URBANA, Ill. – From helping small farmers provide locally grown foods to guiding youth into fulfilling career paths, new University of Illinois Extension and Illinois 4-H staff are dedicated to meeting the needs of communities around the state.

Extension educators and specialists connect every county in Illinois with university research through in-person and distance-learning programming and other educational outreach.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Extension staff have provided businesses, families and agricultural producers with practical tools and resources they need to solve problems.

Illinois Extension and 4-H recently hired four new educators and specialists to continue supporting Illinois residents.

Amy Henschen, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, Evaluation and Staff Development

Previously 4-H youth development educator serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties, Amy Henschen joined the state Illinois 4-H team Sept. 1 as an evaluation and staff development specialist.

Henschen has a bachelor's degree in communication and spanish from the University of Dayton and a master's degree in agricultural Extension education from Colorado State University. She has experience with program management, outreach, volunteer development, youth robotics, and new audience development. She is a certified facilitator for the eXtension Impact Collaborative and a Click2Science professional development trainer.

A Lake County 4-H member growing up, Henschen spent time working in marketing and public relations before joining the Peace Corps program to do community development in Paraguay and speaks Spanish. Prior to first joining Illinois Extension in 2019, Henschen worked with Colorado 4-H serving as the STEM work team co-chair and in other roles to facilitate team building, program evaluation and capacity building for other youth professionals and volunteers.

Henschen will be based in Champaign and she can be reached at amylh@illinois.edu.

Sarah Farley, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Sarah Farley joined Extension as a local food systems and small farms educator in Northern Illinois on Aug. 17.

Based in Grayslake and serving Lake and McHenry counties, Farley will work to develop and deliver research-based programs to local growers, collaborate with community partners, and extend university resources to meet the needs of those involved in small farm enterprises.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Farley earned a bachelor's degree in animal sciences, agribusiness management at Penn State University and a master's degree in agriculture and life sciences from Virginia Tech.

Farley comes to the Illinois Extension with a professional background that includes livestock and crop production, sales and marketing, agriculture entrepreneurship, risk management, positive youth development, and farm financial management. Farley can be reached by email at sfarley@illinois.edu.

Mary Fischer, Horticulture Educator

Mary Fischer joined Illinois Extension Aug. 19 as a horticulture educator serving Clay, Effingham, Fayette and Jasper counties. Her educational efforts focus on working with the 4-H Junior Master Gardener, Master Gardener, Master Naturalist volunteer programs. Fischer aims to increase backyard and community food production and volunteering.

Fischer obtained her Masters and PhD in Agricultural Sciences through Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She is a Certificated FAA Remote Pilot.

Fischer’s home office is in Effingham and she can be reached by email at marymf@illinois.edu.

Cindy Ogwal, 4-H Youth Development Specialist, College and Career Readiness

Illinois 4-H welcomed Cindy Ogwal to the team as college and career specialist on Aug. 17. Ogwal has a bachelor's degree in health studies from Eastern Illinois University and a master's degree in human resource development for higher education and industry from Indiana State University.

Born and raised in uptown Chicago, Ogwal is first-generation Nigerian-Ghanaian. Ogwal comes to Extension from the University of Illinois Office of Minority Affairs and previously worked with 4-H's Teen Teacher program in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. She has experience with career services, community college partnerships, after-school youth programming, and closing achievement gaps in education.

Ogwal will be based in Champaign and can be reached at cowusu@illinois.edu.

WRITEREmily Steele, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.