Tag Archives: jim lucas

Coming together to save lives: Strategic connections in District 2

Ronald Kinnunen is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Michigan Sea Grant educator in the Upper Peninsula. He provides technical and educational programs in his district and statewide in the areas of Great Lakes commercial fisheries and aquaculture. Michigan Sea Grant, an MSU Extension collaboration with the University of Michigan (UM), is connected to more than 40 coastal counties in the state.

Headshot of Ron Kinnunen.

Ron Kinnunen, photo courtesy of Ron.

Some of the programs Ron delivers are Seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Aquatic Invasive Species HACCP/Aquaculture Biosecurity. Another important program has been educating the public about dangerous currents in the Great Lakes including rip, channel, longshore, structural and outlet currents. Since 1999, Ron has built and maintained partnerships and strategic connections around educating the public about these currents in order to save lives.

Twelve-year-old Travis Brown’s death in the summer of 1998 followed a similar pattern of drownings at the Hiawatha National Forest Service Campground, and U.S. Forest Service personnel began to question the safety of their waters for swimmers. Ron and Mary Kostecki, who was the Mackinac County Extension director at the time, were the first to meet with the U.S. Forest Service on the drowning issues. As a result, Ron and Mary led the formation of the Mackinac County Water Safety Review Team (MCWSRT). They facilitated bringing many groups to the table to join the team. Team members included Travis Brown’s family, the Mackinac County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police, the Mackinac County Office of Emergency Services, MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant, the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, Allied EMS, Mackinac County 911, the St. Ignace News, the National Weather Service, Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft District Health Departments, the Hiawatha National Forest, First National Bank of St. Ignace, Cellular One, the Dunes Shore Resort, Moran Township, state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, the U.S. Coast Guard and the University of Michigan Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory.

The review team’s first task was to address drownings along the U.S. 2 shoreline and work to prevent future drownings. The group coordinated with emergency management personnel from several agencies, provided public service announcements in local media during the summer months, developed educational brochures and a traveling display, and placed signs warning swimmers of possible dangerous currents in the area of concern. Through these measures, the team was able to increase public awareness about dangerous currents along the northern Lake Michigan shoreline so swimmers and parents of young swimmers could take appropriate precautionary measures.

Additionally, the review team coordinated several public awareness days. At these events, information was presented on how dangerous currents develop and what swimmers can do to escape them. The team also provided tours of the safety stations that were placed every mile along the areas of concern. The stations include life rings, life jackets and a surf rescue board to facilitate the rescue of swimmers in trouble. The Michigan State Police and Mackinac County Sheriff’s Department now carry safety equipment in their patrol cars so they are ready to assist in dangerous current-related accidents.

Bringing everyone together was not always easy. In the beginning, Ron brought research results from Guy Meadows of the UM lab, confirming dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. He presented it to the National Weather Service office in Marquette. Many there were skeptical that dangerous currents existed in the Great Lakes. Over time, the National Weather Service participated in the team’s workshops and education and is now one of their strongest allies. The National Weather Service forecasts for these dangerous currents all over the Great Lakes. Ron’s efforts to reach out and bring in this partner resulted in families having access to National Weather Service forecasts that continue to save lives.

Ron and the review team’s efforts and accomplishments have become a model of efficiency and collaboration for other regional efforts throughout the Great Lakes

“I quickly learned that these efforts would be valuable in other Great Lakes coastal communities that experience dangerous currents,” he said.

He reached out to other Great Lakes Sea Grant programs and coordinated the first Great Lakes Rip Current conference that took place in St. Ignace.

“Additional partnerships were developed in the region working with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network where National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Storms funds were received to purchase water safety and rescue equipment that has been deployed throughout the Great Lakes region where dangerous currents exist,” Ron said.

The MCWSRT was able to accomplish amazing tasks in a relatively short time and their efforts have been effective in saving lives. People are becoming aware of the potential dangers of Great Lakes dangerous currents and that there is safety equipment available in many areas in case of an emergency.

Jim Lucas, District 2 coordinator, witnessed the impact of Ron’s strategic connections.

“All the research and awareness of rip currents did not exist until Ron listened and networked the research, trained the EMT folks, networked with the Weather Channel and NOAA Weather … Ron makes connections that work,” Jim said. “By Ron listening, providing feedback, re-evaluating and networking with partner agencies, countless people have been saved because of this connection.”

Michigan Sea Grant also has been proud of the work Ron has accomplished.

“Ron has been a tremendous collaborator and community partner in the U.P. and throughout Michigan. He has covered a lot of territory for Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension for many years and we’ve long wanted to get him some additional help.” said Heather Triezenberg, Extension specialist and Michigan Sea Grant program coordinator. “We have just started a new partnership to house our new Sea Grant Extension educator Elliot Nelson on the campus of Lake Superior State University. Ron will play an important part in helping Elliot establish strategic connections in District 2 as Elliot develops his Extension programming to address needs in the region. However, Ron will continue to provide his training and educational expertise throughout the entire region.”

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Kudos and suggestions from the civil rights auditors

As you know, Michigan State University Extension recently took part in a U. S. Department of Agriculture civil rights audit. They occur once every four or five years. I’ve been involved in four of these – twice as a regional director and now twice as director of Extension – the last time was in 2004.

I’m very proud of the work we are doing to demographically reach target audiences. We are reaching the audiences in close demographic comparison in categories of race and gender. You may be surprised by some of the data. For example, of youth participants in the Children and Youth Institute, only 9 percent live on farms. This differs from the popular perception that 4-H only serves farm youth. The data shows that we meet people where the need is great with health and nutrition information as well as financial and money management.

The auditors were thrilled with the way we presented the data. I’d like to thank the many staff involved in helping to gather the data and put it into an understandable format. They include Nancy Axtell, Jessica Nakfour, Jean Schueller, Bruce Haas, Cheryl Peters, Olga Santiago, Kathy Raphael, Mary Wilson, Gloria Ellerhorst, Emily Proctor, Christi Sovis, Doug Brinklow, Michelle Lavra, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Julie Chapin, Dave Ivan, Dawn Contreras, Paul Putnam, Jim Lucas, Pat Cudney, Kelley Hiemstra, Michael Krauch, Shari Spoelman, Don Lehman, Betty Blase, Deanna East, Joe Bixler, Marie Ruemenapp, Matt Shane and Ginger Hentz. Without your hard work for months in advance of this review, we could not have done it.

The auditors took all of that data and examined it. They also went out into the field to get more information from you. They were pleased with everyone’s availability to meet with the reviewers and with the helpfulness of the staff in giving them access to our information – as I am!

They combined the data and the information to give us feedback on a few things we can work on.

In working with people, we need to diversify our overall employment makeup throughout the organization as well as work to integrate and diversify membership within 4-H clubs and broaden the programming we’re doing with female farm operators. We need to expand our nutrition programming to include demonstrated outreach with other agencies.

Consistency is something that came up in several areas. We need to be consistent in demonstrating the work we do in each county through data, and train staff in the method for collecting that data. We need to update our race/ethnicity/gender data collection forms to include the recommended way to collect race and ethnicity data. We need to use the statement concerning accommodations consistently and ensure consistency with regard to civil rights training.

We need to ensure that brochures and other promotional pieces have pictorial displays of diverse populations. I know this is something that we’ve strived to do and we will continue to focus on it.

In addition, we need to revise our Civil Rights Plan and education to include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended.

The auditors had many good things to say about our accomplishments. They praised our work with Tribal Communities as well as the work we’re doing with prisons. They believe that our work translating program documents and brochures and making them available in Spanish, Arabic and Braille is outstanding. They haven’t seen as much of that in other states. They believe we have great outreach through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-ED) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). They believe we have strong nutrition programming at the grass roots level.

Please be sure to review the August 4 MSU Extension webinar to view the charts and graphs that we put together for the audit. Viewing them will help you get a better picture of where we stand in our efforts. We’ve worked hard to pull together a lot of information for the audit. This information is not just something that was used for the audits; we can also use this information in many other ways. View the webinar here: https://connect.msu.edu/p4bz0fut3rj/

Also, please keep checking back to the MSU Extension Civil Rights site for additional materials that will be added: http://od.msue.msu.edu/civil_rights_diversity_multiculturalism.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work in making the USDA audit a powerful learning experience for all of us!

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Extension staff member receives February CANR Staffer award

Congratulations to Mary Ellen Pond, Michigan State University Extension Alger County secretary. Mary Ellen is the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Staff Advisory Committee February 2013 Staffer of the Month.

The award goes to a member of the CANR support staff who has done something special or noteworthy within their unit or college.

Vicki Ballas, Liana Graves, Jim Isleib, Jim Lucas and Joan Vinette all contributed to Mary Ellen’s nomination and all believe that without her, Alger County MSU Extension would not be as successful as it is.

Thank you, Mary Ellen, for your steady dependability and support, and thank you to the five who nominated her.

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Alger County millage renewal is vote of confidence for MSUE

It was up to voters in Alger County to decide whether or not to renew a millage that would determine the funding for Michigan State University Extension in that county. And on May 3, the voters let their voices be heard with a resounding “yes” for MSUE.

 A countywide renewal proposal of .25 mills for five years to fund MSU Extension services in Alger County passed easily, with a vote of 829-302. The levy will provide an estimated $84,928 during the first year.

 Jim Isleib, Extension educator and former county Extension director in Alger County, recruited Grant Petersen to chair the Friends of Alger County MSU Extension committee that successfully campaigned for the millage renewal and felt it was “maybe the best thing I did on this election cycle.”

 Said Jim Isleib, “He has done an outstanding job and is a fabulous MSU and MSUE supporter.”

 District 2 coordinator Jim Lucas agrees, “Grant led a quiet and very positive campaign that brought out the supporters for what MSUE is noted for – quality programming for its citizens.”

 And according to Jim Lucas, MSUE staff members who provide excellent programs and develop quality relationships within each community help bring out those “yes” voters. The people we have helped improve their lives through our quality educational process returned the favor with allowing us five more years of support.

 This is the third time the millage has been approved in Alger County. It is one of only two counties that fund Extension through a dedicated property tax millage, and it was initiated a few years back when the county was facing a budget challenge. Although it’s heartening to know the voters continue to support our programs with their votes and their dedicated taxes, we’re not suggesting that this is a solution that every county would want to pursue. It really is up to the counties to determine how best to support Extension in their county. In Alger and Luce counties, the millage option is one the voters seem to prefer.

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Schoolcraft County Extension millage fails

The millage proposed to fund Michigan State University Extension in Schoolcraft County was defeated on Feb. 22. The Extension millage was one of three proposals on a general ballot, all of which failed. I want to thank and recognize Dave Anderson and the Schoolcraft staff who have spent months educating Schoolcraft County voters regarding the millage proposal. The final vote was 41 percent voting “yes” and 59 percent voting “no.” The other two millage issues on the ballot failed by wider margins, with 33 percent voting “yes” and 67 percent voting “no.” It’s disappointing to have the measure fail, yet the higher percent voting “yes” on the Extension millage shows that our programs and our staff efforts to educate voters made a difference.

 The millage election resulted from a decision the County Board of Commissioners made in 2010 to fund MSUE through March 31 from their general fund and then to seek approval of a dedicated millage to provide ongoing funding for the current and future fiscal years. As a result of the millage failure, current funding for MSU Extension ends on March 31, 2011.

 The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet tonight (Feb. 24) for their regularly scheduled meeting. Implications of the millage result will be on the meeting agenda. MSUE staff will continue to be engaged in this discussion with the commissioners.

 As you can imagine, this is a difficult time for our staff members in that office. Yesterday afternoon (Feb. 23), Jim Lucas, Steve Lovejoy and Michelle Rodgers spoke with staff members in Schoolcraft County about staffing, programming commitments and operational issues. Staff members will be meeting with their institute directors to discuss programmatic implications in the county, in their individual plans of work and for the work teams. Decisions about office locations and employment will be made in the coming days, pending decisions the board makes tonight.

 We will continue to keep you informed.

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