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NC State student takes on new challenges during internship

By Murphy Stafford
Rowan County Cooperative Extension

I am a senior at North Carolina State University studying animal science. For the past summer, I have been your friendly next door Cooperative Extension intern at the Rowan County office. I have had the unique opportunity to work with Extension pre-COVID at the Gaston County office and during a pandemic at the Rowan County office. Before lockdown, I was expecting a summer full of hectic, fast-paced activities that are associated with Extension during the busy summer months, instead, I was faced with a new environment that is constantly evolving.

Murphy Stafford

During a normal summer, an intern that had been assigned to a county with the main objective of working with 4-H, would act as the right-hand man to the agent. Normal activities that I performed at the Gaston County office were to prepare activities for summer camp and be out of the office almost every day with the kids, taking them fishing, hiking and even teaching them how to cook. Another aspect of the job was to shadow every other agent; with Family and Consumer Sciences I would help a class of adults learn how to make jams and with EFNEP, we would go to the boys and girls club and teach about healthy eating. It was a great learning experience because you were constantly on the go and learning how to interact with people.

On the flip side, this summer has been a completely different experience than any intern would have expected, regardless of where they went to work. Instead of a summer filled with farm visits, summer camps, and classes, I was met with a work environment that is constantly changing as our government keeps analyzing the pandemic situation in North Carolina. Even though the summer was not filled with normal activities, the Rowan County office did an amazing job to provide me with opportunities to build my skill set. I was able to create several hands-on Summer Fun kits for youths for at-home participation. I also had the privilege of helping the county get onto the Visit N.C. Farms app, which is an app that promotes agritourism businesses and local restaurants in North Carolina. For this, I have gone out to visit farmers and build connections with them to gain an understanding of what their business stands for and if they would be a great fit for the app. Of course, I have done this safely by wearing a mask at all times, staying six feet apart, and being outside to reduce risk of spreading the virus.

Another skill that I was able to develop through interning during a pandemic is videotaping and editing. This skill has become a godsend as classes that were once held in person now need to be done on a virtual platform, where informative videos are necessary. If this quarantine had not started, I would not have been able to develop my digital skills, which is becoming a necessity as more and more people are becoming accustomed to working from home.

Even though people feel lost with the new normal, we can adjust to it and find new opportunities that would have not previously been presented to us. Just remember humans are strong and resilient and we can overcome anything. It has been a great time working in your beautiful county and discovering all the local gems that Rowan has to offer. If you do plan to go out and visit local businesses that are now live on the Visit N.C. Farms app, please do so safely by social distancing and wearing masks. Stay safe, Rowan!

Murphy Stafford is a summer intern with the Rowan County Cooperative Extension.

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