University Extension conducts 'Extension Connections' forum in Marshall

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Tim Wolfe, the 23rd president of University of Missouri System, spoke about education and the need to better fund Missouri's schools at the 'Extension Connections' forum presented by University Extension at the Martin Community Center on Friday, Feb. 14. (Kelly Melies/Democrat-News)

Local community members and leaders met to discuss plans and progress for Saline County through the programs and services offered through University Extension and the University of Missouri System on Friday, Feb. 14, at the Martin Community Center.

According to information released by Beverly Coberly, associate vice provost and associate director of University of Missouri Extension, University Extension has joined university resources and research with communities across the state for a hundred years -- since 1914.

Karma Metzgar, regional director of Northwest region, welcomed all attendees and introduced Coberly to the podium. She spoke about the Smith-Lever Act, the scope of extension and projects under way by the office.

She said celebrating the extension centennial was a cool thing.

"There is a hundred years of history based on the Smith-Lever Act, which is based on the Morrill Act and talks about the land grant usage of the university," Coberly said. "The University of Missouri had that as part of their mission -- the land grant mission -- and it started in 1914."

The Smith-Lever Act was enacted to help bring information about agriculture to many people and established the Cooperative Extension Service. This led to the Morrill Act, created by Sen. Justin Morrill. He had a belief to provide education for every one. In 1862, the act passed and granted federal lands to each state with the idea of funding at least one college for each state.

Coberly continued and talked about the scope of extension and what they do.

"We have 114 counties. In these 114 counties, we have extension councils that have legislative mandate to give us what we need to be doing in programming, what we should be doing in an operational way and what we do out in the counties," she said. "We have over 2,000 council members across the state."

There is opportunity for federal, state and local funding for a cooperative extension for five program areas, she said. Those areas are agriculture, 4-H, business development, community development and human and environmental sciences.

"It's important to understand that extension has a huge scope of work in the state of Missouri and our touch -- the university's touch across the state -- is large because of the footprint that extension has in the state of Missouri," Coberly said.

There are many programs and services offered by the extension, which helps many different people across the state. Some of these programs include community emergency management, health and nutritional programs, 4-H and Focus on Kids. Through education and learning, extension reaches out to community members in Saline County and across the state.

"We have great, strong, disciplined programs," Coberly said. "We believe education is a life-long learning process. Extension is about education. And we welcome any input from the community on how we can improve and move forward."

She said there are 268 kids involved in 4-H in Saline County and 120 trained volunteers.

"The projects really are the kids. And what's important to know is when we connect to higher education those that participate in 4-H are more likely to be successful in higher education and to go on to higher education," Coberly said. "And 70 percent are more likely to go to college. So 4-H is really a strong connection to higher education."

Tim Wolfe, the 23rd president of University of Missouri System, spoke about education and the need to better fund Missouri's schools. He said the General Assembly is trying to find the funding and make those top decisions to create funding. He said the extension is a big part of that.

"Some people may not realize where the funding comes from," Wolfe said. "For example, we connect your schools to the Internet; provide sport and video conferencing for Marshall Public Schools and Missouri Valley; hospitals and some of the institutions and libraries here in Marshall and Saline County."

He said they have also been working on increasing the awareness of higher education and the University of Missouri System throughout rural Missouri through the Show-Me Value Tour.

"It started about a year ago. There was a conversation that started questioning the value of education, questioning the value of higher education," he said. "We talked to principals and superintendents of schools and they said children in sixth to eighth grade is who you have to hit with this conversation. So we took that and have been out there selling their advice about the advantages of higher education. We've been to Moberly, St. Joseph, Lebanon, Farmington, Joplin -- we've done nine -- we've got five more coming up."

He brought home the fact Missouri needs to improve the quality of the schools.

"As you look at the funding -- be it preschool, K-12, higher education -- and compare it to other states, we're kind of in the 45th - 47th range," he said. "Now is the time to invest in our schools. We have to reach out and make sure we're connecting the dots so that the people we're serving in our communities recognize the value and where the money is coming from."

He said Missouri needs to better fund the schools so that Missouri is not racing towards the bottom.

"That's not what Missourians want, that's not what Missourians deserve," Wolfe said.

He encouraged all in attendance to have that conversation about what's important to you and make sure that people recognize in order to continue the great services for the communities, great leadership is needed, like the great representatives and senators which represent this geographical area and the rest of the state.

"We need to come together as a state and support our priorities and our constitution," he said. "Our constitution of Missouri priority number one is to fund your debt. Priority number two, fund public education. That's the second priority as defined by the constitution."

For more information about the programs, services, staff and faculty which make up the University of Missouri Extension, visit www.extension.missouri.edu.

Contact Kelly Melies at kmelies@marshallnews.com