future of cooperative extension careers across programming areas, including 4-H, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Family and Consumer Sciences.

“We are excited about our first cohort of interns,” she said. “And we are eager to grow the program in future years.”

The six students participating in this year’s program are Carly Greig, Plano, TX; Avery Barber, Converse; Emmerson Lyons, Church Point; Bridgette Barbre, Alexandria; Kyleigh Bass, Choudrant; and Alec Plaisance, Thibodaux.

Carly Greig is this year’s East Baton Rouge Parish extension intern, focusing on family and consumer sciences.

AgCenter interim parish chair Dewanna Drewery said Greig is a junior, majoring in nutrition and pre-med at LSU in Baton Rouge.

“Carly has been working diligently with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP),” Drewery said. “She has been working alongside the EFNEP personnel, assisting them in youth summer camps and back-to-school wellness events.”

Greig has also worked with the Flavors of Health program by attending local farmers markets and assisting the nutrition agents with food demonstrations.

Greig is responsible for attending East Baton Rouge extension’s monthly meeting and EFNEP’s monthly training.

“Our office has several programs that allow her to shadow nutrition agents, horticulture agents, the tobacco cessation agent and the 4-H agents,” she said. “She also attended the Louisiana Extension Association Family and Consumer Sciences convention in Lafayette.

In Rapides Parish, Bridgette Barbre, a graduate student studying nutrition and dietetics at Louisiana Tech University, is getting a well-rounded education, with lots of hands-on activity.

“Here at the LSU AgCenter, I have hopes of learning more about the different components of community nutrition,” she said. I’m hoping to learn the techniques and methods the AgCenter uses to engage their local community.”

Barbre said, as an intern, she has learned the importance of understanding your audience to better engage in how they will receive information.

Barbre is currently assisting with nutrition education, lunch and learns, nutrition education for teenagers, snap education exposure at the zoo, the creation of PowerPoints and writing literature on nutrition.

“We have touched on and discussed many different topics on education, and its importance for the public,” she said. “This is only the beginning and I’m excited to continue to learn and grow from this experience with the LSU AgCenter.”

Michael Polozola, LSU AgCenter fruit and vegetable specialist in the Rapides Parish office, is working with Kyleigh Bass, a senior from Choudrant.

He said one of the major projects that Bass has been working on is a blackberry demonstration at the Dean Lee Research Station.

Lisa Benoit, AgCenter 4-H agent in St. Landry Parish said Emmerson Lyons, her intern has been busy with the Tri-Parish 4-H Horse Show (St. Landry, Evangeline, Lafayette), 4-H University contestant trainings in livestock judging and healthy living demonstrations.

“She is also involved in planning the agenda and will be a chaperone for the 4-H Junior Leader educational trip in July,” Benoit said. “That’s in addition to the Acadiana District Horse Show, 4-H Summer Camp and the parish Kids Chef Camp.”

Further down the bayou, Alec Plaisance from Thibodaux is working with Haley Gambill, Fisheries and Coastal Issues Area Agent for the LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes.

“As a current graduate student, Alec has been learning the differences between research and extension and how, while the two complement each other, extension often requires a completely removed perspective and a lot of face-to-face connection with local stakeholders,” Gambill said.

During his first month, Alec led an outreach activity in a program in partnership with Bayou STEM, where he taught over 700 middle school kids about macroinvertebrates found in south Louisiana wetlands and conveyed the importance of Louisiana’s wetlands and the services they provide to residents.

“Alec has compiled and organized information about common aquatic plant species, both native and invasive, that landowners often find to be nuisance species in canals, bayous and residential canals to be transformed into a printable and shareable fact sheet,” she said.

Smith said the extension internship program is in its first year but is already proving to be a valuable program to give students hands on experience.