Mineral County Miner | Fleming honored for decades of service to San Luis Valley 

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VALLEY — CSU Extension Agent Mary Ellen Fleming was awarded the Alton Scofield Distinguished Service Award for her decades of service to the San Luis Valley.  

Fleming served the Valley as a Family and Consumer Science Agent with Colorado State University Extension for over twenty years. She is retiring this year after thirty-five years of service to the University. 

The Alton Scofield Award recognizes outstanding performance by an Extension professional throughout their Extension career. Alton Scofield was a long-time executive director of the Colorado Cooperative Council, which sponsors the prestigious award. 

“Mary Ellen has shown an immeasurable amount of dedication to her community in the San Luis Valley,” said Lindsey Shirley, assistant vice president for engagement and extension and deputy director of Extension at Colorado State University. “Few have made such an impact in their community as Mary Ellen. She embodies the land-grant mission of service, education and engagement. We are so grateful to her for her decades of service.” 

Fleming was nominated for the prestigious award by Larry Brown, CSU Extension Director in the San Luis Valley. 

“When I became a member of the San Luis Valley Extension Advisory committee several years ago, one of the biggest surprises was the incredibly valuable programming Mary Ellen was doing and has been doing behind-the-scenes for over two decades in our community,” said Brown. “She exemplifies an Extension Agent committed to serving her community where it is most needed. I’m so happy to see Mary Ellen recognized for all her amazing work.” 

For Fleming, the work was a labor of love. 

“It has been a pleasure to work with the people of the San Luis Valley all these years. My career has been a rewarding one, helping people to improve their lives by making changes learned in the variety of classes I have taught,” said Fleming. 

Decades of service to San Luis Valley 

If you live in the San Luis Valley, there’s a good chance you’ve benefited from Mary Ellen Fleming’s nutrition, health and wellness programs. For the past two decades, Fleming’s influence has touched the lives of thousands. From students to senior citizens, Fleming’s teachings and trainings helped the Valley community grow and stay healthy and strong. 

One program, “Boys and Girls Developing Healthy Habits Nutrition,” provided nutrition and food safety training, staffing and nutritious food for three Boys and Girls Clubs locations in the Valley. The program taught Boys and Girls Club youth to make healthier decisions, such as choosing fruits and vegetables over sugary snacks, reducing their risk of obesity and diabetes. 

Through her Food Safety Training courses, Fleming trained commercial kitchen staff throughout the Valley. Her teachings helped improve food safety standards in restaurants and at a variety of organizations including Meals on Wheels, Fishes and Loaves, Ortega Middle School, South Central Seniors Inc., Migrant Head Start centers and more. Fleming’s trainings not only benefit the food workers and organizations, but also every person who eats at the restaurants or is served through the commercial kitchens. 

“If you are a senior citizen in the Valley, if you ate at a restaurant in the Valley, if you are a student in the Valley, Mary Ellen’s teachings and trainings helped you grow healthy and strong, stay healthy and strong, and be safe when eating out,” said Brown. 

A deep commitment to Spanish-speaking 

In the San Luis Valley, 28% of the population speaks Spanish as their first language. For Fleming, serving the Valley means serving the entire community. In addition to English programming, Fleming also teaches nutrition and food safety training programs in Spanish. Fleming also worked with “La Llave” (The Key), an organization dedicated to helping limited income, Spanish-speaking families raise healthy, school-ready children. Through this partnership, Fleming shaped educational programming teaching parenting, nutrition, health, food safety and English for Spanish Speakers. Fleming also taught the breadth of her other Extension education programs in both Spanish and English. 

“Mary Ellen’s teachings genuinely change the longevity and quality of life of her clientele. She changes family health generationally,” said Brown. “This progression of impact can be followed for every type of education Mary Ellen delivers, and the value, the real value it creates for the Spanish-speaking and low-income families in our community can be multiplied a hundred-fold.” 

Learn more about CSU Extension in San Luis Valley at http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu/ 

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