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October 04, 2005

Take bold steps to address Latino immigrant needs, expert advises

North Carolina Cooperative Extension “must be bold” in meeting the needs of its ever-growing Latino constituency, the state’s former Hispanic/Latino Affairs director told a group of Extension personnel at a recent three-day training session at the Brownstone Hotel in Raleigh.

Dr. Nolo Martinez addresses training session
Dr. Nolo Martinez addresses training session. Art Latham photo

“Extension is practiced in this kind of work, and is the best showcase for democracy we have,” Dr. Nolo Martinez said to 49 agents and specialists from around the state at the Creating an Understanding of the Latino Community Conference. “Extension is the gatekeeper, but some agents are like the Border Patrol, protecting the extreme positions. We need to act as bridges, not protectors.”

The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service’s internal reporting system indicates 23 of our state’s 100 counties engaged in some sort of Latino/Hispanic programming in 2004.

These numbers do not necessarily reflect all ongoing programs, however.

For instance, Extension and the Migrant Education Program partner with Ashe County schools to identify and serve migrant families. And in 2003-2004, there were 46 MEP sites in more than 40 counties statewide.

“Extension could start as it has in other states,” Martinez said, “first with bicultural, Spanish-speaking volunteers, then by hiring Spanish-speaking paraprofessionals.” Martinez, a former Extension specialist, is now assistant director of outreach and research at the Center for New North Carolinians at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and teaches classes at UNC-G and North Carolina State University.

Another speaker, discussing the wave of Latino immigration into our state, specifically from Mexico, said Extension needs to make up for lost time.

While NAFTA was implemented 11 years ago, U.S. Census data indicates that the Mexican immigration wave started more than 30 years ago, said Dr. Jim Johnston, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Business School.

Rogelio Valencia, Hispanic ombudsman for the state Health and Human Services Department, pointed to an on-the-ground challenge of the sort Extension might be able to address.

Axel Lluch, left, and Rogelio Valencia, both standing
Axel Lluch, left, and Rogelio Valencia, both standing. Art Latham photo

“In Mexico, the custom is to leave the kids at home while the parents work,” he said. “Here, Social Services will come and take them.”

Said Dr. Wanda Sykes, Extension Southeast District Director and one of the training’s organizers: “Cultural differences, perceived or not, and the apparent lack of understanding of the Hispanic/Latino culture and identification of specific needs has created a challenge for Extension faculty.

“Cooperative Extension employees have a tremendous opportunity to program for this new and expanding audience,” she said.

Also speaking, in chronological order:

  • Dr. Jon Ort, assistant vice chancellor and associate dean and director, N.C. Cooperative Extension

  • Millie Ravenel and Melissa Edwards, Center for International Understanding.

  • Sharon Rowland, Cooperative Extension Service executive director of development

  • Axel Lluch, Governor’s Office for Hispanic/Latino Affairs director

  • Ed Emory, Duplin County Extension director

  • Nancy W. de Burrola, Department of International Studies, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico

  • Clinton McRae, Hoke County Extension director

  • Dee Furlough, family and consumer sciences agent, Tyrell County

  • Damian Kelleher, 4-H program associate, Migrant Education Program, Ashe County

  • Emilio Paredo, assistant professor, sociology, Duke University

  • Yasmin Wurts Metvier, president, Panoltia

  • Craven Hudson, Moore County Extension director

  • Dr. Joe Zublena, Extension associate director and director of county operations

The conference was sponsored by the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and the Center for International Understanding.

-- Art Latham

Posted by Art at October 4, 2005 10:58 AM