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OSU Cooperative Extension Service trains volunteers to help educate the community

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In her years with the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Cooperative Extension Service, LaDonna Hines’ staff has been whittled down even as the number of people they serve has grown.

The Masters Wellness Volunteer Training program was created to remedy that.

“I have a staff member who’s a registered dietician,” said Hines, county extension director. “She goes out into the community, teaching nutrition programs, health and wellness programs — she teaches yoga. We are training these volunteers to be able to go out and do these programs, just kind of be able to reach more of the public.”

Eight educators work with Hines and are responsible for all of Oklahoma County. They teach classes and prepare volunteers to visit their communities and educate the public.

Eight volunteers took the course in its first year. Hines hopes even more enroll this time. The numbers educators face can appear daunting, which is why volunteers are so important.

“In Oklahoma County, there are around 750,000 people, and I have one family consumer science educator that teaches nutrition and health and wellness,” Hines said. “That one person no way can even make an impact working 40-50 hours a week. So training other people will make a bigger impact in the community.”

Hines said the extension center’s Master Wellness Volunteer Training program provides a great chance for people to give back to their community while helping themselves in the process.

“The volunteers have told us ... they learn so much for just themselves and their family,” Hines said.

The program was created last year as OSU Cooperative Extension Service officials looked for ways to better reach and serve Oklahoma County residents. Hines saw the volunteer program work at places like Texas A&M University and adopted it at OSU.

“Anyone interested in health and wellness and wants to do some volunteering within their community, we’re offering this program to train them,” Hines said.

The program teaches participants strategies to improve health and wellness and focuses on nutrition, dietary guidelines, food safety, healthy lifestyle choices and physical activity.

The certification course includes 40 hours of classroom education by Family & Consumer Sciences educators. The volunteers also agree to perform at least 40 hours of teaching within that year, Hines said.

“We encourage people to reach out to their specific neighborhood, their community, to see what health and wellness might be needed in their community,” Hines said. “If they want to start a walking club, that’s great. Whatever they want. That’s why we encourage them, because we can’t reach everybody and we don’t know all their needs.”

Visit oces.okstate.edu/oklahoma/masterwellness.

Print headline: Mobile wellness, OSU Cooperative Extension Service helps volunteers educate their communities

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