Local extension agent honored for 35 years of service

FORT COLLINS – Colorado State University recently honored San Luis Valley Area Extension Agent Mary Ellen Fleming for 35 years of service to Extension. Fleming was presented with her years of service award at the organization’s Annual Forum event on October 24. Extension is the front door of the university, providing trusted, practical education on a variety of subjects to people all around the state.

Fleming serves as the Family and Consumer Science Agent for the San Luis Valley Area Extension Office. She’s been in that role since 1999. Prior to serving in the Valley, she worked as an agent in Craig, Colorado, and Belen and Raton, New Mexico.

“Mary Ellen has been a great asset to the Valley for many years,” said Marvin Reynolds, extension agent and area director with Colorado State University Extension. “It’s great to see her get recognition for her outstanding work. She has consistently worked to be in touch with community needs and offer programming to help address those needs. That’s meant developing partnerships and reaching out to a lot of underserved audiences.”

Over the years, Fleming has offered educational programs on a wide variety of topics including nutrition, food safety, weight loss, parenting, cottage foods, and diabetes management. She’s also served on a number of local boards. She currently serves on the Rio Grande Prevention Partners and Alamosa Housing Authority.

In the San Luis Valley, Fleming has initiated a number of long-running programs, including Strong Bones, a series of weight training classes for seniors that helps improve bone density, muscle mass, balance and flexibility. She has also provided classes on food safety to employees at local restaurants, senior meal sites, and local Head Start locations.

In addition, she has a partnership with the SLV Diabetes Association to provide diabetes education to help people learn to manage their diabetes through their diets. She also teaches food safety and nutrition to youth at Ortega Middle School each year. Additionally, she produces a monthly Senior Nutrition newsletter which is distributed to 500 local seniors.

Fleming’s programming has had real impacts on class participants. For example, for the past two years, Fleming has offered Weight Loss that Works classes at various sites around the Valley. Class participants have lost hundreds of pounds and many have gained control of their blood sugar levels as a result of their participation.

Over the years, Fleming has secured thousands of dollars of grant funding to help with various projects, including helping low-income diabetics get access to insulin. She also helped launch the SLV Mobile Kitchen, which provides weekly nutrition demonstrations at Valley farmer’s markets. In addition, she secured a nutrition grant that ran for six years at the Boys and Girls Club in Alamosa. The grant provided nutrition education and healthy snacks to club members.

In addition to her role as the Family Consumer Science agent, Fleming has been very involved with the 4-H program. She’s served as both a club and project leader, and has run the 4-H Fashion Revue for many years. She’s also coached multiple state champion 4-H home economics teams who have gone on to national competitions.

“Mary Ellen has been such a great resource for our program,” said local 4-H Agent Amy Henschen. “In some lean years when we were understaffed, she kept the 4-H program running. She’s also provided wonderful hands-on learning to youth in a variety of project areas, like sewing. Anytime 4-H needs help, Mary Ellen is always ready to step in and assist. She’s taught classes, coached teams, helped manage indoor projects at the fair, and done countless other things that go above and beyond for our program. We are so lucky to have her as part of our 4-H team!”

In recent years, Fleming has also be recognized with regional Extension Extending Excellence awards for Diversity Promotion and Community Collaboration. The Diversity Promotion award recognized Fleming’s outreach, frequently in Spanish, to underserved local Hispanic audiences. The Community Collaboration award recognized all of her work with local partners to help address community health needs.

“It was nice to receive recognition for my years of service to Extension,” said Fleming, of Alamosa. “This job has been very rewarding. I truly love working with the local people and being able to positively impact their lives. I’m happy to have spent the last 18 years her in the San Luis Valley. It has been a great place to raise our family, surrounded by the wonderful people and rich local culture. I look forward to many more years here.”

For more information on Fleming’s ongoing Extension programs, visit the San Luis Valley Extension website at http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu, or call 719-852-7381. Extension is a cooperative effort between Colorado State University Extension and Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

Captions: Mary Ellen Fleming, during her time in Craig, teaches a class on making low cost holiday gifts. Courtesy photos


SLV Extension Agent Mary Ellen Fleming shows off her 35 Years of Service Award at the Annual Extension Forum.