Phyllis Lewis reaches people the Internet doesn't. By using radio and newspapers, the Nutrition and Food Safety Initiative team member for the University of Wyoming's Cooperative Extension in Washakie County connects with people who don't always have access to the Internet or TV.
"Ranchers have told me they have been out in their tractor, plowing their fields, and have listened to the program," Lewis says. "Homemakers have called the extension office or the radio station to request more information on a topic that was addressed. Even a local dentist called to get more information on a topic that was aired while he had a patient in a chair, as well as a local doctor who wanted more information for his files. "Visibility in the community is an essential part of being a successful extension educator," Lewis adds. "If they don't know who you are or what you do, why would they call you?"
Her twice-weekly broadcasts on radio station KTHE in Thermopolis helped Lewis win first place in the National Communications in Radio category from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Lewis covers a wide range of topics, focusing her broadcasts on nutrition and food safety topics, 4-H and agriculture programs in Washakie and Hot Springs counties, as well as promoting the Northwest Area's (Park, Big Horn, Washakie, Hot Springs, Fremont Counties and the Wind River Indian Reservation) 4-H, Community Development, and agriculture programs. She also writes a weekly column appearing in newspapers in Thermopolis and Worland, and with the help of other extension educators and school personnel, educates elementary and junior high classes in that part of the state on nutrition and food safety.
Lewis has been an extension educator for more than 15 years. When she took the job, speaking on the radio was new to her, but despite some early jitters, she persevered and soon started writing her column. Between the two media, she says she reaches more than 12,000 listeners and readers every week. While she lives and works in Worland, she makes the 72-mile round trip to Thermopolis to record a handful of the broadcasts at a time.
"They're between four and five minutes each," she says. "Some topics take a little bit longer than others to develop, so when I'm doing one broadcast, I'll tease the next one. Or the next time I'll remind them of what I talked about before. It just flows.
I'm very proud of what I've been able to air over KTHE since I started. I think it's a great way to reach out and let people know what's going on and keep a UW presence in Hot Springs and Washakie counties."