We do great things through the people and programs of Michigan State University Extension. Sometimes we assist large groups of people like the landowners who need help making a decision about leasing their property rights to companies who are drilling for natural gas or the people who are dealing with the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. And sometimes we create change one person or one family at a time. These small successes that we sometimes overlook can make a great difference in people’s lives and in the community.
Kilah King, MSU Extension Lake County family and consumer science educator, changed a life when she completed an extensive nutrition series with a woman who was severely overweight. When Kilah first began working with her, the woman had to be on oxygen 24 hours a day, never left home and consumed a large amount of candy and other high calorie foods. Through home visits, Kilah educated her on nutrition topics such as MyPyramid (the USDA’s food guidance system), proper serving sizes and the importance of getting enough physical activity. She gave her a food scale to accurately measure out portion sizes for meals and snacks. As sessions with Kilah progressed, and the two discussed healthier food alternatives, the woman replaced the candy with frozen strawberries and began to lose her taste for sweets. She stopped bad habits such as eating in bed. After a month, the woman reported that she was better able to determine the correct portion to eat for her age, gender and activity level. By the end of the sessions, she began venturing out of the house; she needed oxygen only at night; and she eventually lost 30 pounds. Overall, the woman truly benefited from MSU Extension’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed).
Jodi Schulz, MSU Extension Bay County 4-H Youth Development educator, recently was completing the fifth session in a series of six of the Why Try curriculum at the Bay County Juvenile Home. The facility provides care and supervision for juvenile offenders placed in the facility by Probate Court or the Department of Human Services. On one particular day, the lesson focused on “Lifting the Weight.” Jodi explained that when we are challenged and take harder, longer routes in life, we have the chance to become stronger. Our strength essentially leads us to opportunity, freedom and self-respect.
Jodi recognized one of the youth at the home as a past member of the Bay County 4-H program. The youth was very quiet, and neither the youth nor Jodi acknowledged knowing one another. The next time Jodi came back to complete the Why Try curriculum series, she had the opportunity to discuss the Bay County Fair since it had just taken place the week before. It was at this point that the youth opened up and acknowledged having been involved in 4-H and participated in the fair auction in the past. All the other residents were quite impressed with hearing from one of their peers about 4-H and what it does for young people.
Two days later, Jodi received a phone call from the youth’s mother. She told Jodi that her child had told her about the Why Try program and that talking about 4-H and remembering past experiences in the program have provided motivation to get out of the juvenile home and become involved in 4-H once again. The parent indicated that the Why Try program and its messages in conjunction with promoting 4-H made a huge change in her child in a very short amount of time. She said she is grateful for the efforts 4-H makes in helping kids, especially hers.
As with any organization, we often emphasize the need to report our impacts in ways that emphasize the number of people whose lives we help change. Yet those numbers often accumulate one at a time, and these two success stories remind us that there’s an individual behind every number. As former MSU football coach and MSU Trustee George Perles used to say with respect to football victories, “each one counts one.” Every one is equally important. Thanks to Kilah and Jodi for their attention to the needs of individuals as they carry out their programming efforts.