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franklin county times

Extension agent finds her niche

 

It is said that if someone finds a job they truly love, they’ll never work a day in their life. Finding the job that is a perfect fit for someone requires them finding their niche – which is what Melanie Allen said she has done.

Allen is the regional Extension agent for family and child development for eight counties, including Franklin, with the Franklin County Extension. The other counties she serves are Colbert, Winston, Lawrence, Madison, Lauderdale, Fayette and Lamar.

“The main topics I focus on are parenting and healthy relationship issues,” Allen said. That includes goal setting, time management, communication skills, stress and conflict management skills and discipline skills. However, her lessons almost always boil down to one focus: communication. “Ninety percent of relationship or discipline issues are caused by a breakdown in communication.”

Allen said she believes good communication starts with the parent-guardians.

“The best gift a parent-guardian can give their child is a home environment where the child feels safe and loved,” Allen said.

She also teaches the importance of setting ground rules for how people should agree to treat each other when they interact so everyone knows what kind of behavior is expected. One of the tools she employs with this lesson is using “I” statements, which start with “I” and then explain how the person feels and what they need from the other person.

“I am a teacher, and I enjoy helping people learn a new way of doing things so they can apply that skill and hopefully improve their situation,” she said.

Another important topic she is working on now is the “Be SAFE” program. It is an anti-bullying series for sixth- through eighth-graders.

“Research has shown that most bullying occurs during the middle school years, so we’re trying to teach youth how to get along with others by appreciating the fact that we are all different,” Allen said.

She doesn’t just apply these teachings at work. She said she takes it home and tries to instill the lessons in her own children and the children at her church, where she is a very active member.

“I pray that the work I do helps to improve the relationships between adult parent-guardians and their children,” she said.

Allen earned her Bachelor of Science in family and consumer science secondary education from the University of North Alabama before earning her master’s degree in consumer affairs and public relations from Auburn University. She also obtained an education specialist degree from Auburn in adult education.

She worked as a 4-H and youth development agent in Lauderdale County for 12 years before obtaining her current position, but she said that she discovered her passion for Extension when she was a child and participated in 4-H.

“I tried everything. I was very active,” Allen said. “It gave me confidence; I guess I found my niche.”

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