Skip to main content

SDSU Extension experts receive national awards for mental health, early childhood programming

Professional headshot
Audrey Rider

BROOKINGS, S.D. – South Dakota State University Extension experts recently received two national team awards for their mental health and early childhood programming. 

SDSU Extension’s Mental Health First Aid team received a regional Excellence in Extension Team Award, and SDSU Extension Early Childhood Field Specialist Audrey Rider is on the team that won a regional and national Excellence in Multi-State Collaboration Award from the National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences. 

The awards were presented at the annual National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences conference in September in Providence, Rhode Island. 

For the Excellence in Multi-State Collaboration Award, Rider and other Extension professionals created the Fit and Healthy Kids online training series. As the only Early Childhood Field Specialist for SDSU Extension, Rider works closely with the other states to share resources. 

Fit and Health Kids launched in 2021 and is a collaborative effort by Extension experts from six states. The web-based training platform allows educators and care providers easy access to early childhood experts from across the country. 

“It is a great feeling to be recognized at the national level for an award, and it helps everyone see what we are doing to support early learning,” Rider said.

Professional headshot of Lorna Saboe-WoundedHead
Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head

The Mental Health First Aid team comprises Rider; Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head, SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Field Specialist; Heather Gessner, SDSU Extension Livestock Business Management Field Specialist; Peggy Schlechter, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist; Andrea Bjornestad, associate professor and SDSU Extension Mental Health Specialist; Samantha DeVaney, SDSU Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Program Manager; Jane Amiotte, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor – Pennington County; Michelle May, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor – Butte/Lawrence counties; Kaycee Jones, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor – Haakon/Jackson counties; and Jennifer Ringkob, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor – Marshall/Day counties. 

“It’s an honor to help my team realize their value and the importance of our work together. Through the collaboration of the multi-disciplinary team, we really have made a large impact for the state by supporting individuals who are dealing with mental health challenges,” said Saboe-Wounded Head, who submitted the award on the team’s behalf.

Mental Health First Aid teaches individuals how to recognize the signs and symptoms of someone having a mental health challenge, such as depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide. There are separate training paths for adults, teenagers and youth. 

There are SDSU Extension experts from each program area, or capstone, which Saboe-Wounded Head said highlights how mental health touches every area of society and people of all ages. She said Mental Health First Aid training does not train people to diagnose a mental health condition, but teaches them how to guide friends, colleagues, coworkers, employees and students to the right resources.

“In South Dakota, we don’t have mental health professionals easily accessible throughout the state,” Saboe-Wounded Head said. “When your neighbor or family members know what to look for, you’re more likely to get people the appropriate help they need.”
For more information on Mental Health First Aid, contact Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head, SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Field Specialist. For more information on Fit and Healthy Kids, contact Audrey Rider, SDSU Extension Early Childhood Field Specialist.