The Douglas County Extension Office will get a helping hand this summer from a non-traditional intern.
The office typically hires interns with a background in horticulture, agriculture or home economics, but Jana Ortiz, 22, graduated this year from Kansas State University with a degree in psychology.
Director Dennis Bejot said the Extension Service has shifted some of its focus in recent years to address more issues related to family life, and Ortiz' psychology degree could come in handy. In fact, Bejot said he expects to see future Extension agents holding a broad range of university degrees.
"The world is changing," he said.
Ortiz joined the Douglas County staff May 24, and she plans to stick around until Aug. 13, when she'll head to Kansas University to pursue a doctorate in clinical child psychology. She said she'll likely help out in all areas of Extension during the summer, but probably will spend much of her time working with the 4-H program.
"I think it's going to be a great experience," she said. "I'll learn a lot about Extension and I love working with kids, so I'm really looking forward to the 4-H work."
She and Barbara Lilyhorn, 4-H Extension agent, traveled Wednesday with a group of teen-agers to KSU for Discovery Days, a trip designed to expose youths to college. Ortiz also has started developing a guide of nutritional snacks for children for the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) program.
Although she grew up in the small north-central Kansas town of Lincoln, Ortiz said she was the only one in her intern orientation group that hadn't participated in 4-H as a child.
"I have a lot to learn," she said with a smile.
Lilyhorn said she was excited to put Ortiz to work. The Extension office is planning a day camp for children, "and Jana will be a big part of that," she said. Ortiz also might help develop a literacy program.
"Because her degree's in child psychology, she'd be a natural to do training for 4-H leaders," Lilyhorn said.
And when the Douglas County Free Fair rolls around Aug. 3-7, Lilyhorn will need all the help she can get.
"When it gets busy during the fair, it will be good to have an extra person around," she said.