Describing her position as an “unbelieveable opportunity,” Alexis Roberts is embracing her new role as Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office’s family and consumer sciences agent.
“As I drove over the hills into Cartersville on Oct. 1, I was so nervous and excited to begin my professional career with Bartow Cooperative Extension,” she said. “After taking a few breaths, I walked into the Bartow Extension office and was greeted with overwhelming support and kindness. Thinking of my time at Georgia Southern and the process of discovering my passion to work in the community to now having the unbelievable opportunity to pursue ... one of my life’s goals is very exciting. I am enthusiastically looking forward to serving the [warm] and welcoming community of Bartow and helping identify and meet the needs of the county.
“As a family consumer science agent, I am here to assist the county with a wide body of research-based knowledge about topics that affect life — food, families, housing and finance. I will also be partnering with employers to enhance economic development by educating our present and future workforce. My long-term goal in Bartow is similar to the goal of UGA Extension, which is to provide knowledge to all people in Georgia to improve the quality of life. My short-term goal is to continue to learn more about the community to develop programs that meet the needs and desires of the citizens and the implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program (SNAP-Ed).”
In referring to Roberts, Bartow Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese highlighted her “servant-leader attitude.”
“Based on her undergraduate education at Georgia Southern University and training as a dietetic intern, Alexis Roberts is an extraordinarily well-rounded candidate to fill the Bartow County FACS agent position,” Pugliese said. “Alexis is energetic, enthusiastic and has a strong desire to serve the community through health and nutrition education.
“She is also highly motivated to continue her education through UGA Extension and work toward her master’s degree, which is a requirement for this position. I can tell that Alexis has a servant-leader attitude and has a strong passion to learn and share her knowledge with others, which is the foundation of being a good county Extension agent.”
As Pugliese noted, Roberts graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2014, earning a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science.
“Having the opportunity to bring family and consumer sciences services to the community has been a passion and professional goal,” Roberts said. “The desire to work with others and the importance of giving back [has] ultimately led me to seek a career with Cooperative Extension. ... The relationship between society and food [has] always attracted and intrigued me. So many important moments take place around food, from most of our celebrations, entertainment and sometimes even emotional healing. My interest transformed professionally following the viewing of the documentary ‘Forks Over Knifes.’
“It pained me to learn of the relationship between food intake and the alarming rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases related to culture and socioeconomic status. The desire to learn more led to my immersion into the world of nutrition, where I realized in society we often we have the preconceived notion that a healthy person is a size 2 ,who runs on the beach eating only organic fruits and vegetables or the misconception that healthy foods are expensive, unappetizing and bland. I [pursued] my personal goal to change the health of communities through nutrition education by receiving my Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Science with an emphasis in Dietetics.”
She continued, “... I began to seek a career with Cooperative Extension after interning with the family and consumer sciences agent in Appling County Extension located in Baxley, Ga. In Baxley, I witnessed the power of Cooperative Extension. I was instantly attracted to the openness of Extension and the willingness and genuine desire of Extension agents to be a resource and have an impact in their communities. I experienced overwhelming love and a genuine fulfilling sentiment working with the Baxley citizens through programing with the senior center on bone health and implementing and coordinating their annual Chop Competition with 4-H members; it was at this time that is was affirmed in my heart that Cooperative Extension was where I wanted to fulfill my goals and desire to serve and improve the health of the community. With my background in nutrition, the family and consumer science position appealed to ... my desire to become educated and well-versed in other areas as well.”
Prior to the addition of Roberts, the full-time position of Bartow County Cooperative Extension’s family and consumer sciences agent went unfilled since Kathy Floyd — who later returned on a part-time basis — retired in 2011.
“The UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences was awarded a grant this year for $3 million through USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to offer the SNAP-Ed ... program in Georgia,” Pugliese said. “The goal of SNAP-Ed is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, will make healthy food and lifestyle choices that prevent obesity. Commissioner Steve Taylor was able to restore our county dollars to fill the FACS agent position in 2015 with the anticipation that we could match county dollars with SNAP-Ed dollars for a full-time agent. A 50-percent match with county dollars was a stipulation required by the grant to fill the agent position.
“In fact, Bartow County is one of the first counties in the state to adopt this funding model to fill an FACS agent position, which makes us a pilot program for Georgia. Based on local need and support, we were able to match $3 ... for every $1 the county invested in this position, allowing us to hire two additional SNAP-Ed program assistants under the supervision of our FACS agent. The two program assistant positions will be announced in November and should be filled by January if we are able to interview and find qualified candidates. This will be a new FACS program offering for the Bartow County Extension office that will target a huge need in our community. Our goal is to work closely with the new Allatoona Resource Center in Acworth and the North Bartow Community Services in Adairsville to provide SNAP-Ed programming in those communities with the greatest need.”
With the Bartow County Cooperative Extension considered completely staffed with the hiring of Roberts, Pugliese is grateful for the support his office has received from the community and elected officials.
“I want to thank our local, state and congressional elected officials for continuing to support our Cooperative Extension programs and services in Bartow County,” he said.
“We are one of the first counties in northwest Georgia to return to a fully-staffed office since the recession. We would not have been able to do this without their support and recognition of the public value and impact that UGA Extension has on our communities. I would also ask that our stakeholders remember to thank their elected officials and ask that they continue to support our Extension programs throughout the state of Georgia.”
For more information about the Bartow County Cooperative Extension Office, visit http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/bartow or call 770-387-5142.