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AHS December Blog: EFNEP Staff Improving Their Own Lives Through Higher Education

The Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences (AHS) publishes a monthly blog written by students, alumni, and faculty sharing important topics and helpful resources related to the fields of agricultural, extension, and human science. In the December blog post, Stephanie McDonald-Murray, EFNEP regional nutrition extension associate and team leader and Megan Halbohm, EFNEP technology and training leader and extension associate highlight EFNEP staff who have improved their own lives by earning higher education degrees.

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), offers income-based free nutrition classes to help families and youth cook healthy meals at home, be more active, save money on food costs, and handle food safely. EFNEP is a program delivered by N. C. Cooperative Extension through NC State University and NC A&T State University.

EFNEP provides education through paraprofessionals (Nutrition Program Assistants) who are hired from the indigenous target populations they serve and who have a high school diploma or GED. Our programs across the state typically focus on our participants within the local communities, improving their lives through healthy lifestyle changes. Today we want to take a moment to focus on our own staff members who are improving their own lives through higher education this year.

Join us in first congratulating Patty Saltpaw! 

Patty Saltpaw

Patty is the EFNEP Educator in Johnston County. She earned her Associate’s degree in Community Spanish Interpreter from Johnston Community College in May!

Patty is originally from Columbia and in her native country she started her professional career as a Technician in Human Resources Management and then later studied law. She practiced as a lawyer in the criminal, family, and administrative fields for government entities and was also appointed conciliator and justice of the peace by the Supreme Court Justice of Bogotá. During her last ten years in Colombia, Patty was linked to organizations that work with vulnerable and low-income communities before moving to the United States in 2013. Patty started her career with Extension in 2021 as the EFNEP Educator in Johnston County and maintained a work-life balance as she continued to pursue her education at Johnston Community College.

Patty’s programmatic supervisor for EFNEP, Lauren Morris, states, “I’m so incredibly proud of Patty. Since her very first day, she has continued to go above and beyond in her EFNEP position. Patty’s passion to help the community and experience is invaluable as she has created new partnerships and reached many EFNEP-eligible non-traditional audiences in the county. She has continued to develop positive relationships with community partners and participants and is making lasting impacts in their lives to improve their overall health. We are very fortunate to have Patty and I am thrilled to see her achieve her goals.” Way to go, Patty!

Next, we would like to congratulate Rebekah Benton on receiving a Master’s degree in Agricultural Education from NC A & T State University!

Rebekah Benton

Rebekah started her career with Extension in 2002 as an EFNEP Program Assistant in Columbus County. Over the past 20 years, she has positively impacted the lives of thousands of youths in Columbus County. Rebekah has also mentored many new educators, served as the leader of the EFNEP Representative group, a board member of the EFNEP Endowment and various positions with the NCAEPAAT.

Rebekah has received numerous awards including the following: New Extension EFNEP Program Assistant, Outstanding Performance, Minnie Miller Brown, Social Media, Susan McCaskill Morgan, etc.

She also received an Associate’s degree from Southeastern Community College and BS degree in Public Health from UNC Wilmington.

Rebekah’s former EFNEP programmatic supervisor, Stephanie McDonald-Murray, states the following, “I’ve worked with Rebekah for numerous years watching her accomplish remarkable professional and personal successes. Her work ethic, determination, positive attitude and authenticity have opened doors to incredible opportunities. She is truly an inspiration. One of my favorite quotes that describes Rebekah perfectly is, she believed she could, so she did. I am so proud of you.”

Rebekah recently transitioned to a new position and now serves as the 4-H Agent for Columbus County!

Way to go, Rebekah!

Our third graduate this spring is one from our state team here in Raleigh – Paula Norris.

Although Paula started her career with Extension in 2016 as an EFNEP program assistant, she now serves as a Regional Nutrition Extension Associate with EFNEP. Paula recently earned her Master’s Degree in Adult and Community College Education from NC State University.

Her supervisor, Lisa Benavente, states, “seeing Paula thrive and advance in her career is like watching a remarkable and motivating display of human potential. It demonstrates her unwavering determination, strength, and self-confidence. Her remarkable achievements not only illuminate her own path but also serve as a shining example, inspiring others to pursue their aspirations and reach for greatness.”

Congratulations, Paula!!!

To learn more about EFNEP, you can go to our website: