A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

UK Cooperative Extension Service agent receives national award for leadership, innovation


By Katie Pratt
University of Kentucky

An agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service recently received national recognition for her visionary leadership and innovative programs.

Jennifer Bridge, Meade County family and consumer sciences extension agent, was the recipient of the National Distinguished Service Award from Epilson Sigma Phi, an organization dedicated to extension professionals.

Jennifer Bridge

“Throughout her extension career, Jennifer has created thoughtful and impactful programs to better her community,” said Jennifer Hunter, UK assistant director of family and consumer sciences. “She is a great example of the quality of extension agents that we have in Kentucky.”

For more than 31 years, Bridge has served individuals and families in Meade County. She has worked to help develop the leadership and communications skills of the county’s Extension Homemakers. Under her guidance, the group has taken on community-wide leadership roles and completed numerous community service projects. One project led the Extension Homemakers to lobby the local government for a permanent recycling center for the county.

Today, the center processes 8,000 tons of materials each year and has expanded to include seven satellite sites. The group continues to advocate for the project by speaking to nearly 3,000 school-aged children each year about the importance of recycling and sustainable living.

With Fort Knox located in the county, Bridge has worked extensively with military families, especially in the areas of family economics and strengthening family relationships.

After getting numerous food and nutrition-related questions, Bridge created a series called Edible Education. This popular local program focuses on ways to use the latest cooking technology to prepare healthy meals along with basic food preparation skills.

Throughout her career she has always interwined family and consumer sciences education with community and economic development, as she believes healthy families and thriving communites go together. Her work with local community leaders to develop walking trails that encourage physical activity and promote downtown development has strengthened Meade County.

Bridge has been actively involved with the Kentucky ESP chapter since she was asked to join 25 years ago and has served as its chapter president. She conceptualized and received competitive funding for the ESP Leads Program, which is designed to develop leadership skills among Kentucky extension personnel and strengthen ESP and the entire extension system. In addition to Leads, Bridge serves as a mentor to her colleagues.

“The ESP Leads Program was designed to recognize exceptional extension professionals who are desirous of obtaining additional professional development opportunities,” said Ken Jones, director of program and staff development for UK Cooperative Extension. “Jennifer was at the table from the very beginning to share her perspective on the needs of our system and to craft the goals of this initiative. As a result of her dedication, this program is sure to have an impact in preparing Kentucky’s next generation of extension leaders.”

Bridge has received numerous awards, written numerous publications, presented at national conferences and developed statewide curriculum.

She received a bachelor’s degree from Morehead State University and a master’s degree from Western Kentucky University.

Katie Pratt writes for the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

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