Child health, wellness program specialist Kirk receives Superior Service Award

COLLEGE STATION — Alice Kirk, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service child health and wellness program specialist in College Station, has received the agency’s Superior Service Award in the category of program specialist.

The award, presented Jan. 8 during the annual Texas A&M AgriLife Conference in College Station, is given to those who demonstrate outstanding performance or provide exceptional service to AgriLife Extension, an educational outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System.

According to her award nomination, Kirk provides leadership for the development, implementation and evaluation of AgriLife Extension educational programs in the areas of childhood overweight, child health needs and increasing physical activity.

The nomination stated, “All of the areas in which Ms. Kirk works are critical needs in the state of Texas, as families and communities struggle to address chronic diseases that lead to serious health issues, high economic costs, and diminished productivity and quality of life.” It also stated, “Ms. Kirk demonstrates excellence in Extension programming and outreach through effective partnerships with state agencies and other organizations.”

In supporting Kirk’s nomination, Marcie Kirtz, Texas Department of State Health Services primary prevention manager for the Nutrition, Physical and Obesity Prevention Program, stated, “Alice’s expertise in working with communities has contributed to the success of the Texas Putting Prevention to Work program.”

The Texas Putting Prevention to Work program is a collaboration of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin and AgriLife Extension. Kirk’s work within that program was touted during a 2010 Texas Obesity Awareness Week event at the Texas Medical Association in Austin, her nomination stated.

Kirk also served as project director for the Walk Across Texas initiative, an eight-week program designed by AgriLife Extension to help people of all ages support one another to establish the habit of regular physical activity. In 2011, 141 Texas counties participated, with a total of 45,192 adults and youth registered, including 14,234 youth who participated in school teams. The positive economic impact on 2011 team participants was estimated to be approximately $265 million, including potential cost savings from lost wages due to disability.

Kirk’s additional efforts included implementing “Balancing Food and Play,” an integrated, interactive third-grade enrichment curriculum on nutrition and physical activity based on Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and developed by a multidisciplinary AgriLife Extension team. She also collaborated on the Friend to Friend project, funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas with the goal of reducing cancer risk for residents of rural and frontier communities.

“The partnership-building and collaboration skills that Alice Kirk has brought to her work have helped AgriLife Extension meet many of its performance goals because her programs help target and extend outreach to ethnically as well as economically diverse audiences,” stated Dr. Elaine Fries, AgriLife Extension regional program director for family and consumer sciences, Corpus Christi, in her support of the nomination.

In a letter of support, Amy L. Elizondo, vice president of program services with the National Rural Health Association, stated, “It was because of her tireless efforts and her ability to mobilize partnerships among various groups and organizations that (Kirk) was nominated and appointed by the National Rural Health Association … to serve on the NRHA’s Multiracial and Multicultural Rural Health Council.”

“She has devoted her career to improving the lives of Texans and those most in need,” Elizando wrote. “Her devotion is also evidenced by the work she continues to do on a national level.”

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