AgriLife Extension honors Harris County urban youth development agent

Sheryl Nolen’s work on bullying prevention cited

HOUSTON – Sheryl Nolen, Texas AgriLife Extension Service youth development agent for Harris County, has been honored with one of the agency’s highest recognitions.

The Superior Service Award is presented to staff who demonstrate outstanding performance or provide exceptional service to AgriLife Extension, an educational outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System, according to the award guidelines.
Letters of recommendation from her superiors, as well as local teachers and the superintendent for youth services in Harris County, were instrumental in Nolen being chosen for the award.
“Ms. Nolen would come to our school and present lessons on leadership and help the students as they worked through the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens,” wrote Suzanne Fulghum, a biology teacher formerly with Aldine Independent School District.

“As a 20-year teaching veteran, I was humbled and amazed as I watched her capture the attention, hearts, and respect of these world-weary, educationally oppositional, alternative-education kids,” Fulghum said. “Getting these types of kids to ‘buy in’ and participate in anything can be extremely challenging, but Ms. Nolen did it with a grace, ease, and patience that I had never seen before.”

The award committee cited Nolen’s experience, innovation and dedication in presenting the award.

“Her vision for 4-H after-school programs distinguishes her career as a dedicated Extension professional with the expertise to establish and sustain programs targeting limited resource youth,” according to the documentation. “Over the years, Sheryl has collaborated with more than 78 after-school sites, training staff and teen volunteers to deliver sessions on Junior Master Gardening, alcohol and substance use prevention, prevention of bulling, leadership, entrepreneurship, filmmaking, and science, engineering and technology.”

In her nomination letter, Lisa Whittlesey, AgriLife Extension program specialist
and national Junior Master Gardener program coordinator, wrote: “When Sheryl left Montgomery County to assume a position in Harris County, her passion for the Junior Master Gardener program continued. She has been in the forefront, leading the way to address educational programming to reduce childhood obesity while also supporting school enrichment in the areas of science and math. The Junior Master Gardener program was her venue to address these issues. Through her efforts, she has provided education programs to over 3,000 limited resource youth and families.”

Tammy Taylor, superintendent of youth services for Harris County, Precinct 2, wrote: “(Sheryl) has introduced innovative activities that challenged our children to apply all they have learned to compete in events, including 4-H Aerospace Speed Lab Skillathons, eco-kite contests and balloon car derby. Our young people have not only gained skills in science, engineering and technology, they have grown in their ability to work cooperatively and use problem-solving skills to compete and be recognized for their achievements.”

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