Rhonda Barnhart

Honored by:Cedar County Extension
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ISU Extension Honors Rhonda Barnhart

Teaching all ages, collaborating with other agenices, reaching audiences via mass media, and supervising staff describe Rhonda's efforts in ISU Extension for 25 years. She consistently sought ways to make a positive difference in people's lives by initiating or collaborating in efforts to offer programs and opportunities to those in her area. Being in touch with other leaders well in advance of surfacing issues set the stage for effective program efforts by Barnhart.

Through her masterful leadership and local connections, Rhonda guided the Cedar County Nutrition Coalition to improve the food choices and regular physical activity of Cedar County residents. Since 1994, the group has provided training and information to local mayors, pastors, and scout troops and reached over 6,000 households with local food program information. Rhonda used ISU Extension materials to help parents get the message that nutrition and breakfast ARE important for children--and adults!

For 15 years she worked with a school nurse to present a nutrition program with 75 to 138 adults and children in attendance. Parents accompanied their 1st grade child to the breakfast, enjoyed a nutritious meal together, learned from Rhoda's nutrition message; appreciated listening to nutrition oriented songs sung by the children, took additional printed lessons home, and learned that nutrition and breakfast are important. Through this one program Rhonda helped many parents provide support to their children to eat a variety of foods and make healthful choices.

In addition to face to face contacts, Rhonda used her teaching skills to teach via mass media. In the mid 80's Rhonda helped develop "Food and Fitness Public Service Announcements for TV." KCRG-TV Cedar Rapids aired each of the 14 30-second television spots 12 times during an 8-month period in a variety of time slots. Rhonda said that judging from the number of people who commented, "I saw you on TV", she knew this media exposure helped build credibility for ISU Extension as a source of reliable information.

Rhonda continued doing media work in East Central Iowa, averaging two segments each month that ranged in length from 2 to 7 minutes each. A "Healthy Lifestyle" was a personal and professional interest to Rhonda long before the term became fashionable. The "Healthy Families" program was a cooperative effort initiated by Rhonda with the local communiyy center and the hospital. For two years Rhonda enlisted the resources of other agencies to carry out this program that involved 7-9 weekly sessions. As a result of her efforts, over 185 persons had fun together as families doing physical and other wellness activites. The series had enthusiastic evaluations, indicating an increase in healthful lifestyle behaviors.

Rhonda was one of the founders of "Camp I Can" -- a weight control camp for youth ages 13-16. She spent over a year consulting with specialists, reading about camps weight control, and adolescents before starting the camp. The first camp was held in 1976 with emphasis on nutrition, exercise, improving self-concept, and developing new interests. The camp continued for 10 years. This teaching effort involved other Extension staff and many volunteers. Attendance at the camp ranged from 26-40 campers. Feedback indicated positive changes resulted from the week at camp and subsequent support from fellow campers and Extension staff.

Rhonda supervised two Family Nutrition Program Assistants based in other counties. The program reached the target audience with excellent results. Participants commented, "I'm getting much better at managing my money." And, "I learned to make more well balanced meals for my kids."

Rhonda provided leadership through the Cedar County Human Services Consortium to initiate a 13-week Nurturing Program for families with children age zero to five. A special committee involving the Human Services Director, a Headstart worker, members of the nursing service, volunteer teachers, and a 4-H & Youth leader met to plan the program promoting positive parenting skills. Through Rhonda's contacts, $1200 was obtained to fund the new program. Twenty-two adults and 26 children enrolled.

At the same time, Rhonda was also working with three pregnant teens at the request of the school at-risk coordinator. The needs identified in these efforts made Rhonda welcome the contact from Young Parents Network to help start Outreach programs in the 2 counties she served. It grew to include Young Dads and Prenatal groups and offered Postpone Parenting Programs. The ongoing collaborative effort resulted in statistics for participants in Young Parents Network Outreach during a recent year showed that there were zero low birth weight infants; no repeat pregnancies; and 80% are in school or working. In addition to these parenting programs, Rhonda helped foster Breastfeeding Coalitions in two of her counties.