Two new University of Nevada, Reno Extension educators are working with their communities to build strong programs and provide needed resources in their areas, northern Nye County and Lander County.
Misha Allen, Extension educator for northern Nye County, is first focusing on getting out into the area, including Tonopah, and meeting people to better assess their needs. Nye County is very large and spread out, so Extension will have two Extension educators for the county, one in the north (Tonopah), and one in the south (Pahrump). Allen wants to ensure she learns as much as possible about the geography and culture of the area to better serve the people living there.
After speaking with local community members, Allen has put a priority on building and establishing more youth programming in the area. Her goal is to grow the 4-H Youth Development Program, particularly in Tonopah. Although there are some active clubs in areas such as Round Mountain, she believes that 4-H programs need to be more readily accessible to youth no matter their location.
“I operate on the belief that I cannot run the programs that the community needs in a vacuum,” Allen said. “I need to get out into the community and develop those partnerships and relationships to build programs that put a priority on their needs and wants.”
Allen previously worked in the mental health field, where she brought mental health services and crisis intervention programming into elementary and high schools. She also has experience in serving large rural areas in youth programming and was the director of multiple programs for early childhood education. Looking forward, Allen wants to focus on providing the community with natural resource support and economic and workforce development while strengthening the marketing of these programs so that community members know where to find them.
“This position takes everything that I’ve done personally and professionally and allows me to help others with that experience and knowledge,” Allen said, “This really is the perfect place for me.”
Like Allen, Lois Erquiaga, Extension educator for Lander County, is making her primary focus getting out into her community to assess its needs. One of her first goals was to conduct a preliminary needs assessment, as well as begin attending community meetings.
Historically, the 4-H Youth Development Program in Lander County has been a strong resource for youth, and there are a few established programs for kids to participate in now. After hearing from community members that they wanted to see even more programs available, Erquiaga has made building these programs a top priority so that they can better serve the interests of more youth in the area.
“I was excited to transition to this position so that I could develop services that we don’t have now and to create something new to address needs,” Erquiaga said. “I really appreciate having Extension resources available to rural communities, and I want to make sure others know about these resources as well.”
Erquiaga was previously a mental health counselor and worked in hospitals and senior care facilities as a social services worker. She said these experiences taught her how to build strong relationships and to locate resources in a small community. Erquiaga has lived in Nevada for over 40 years and has lived in Lander County for over 30 years, so she has a personal understanding of the needs and issues in her community. She’s also had the opportunity to develop a hospice program, a drop-in youth center and transportation for the senior care facilities.
“Extension is excited to welcome Misha and Lois,” Holly Gatzke, Extension northern area director, said. “Their restart of community programming in northern Nye and Lander County is already showing impacts in these rural areas.”