March 2, 2005 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

The 2000 census recorded nearly 60,000 people of Hispanic or Latino origin in Kentucky. With the growth of the Latino and Hispanic population, Kentucky Cooperative Extension professionals are taking a proactive stride in meeting the needs of increasingly diverse communities. 

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture formed a quick response team to provide resources and information relevant to Latino and Hispanic audiences. Team members have experience dealing with needs of this specific population.

Team member Bety Davidson is the first bilingual Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistant. Through her EFNEP duties, Davidson works directly with the Latino and Hispanic clientele of Clark County. She teaches families lessons about improving health and wellness, improving diet quality and reducing hunger. Families learn important nutrition and budgeting skills.

“I try to help them blend into American culture,” she said. “The EFNEP curriculum is a series of about 13 lessons. We have a graduation event when they complete the classes. It’s good to have something for them so they can know that they accomplished something.”

Team members and Boyd County Extension agents Suellen Zornes and Nikki Baker are working with the Boyd County Hispanic Coalition, which began in 1999 with members from service agencies, businesses, hospitals, school systems and local residents. Last year, they organized the county’s first Diversity Council and published a resource book for Hispanics.

“Since we’ve been able to reach them, they’ve been involved on our Diversity Council, they’re coming into the Extension office and we see families involved in health, housing and nutrition issues in the county,” Zornes said. “They don’t know much about your community and we wanted them to feel a part of our community and we wanted to become a part of their community and express all the differences we have. Part of Extension’s values is that we reach everyone.”

Team member and UK Agricultural Communications Specialist Robert DeMattina has been helping reach Latino and Hispanic audiences in Kentucky for three years. He works with Spanish radio stations to broadcast public service announcements in Spanish. 

“We found there was a need to provide Cooperative Extension information to the Spanish audience,” he said. “Part of our participation is to develop PSAs in Spanish that can be broadcast on a regular basis on stations like Radio Vida.”

Quick response team members like Davidson, Zornes and DeMattina are available to help others find innovative ways to reach Kentucky’s growing Latino and Hispanic populations. Each can offer valuable life experiences and help others understand the importance of meeting the needs of diverse audiences.

Laura Stephenson is the District Two director for the UK Cooperative Extension Service. Prior to taking her current position, Stephenson worked closely with Davidson in Clark County as an Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She said Davidson has set an example of being a bridge between Hispanic and American culture.

“It has really helped our community recognize we are very diverse,” she said. “Bety helped make our office more sensitive to the Hispanic community. She’s helped educate both communities.”

These projects are just a short list of the current initiatives geared toward meeting the needs of Latinos and Hispanic audiences. Other projects include Spanish language pesticide safety education, parenting curriculum, and People Learning Other People’s Ways (PLOW) in Hardin County. PLOW focuses on conversational Spanish for tobacco farmers and workers. For more information about local Latino and Hispanic resources, contact your county Extension office.


Editor: Aimee Heald-Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Bety Davidson 859-744-4682