Project will focus on nutrition, technology, higher education, urban agriculture for at-risk individuals
SAN ANTONIO – Dr. Melinda Garcia has been appointed as the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 4-H Youth Development Program specialist to coordinate the Children, Youth and Families at Risk, or CYFAR, project in Bexar and Harris counties, said Dr. Chris Boleman, Texas 4-H Development Program director, College Station.
Garcia, who began her responsibilities Feb. 16, will coordinate planning and implementation of the project, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. She will work from the AgriLife Extension office for Bexar County, 3355 Cherry Ridge Drive in San Antonio.
According to the USDA-NIFA website, the project allocates funding to land-grant university Cooperative Extension System entities to develop and implement community-based programs for at-risk children and their families. It also supports community collaboration and promotes the use of technology and essential technological skills for youth and adults in at-risk environments.
“Dr. Garcia brings a great deal of experience working with urban youth,” Boleman said. “She has spent her career in education both in and out of the classroom, and her graduate studies focused on educational leadership. She has great passion for underserved and minority youth and is full of energy and enthusiasm.”
He said Garcia will coordinate current project activities and build on them by working to find additional partnerships through grants.
“It’s vital we have collaboration in creating sustainable programs that will expose at-risk youth to technology, interest them in nutrition and higher education and show them careers in urban agriculture,” Garcia said. “Helping at-risk kids is a passion of mine and I’m excited about bringing these educational activities to them through CYFAR project efforts.”
Garcia earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio in 1993 and a master’s in general business from the University of Phoenix in 2007. She earned her doctorate in organizational leadership from Our Lady of the Lake University in 2013.
Prior to working for AgriLife Extension, Garcia was a services coordinator with the Alamo Local Authority of the Alamo Area Council of Governments, San Antonio. Garcia has current or former certifications in Heartsaver-First Aid CPR from the American Heart Association, child abuse recognition, child advocacy and criminal justice.
Boleman said Garcia will be working closely with Drs. Darrell Dromgoole and Manuel Piña, associate professors in the department of agricultural leadership, education and communication at Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“One of Dr. Garcia’s main efforts will be educational outreach to address the issue of food deserts — areas with limited access to fresh fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods — in urban areas,” said Dromgoole. “Melinda will be educating young people in these communities about healthful eating and proper nutrition.”
He said her other efforts will address science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM, subjects and career possibilities in the field of urban agriculture.
Piña will serve as the external evaluator for the project, providing the requisite data about project efforts to the USDA.
“I will be collecting data and evaluating results for not only the USDA in fulfillment of the requirements put forth in our proposal, but also related to our own project goals and objectives,” Piña said. “Dr. Garcia’s familiarity with research and knowledge of the type of activities that need to be evaluated to determine project efficacy should be advantageous for project coordination and implementation.”