Mitzi Parker enjoys a career that's tailor-made to her personality.
"I like to help people. I didn't know specifically about Extension growing up, but this job is perfect for me," said Parker, who serves as Sumter County's University of Georgia Cooperative Extension family and consumer sciences (FACS) agent.
Through UGA Extension, Parker has been helping people since November 2012, when she took over the FACS position. Her areas of focus are health and wellness, as well as financial literacy.
Parker assists people in dire financial straits by helping them maintain a manageable budget. She strives to work the housing aspect into her financial classes, too.
"That's really rewarding -- to sit and talk with someone and help them figure out how to work their money so they're better financially prepared," Parker said. "I really enjoy that. I teach a lot of financial classes, one of which is a two-hour class (required for those who file bankruptcy). It allows me to work one-on-one with clients to address their specific needs."
To connect with the community, Parker serves on several health and wellness committees, specifically with the Americus-Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and with Sumter County government employees. "I love planning and working community health and wellness eventsâ€”education is the first step to leading a healthy lifestyle," she said.
Parker attributes her impact as an Extension leader to UGA's willingness to train its leaders.
"I continue to learn all the time. One of the many things I love about working for UGA is all the training they offer to make me a better educator, a better facilitator of the programming that comes down," Parker said. "I'm constantly learning and, hopefully, making a bigger impact."
Sumter County is home to more than 32,000 residents, many of which have personally felt Parker's impact.
"This is a small community. I see everybody at Walmart. My children go to school with their children," Parker said. "I see the people and their families out in the community. I get wonderful feedback. That makes me happy."
Before arriving at UGA, Parker was part of Sumter County Family Connection, a state organization with the goal of improving the health, economic well-being and educational outcomes of Georgia's children and families. Parker worked with the program for three years. This experience helped her transition into the Extension position.
"(Family Connection) is more of a coordination, in a county, of all the different agencies that help people and provide services. My job was to coordinate everybody, create a strategic plan and get everybody working towards a common goal," Parker said. "Now, rather than being in charge of coordinating all of that, I'm actually getting to provide the services and the training."
The hands-on aspect of Extension work is what excites and inspires Parker. Instead of setting up interviews with people, Parker conducts the meetings herself and she is able to develop relationships with the people she helps. Parker knows the personal trials that certain people may be going through and is able to develop a much-needed rapport with them.
"I find it very rewarding to work with people," Parker said. "Maybe I'm kind of an intervention and can send them on the right path."
More financial capability information is available through UGA Extension publications at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Visit the UGA Extension Sumter County website for more information about local programs.
Published June 23, 2015
Mitzi Leigh Parker
Family and Consumer Sciences
"I continue to learn all the time. One of the many things I love about working for UGA is all the training they offer to make me a better educator, a better facilitator of the programming that comes down. I'm constantly learning and, hopefully, making a bigger impact."
- Mitzi Parker, Sumter County FACS Agent