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Home News-Telegram News Superior Service - That’s what Johanna Hicks gives to her job and Hopkins County

Superior Service - That’s what Johanna Hicks gives to her job and Hopkins County

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Johanna Hicks this month added another award to the long list of honors, many of which adorn the walls of the family and consumer sciences Extension agent’s office. Texas AgriLife Extension Service presented Hicks with a Superior Service Award Jan. 8 during an AgriLife Extension conference in College Station.


Texas AgriLife Extension Service received 228 nomination this year, but chose only 16 recipients — six individual Extension agents, two specialists, seven teams and one Extension program specialist. The Superior Service Award recognizes Extension staff who “demonstrate outstanding performance or who provide exceptional service” to Extension. Hicks faithfully does both. 

“This is quite an honor, I am honored to be nominated by my peers and to receive this award,” Hicks said this week. “It’s rather humbling to be nominated. I learned some of the others that won and think, ‘Wow.’”

The dedicated Hopkins County FCS agent was nominated by District IV Faculty and Recognition Committee for her “commitment to serving the residents of Hopkins County, combined with her dedication to quality educational programming,” the group noted in their nomination form.

Hicks went to work with the Extension Service in Hopkins County in 1984 upon graduation from college. She served for a number of years as a home demonstration agent, which they were called back then because the agent would meet a group of women at one’s home and teach them a particular home-skill, like doing laundry.

Through Extension she me her husband, Jay Hicks. Johanna’s long-time friend and Hunt County Extension Agent Mary Sue Cole introduced them. Three children — Ross, Travis and Anna Lynne, who are all grown now — and a move to Stephenville and several years later, and the Hicks’ moved back to Hopkins County in 1998. She held several jobs and volunteer positions in the community before returning to Extension. When Janie Crump retired in 2002, Hicks was selected as the new FCS agent. She’s been serving Hopkins County as the FCS extension agent ever since.

It’s for that outstanding work and diligence in several areas of community service for health and nutrition, and her exceptional outreach and educational efforts in diabetes management and prevention in rural areas over the years that Hicks’ peers nominated her for the Superior Service Award.

Both Susan Ballabina, FCS Dallas region program director, and Dr. Carol Rice, AgriLife Extension health specialist-College Station, noted that in their years working with Hicks on various projects, they not only find her work to be exceptional, but find her to be a “visionary, who is innovative and always willing to figure out how to make things work. If she agrees to do a project, I know it will not only be well done, it will be exceptionally well done.”

When asked about being a visionary, Hicks paused, then humbly replied, “I’ve been told by other that I see issues before they become a major problem and being addressing them.”

Bullying prevention is one such area she’s more recently promoted at summer camp, education 4-H youth about the issue starting at the first grade. The topic hadn’t been as largely publicized or embraced as it’s become over the last year.

Ballabina commended Hicks for her “outstanding” work expanding state-wide AgriLife Extension diabetes control and prevention programs, including Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes; Walk Across Texas; and the 2005 pilot program Cooking Well with Diabetes and “fitting them to the needs of Hopkins County.”

Hicks’ interest in diabetes awareness and education is very personal. Her son Travis, who will be 21 in April, was diagnosed at age 2 1/2 with Type 1 or insulin dependent diabetes. Back then, there wasn’t nearly as much information or resources for the Hicks family to turn to for support.

“When he was little, he would want a donut for a snack like other kids. I’d have to say, ‘Sorry, Travis, that’s not good for your.’ He was upset and disappointed he could not have sweets. We’ve learned since that you can, you just have to monitor it,” Hicks said. “He’s my inspiration. He was diagnosed at an early age and learned to be responsible for his own health at an early age. It has not slowed him down.”

In fact, Travis serves in many leadership roles at Dallas Baptist University, where he’s an honor student on track to graduate early and involved in recreational team activities. Last summer, he spent 10 weeks in Brazil on a mission trip. Diabetes didn’t slow him the 6 foot 2 1/2 inch 185 pound Travis down though, not even at airport security, his mom notes proudly.

Through her contacts, her position with Extension and various databanks and lots of research, Hicks has over the last few years has designed and expanded diabetes and health programs to help others who are diagnosed with or have family members who have diabetes.

“Approximately 9.9 percent of Hopkins County residents over the age of 18 were diagnosed with diabetes in 2008,” said Hicks. “The total cost of diabetes for people in Congressional District 4, of which Hopkins County is part, is estimated at $380 million. This estimate includes excess medical costs of $254 million attributed to diabetes, and lost productivity valued at $126 million.”

Hicks has taught Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes, a nine-part education series covering basic nutrition and self-care topics annually since 2003. Due to the success of “Do Well, Be Well,” Hicks was selected in 2005 to pilot a four-topic lesson series called “Cooking Well with Diabetes.” The cooking program introduces new concepts, such as recipe modification and holiday food management. To enhance the topics taught during the sessions, she worked with the Rockwall County agent to created “Diabetes Jeopardy,” based on the TV game show in accordance with with the American Diabetes Association and American Association of Clinic Endocrinologists. When it was mentioned in the East Region FCS newsletter, and the East Region FCS Agent Sharing Google Group, agents from other counties requested Diabetes Jeopardy to use with their diabetes programs. In 2010, Diabetes Jeopardy received the second place Educational Technology Award from National FCS Extension.

She recently hosted, along with agents from four other counties, a regional diabetes conference which was attended by 90 people and 15 exhibitors; a program Ballabina noted was replicated throughout the state last year. Afterward, Hicks was invited by Texas Department of Health Services to serve on a board to plan a similar event in the Longview/Tyler area.

Hicks worked with a diabetes educator and dietician at the hospital when the facility offered the program, acting as a resource person for a diabetes support group as long the hospital offered the groups. She helped come up with catchy topic titles to gain more attention.

She also hosted several programs at the Farmers’ Market including Kids Cook at the Market as part of her diabetes initiative. She obtained funding from Texas Diabetes Council in 2009 to demonstrate and promote fruit and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. One Saturday a month she put up an exhibit to promote diabetes education series with health and nutrition-related publications, adding Kids Cook at the Market to give kids an opportunity to learn to prepare healthy snacks and disches using locally grown food. In 2010, she partnered with Women, Infants and Children staff, who provided funds to print kid-friendly recipe books for each child. Kids Cook grew to the point two sessions had to be offered in 2011; the program in 2011 was recognized as the Texas Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Florence Hall Award, advancing it for regional and national judging.

She also holds regular nutritional education programs at Early Childhood Learning Center for parents and participates in health fairs to distribute information on different programs. 

In addition to that, Hicks also hosts the marriage education workshop Twogether in Texas, an interactive program which includes a workbook, games, videos and other interactive curriculum to engaged couples. When they finish they get a certificate of completion good for one year, which gives them a $60 discount on the cost of a marriage licenses. It’s taught three to four times a year, depending on scheduling and enrollment.

Hicks holds Master Wellness Volunteer Program, similar to the Master Gardeners program. Volunteers receive 40 hours of training for certification and agree to give 40 hours of service to the community over the course of the next year. Some volunteer to help Hicks with things preparing goody bags for a cooking school, draft programs, set up a worksite or session. Some have gone on to expand her programs, establishing similar items at work. One expanded the extension Walk Across Texas program to their school after the training. 

Better Living for Texans is another class, ideal for retired people is Better Living for Texans, which focuses on health and wellness.

Hicks teaches a parenting education class, a four-lesson series sometimes taught to a group, but now also offered online through Extension should an individual need the hours before the next scheduled class. Day care workers can also get needed education credits by taking the online class. 

Each winter, just before the holiday season kicks off, Hicks works with FCS agents from neighboring counties to host a program offering gift-giving, cooking and decorating ideas for the holidays.

She and the other Extension staff work with 4-H club leaders to help them with program management and county-wide programs and projects. One group, is slated this spring to go to Fancy Fiber Farms in Farmersville to learn firsthand about clothing and textiles origins, seeing fabric go from animal to finished garment. She’s hosted sewing fun days with 4-H, one of which a visiting group from Wisconsin plans to incorporate into programs there. She helps with the foods projects in the fall and clothing projects in the spring, for competition, and assists 4-Hers prepare presentations for public speaking events in the spring.

Hicks generates three newsletters: the 4-H Gazette wich is printed and distributed to 4-H members and their families bimonthly; Better Living for Texas which goes to 5,5000 households four times a year; and Volunteer Connection, a publication for Master Wellness Volunteers, sent six times a year. She also has a weekly column which is published in the News-Telegram, which she uses to inform the public about news, programs and emerging issues such as flu, water shortages and West Nile virus — topics she and fellow agent Mario Villarino are often asked about by community members.

Those are just some of the things that Hicks does for this community. What the stats don’t say, but any parent — including this one — or community member who has an opportunity to work with Hicks will tell you she does so humbly, selflessly, with a heart for service, passion for her work and love of helping others. Superior service is indeed what Hicks provides to our community, a fact her peers also recognize.




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