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Extension outreach extends to Spanish
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Translating research findings into useful educational programs has been the Extension Service's priority throughout its 90 years, but today's challenge includes an additional step: reaching the state's growing population of Spanish speakers.
Katrina McCalphia, 4-H agent in Newton County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, is starting a Spanish 4-H club. She has recruited a Hispanic mother to be the volunteer leader for the club, and she is seeking Hispanic/Latino and American youth to join it.
"We will do all the normal club functions, but the main goal will be learning Spanish. We hope that eventually the meetings will be held only in Spanish," McCalphia said.
In Scott County where close to 6 percent of the population is Hispanic, Extension director Anita Webb has an entire club made up of Spanish-speaking youth ready for their first meeting in late October. A Hispanic advisory council in Scott and Leake counties identified needs of area Hispanic/Latino youth, and the club hopes to address some of these.
"We have bilingual volunteers in Scott County who like to work with young people," Webb said. "Our volunteers may speak with slightly broken English, but we will be able to get materials to them and let them work with the kids. We really hope to make a difference in the quality of life and education with the new 4-H club."
Some of the youth are already showing sheep. Webb said the new club will use the Junior Master Gardener curriculum as a primary focus, but also will include other 4-H programs.
Lelia Kelly, Extension coordinator of the Master Gardener and Junior Master Gardener programs, bought 100 copies of the Junior Master Gardener student handbook in Spanish. She offered them to county staff for use in their outreach programs. In a very short time, she gave away the majority of these and hopes to order more.
"The idea behind the book is to involve parents in the different educational activities with the child," Kelly said. "In addition to learning about gardening, these handbooks and the other books in the Junior Master Gardener curriculum can be used as educational outreach tools to help more people become aware of our Extension programs and educational opportunities."
Rev. Edward Zemlik is a priest with Christ the King Catholic Church in Southaven. Part of the church's pastoral care and ministry is to the area's growing Spanish-speaking population. About 350 to 500 Hispanics/Latinos attend mass each Sunday at the church.
"We're trying to provide as many outreach services as possible, although sacramental is our primary goal," Zemlik said.
On Monday nights, the church offers a variety of educational opportunities along with worship services. The church teaches English as a Second Language classes and wants to begin offering classes on topics such as nutrition, family life, child development, money management, immigration and more. Zemlik contacted Sandy Slocum, DeSoto County Extension director, for help in providing speakers to address some of these topics.
"We're here to work with local groups to provide programming through Extension," Slocum said. "The Hispanic/Latino population is exploding in this area, and we want to make the educational resources of Extension available to them as well."
In response to the state's growing Spanish-speaking population, the Extension Service hired a cross-cultural communicator in 2003 to translate Extension publications, news articles and other materials into Spanish. These are available at http://www.msucares.com/espanol/. In addition, the monthly Scott and Leake county newsletters are translated into Spanish, and appropriate versions are distributed to residents.