The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 17, 2013

New Extension educators settle in Fountain County office


COVINGTON, Ind. — Two new Purdue University extension educators have begun their duties in Fountain County and are eager to meet local residents.

Monica Wilhoite is the new extension director and will work with 4-H/youth development. She also will be the health and human services educator.

Courtney Stierwalt will work with 4-H/youth development and will be the agriculture and natural resources educator.

"I have a passion for agriculture and youth development," said Stierwalt who grew up on a dairy farm in Morgan County.

"We are looking forward to visiting with new people," said Wilhoite , who grew up on a swine farm in Boone County. "It is good to learn the people."

They want to meet the residents of Fountain County and learn how the extension service can help them.

Both have a passion for 4-H, where they were 10-year 4-H members in Indiana. They will share the 4-H duties in Fountain County along with many volunteer leaders.

Stierwalt’s tuition at Purdue University was paid for through a 4-H scholarship, so she is looking forward to giving back to 4-H.

"Working with youth is rewarding," Wilhoite said. "I love to see the smiles on their faces."

It didn’t take Wilhoite and Stierwalt long to learn that Fountain County has a "true county fair" without a carnival. They are looking at adding some4-H projects, including animal posters. This year’s fair will be July 12-18.

"We are interested in building diversity," Wilhoite said. "We want to get the kids involved in more than just the fair."

Project clubs are a possibility in particular areas such as cooking and sewing.

4-H members will put up window displays throughout Fountain County from Feb. 4-8. These will center on citizenship, leadership, responsibility and fun.

They hope to increase the participation in 4-H in Fountain County.

"The 4-H program has shaped what I am today," Wilhoite said. "I want to get out and teach people how to be healthy."

Wilhoite graduated from Lebanon High School and earned a bachelor of science degree in nutrition fitness and dietetics from Purdue University. She went to Central Oklahoma University and received her master of science degree in food and nutrition management. She has two years experience in extension work in Oklahoma.

Stierwalt graduated from Martinsville High School and has a bachelor’s degree from Purdue in agriculture communications. She was worked in the swine industry and animal health sales.

"We are hoping to increase the business presence (of extension work in Fountain County," Wilhoite said.