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Meet Jordy Woods and Nancy Zukowski: CCE nutrition program educators

On a recent afternoon, Jordy Woods and Nancy Zukowski, Cornell Cooperative Extensions nutrition program educators, sat around the table in the CCE conference room and laughed about how much alike they are and how well they get along. It is a good thing. The two spend a great deal of time together sharing a small office full of their nutrition education materials. Both women have a passion for good nutrition, and both love animals and children. One of the similarities they find the most amusing is they own almost identical wardrobes. Jordy was the first to become a nutrition educator. She grew up in Riverview in Saranac and graduated from Saranac Central School in 2000. Following her graduation from St. Lawrence University with a bachelors degree in English literature, she worked as a basic literacy coordinator for Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County. As a young professional living on her own, she began cooking for herself for the first time. She quickly developed a keen interest in nutrition. Both my mom and grandmother were very nutrition conscious, Jordy said, and that had an influence on me. Jordy noticed some of the students and tutors at the Literacy Clinic had poor health due to poor nutrition and health choices. Their condition had a negative effect on their ability to teach or learn. One middle-aged student was in such poor condition it took him 20 minutes to catch his breath after walking from the parking lot and down half a flight of stairs. Jordy began to feel health education should be a priority for him. One day, a nutrition educator from CCE came into the clinic and held a teaching session with the literacy students. Jordy realized the nutrition education position was the job she really wanted. In the late winter of 2006, a position opened up and Jordy applied. She began her dream job in March that same year. One year after Jordy began her job as nutrition educator, another position opened up, and Nancy was hired. Nancy graduated from MAI which is now Seton Catholic in 1989. She continued her education at Clinton Community College where she earned her associates degree in humanities and social services. Most of Nancys post college years have been devoted to motherhood. She is the mother of two daughters Katie, 10, and Stephanie, 8. Becoming a mother changed the way she thought about nutrition and health. I wanted to make sure that my children were eating the right foods, and it was very challenging at times to get them to eat healthier foods, Nancy commented. Nancy was a full-time mother until she became a single parent and needed to find a job. The position as nutrition educator interested her right away. On the cover letter of her job application she typed, Nothing scares me, I have kids. Jordy recalled Nancys cover letter immediately made her one of the final candidates for the position. Because nutrition educators work primarily with families, Nancys experience as a mother would be helpful. Also, the fact she was forward about the importance of her children in her life was refreshing when so many other applicants tried to avoid talking about their children. Both Jordy and Nancy completed about 250 hours of training before they went out educating clients on their own. Continuing education is key in helping to keep them up to date with the best nutrition and health information. Jenna makes sure we are involved with continuing education opportunities like attending conferences on diabetes, Jordy said. Jordy and Nancys jobs vary dramatically from day to day, but they spend about half of their time in their office at CCE completing paperwork, documenting what they have accomplished with their clients, brainstorming ideas and lesson planning. The other half of the time, they are teaching clients one-on-one or in groups, or giving one time presentations at health fairs, senior centers or other venues. When working with large groups they sometimes work together. With small groups and individuals they go out on their own. They are each responsible for educating a minimum of 70 clients a year who must enroll in one of the CCE nutrition education programs and complete and graduate from the program. Jordy and Nancy are highly satisfied with their jobs. We have a great staff, a relaxed environment, our supervisor, Jenna, is very supportive, and every day is different, Nancy commented. Nancy also appreciates the fact she has been able to keep her children a priority. Jenna and Jordy are so easy-going, she said. When something comes up with my kids I can go. There is not a lot of pressure. Jordy has especially enjoyed introducing kids to new foods. She has recently been working with three- and four-year-olds at the Circle of Friends. Thanks to Jordy Woods and Nancy Zukowski, more and more people in Clinton County are being reached with CCEs message of improving lives through improving health and nutrition.

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