Profile picture of Kellie Roecker

Kellie Roecker, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor 

“I visit classrooms, housing communities, early childhood centers, lunchrooms, and food pantries to provide nutrition education that teaches youth and adults the importance of keeping our bodies healthy from the inside out. My work has a positive effect on the entire family. Kids are excited to share what they have learned with their families and ask for healthy foods.”

Volunteer Master Naturalist at Wildlife Prairie Park

Wildlife Prairie Park (WPP) is one of the many natural resource treasures in Illinois. Their mission of conservation, education, and recreation goes hand-in-hand with the mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists (EMN) which is to provide educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards. Within the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, 25 Extension Master Naturalists invest their time and talents as members of the 380-person WPP volunteer team.

Profile picture of Chelsea Harbach

The Northwestern Illinois Agriculture Research and Demonstration Center, located outside of Monmouth, Illinois is a 320-acre University of Illinois facility. Chelsea Harbach is the new U of I Extension commercial agriculture educator who will be conducting research at this site, as well as providing education and presenting programs at a state and regional level. She is the first stop for Extension clients in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties who have questions about or need resources for crops topics.

Youth holding milk vouchers

Building generosity in young people though community service has always been a pillar of 4-H youth development. University of Illinois Extension staff led the way to take community service to the next level. Throughout 2019, 4-H clubs in  Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties combined traditional community service with experiential learning for a new focus on “service learning.” Club members and leaders worked together to plan, organize, and execute what was referred to as the 4-H 10 Gallon Challenge, in which milk or milk vouchers were donated to local food pantries.

Cheryl Russell staff photo

Cheryl Russell, Expanded Nutrition Education Program Instructor 

“I provide my homemakers with ways and ideas to improve the way they eat. I teach lessons on how to prepare healthy meals, develop healthy eating habits, and physical activities for the whole family. I like to focus on how important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Small steps pave the way.”

Man receiving food sample

For almost four years, University of Illinois Extension in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit has extended the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to reach not only Peoria but also Tazewell County to help address food insecurity and associated health issues that may arise from it. EFNEP staff teach citizens at food pantries and local organizations to help them better understand nutrition and strategies to buy healthy food on a budget.

group of people standing in front of brick building

Highly trained Master Gardeners from University of Illinois Extension serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties enhance local communities and bring horticultural awareness and knowledge to hundreds of area residents. In recognition of this impact, a team of Extension Master Gardeners, and other volunteers, at St. Jude Parish Catholic Church and School received an award from Keep Peoria Beautiful, the local affiliate of the national Keep America Beautiful organization.

teacher helping girl use a microscope

4G STEM Camp is a University of Illinois Extension camp for middle school girls designed to introduce them to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.  It is an engaging and successful camp for the participants, but its capacity is only 35 girls. Because of this limit, Extension staff incorporated a teacher track as part of the 4G STEM Camp experience in 2015, to extend STEM education to more youth. Since that time, 30 teachers have participated in the 4G STEM Camp Teacher Track.

clip of the Snapshot Hard Copy, includes Deb Balagna and Sheila Bolliger's staff photos

Deb Balagna, Fulton County Office Support

“I provide support to all our great Extension staff, volunteers, and guests. Tasks can range from simply making copies to complex accounting tasks to unusual information requests. My goal is to create a memorable welcome, a calm work environment, and meet whatever need is presented.”


Sheila Bolliger, Tazewell County Office Support

teaching a group of school teachers and administrators

There is a correlation between improving science education and keeping the United States workforce strong and competitive. University of Illinois Extension and Bradley University Center for STEM Education have been partnering for many years, in a variety of ways, to help improve the learning environment for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education throughout Central Illinois. This summer a new training opportunity called Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was provided to area educational leaders.

three teen 4-H members and two adults standing in food pantry with collection of food on counter

Members of the Mason County 4-H Federation Club teamed up with local law enforcement officers to host a food drive as a service learning project. Using the 2019 county fair as a collection site, the goals of the club were to partner with other community volunteers and to collect healthy food donations to benefit county food pantries.

lady working in her compost pile with pitch fork

Within a matter of days, the compost workshop offered by University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit filled to capacity. Composting is a “hot-topic” literally and figuratively. Duane Friend, Extension energy and environmental educator, along with Dr. Paul Walker, retired Illinois State University professor taught 35 people the practical application and the science behind composting at a workshop held in March at the Tazewell County office.

Rebecca Crumrine staff photo

Rebecca Crumrine, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Program Coordinator

“I work with partners, such as schools, food pantries, early childhood centers, and coalitions, to help affect change at a policy, systems, and environmental level so the underserved populations in our counties can sustain a better diet and physical activity routine as well as have improved access to fresh, healthy foods.”

Nicole Flowers staff photo

University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit is pleased to announce Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, of East Peoria, has joined the team as the new horticulture educator. Her new role will include a wide range of horticulture programs, educational resources, and overseeing the unit Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs.

“Attending the Master Naturalist training last year was one of my favorite educational experiences,” mentioned Nicole. “It is exciting to be working with that program in my new position.”

Kaitlyn Streitmatter writing on clipboard

Wasted food  has been a great challenge at many schools across Illinois. The mantra “It is not nutrition unless it is eaten” is espoused by many school nutrition staff trying their best to ensure students actually consume a nutritious and delicious school meal. SNAP-Education Educator Kaitlyn Streitmatter worked with Beverly Manor Junior High in Washington to research and apply ways to reduce school food waste and increase the amount of healthy foods students eat.

4-H member with black heifer

Youth in 4-H who care for and show livestock gain technical expertise and develop important soft skills that will aid them in future endeavors. Fulton County, in particular, has a large number of youth enrolled in livestock projects.

Fulton County is a big county. In square miles, it is the 8th largest county in Illinois. It also has large numbers of livestock. According to the 2019 USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Report, Fulton County is the 7th highest Illinois county in cattle numbers with 29,500 head.

Krista Gray teaching a boy to measure ingredients

Krista Gray, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education Instructor

“One aspect of my job is to teach young children about healthy foods and exercise in order to keep their bodies healthy and strong.  Early education with these young kids helps to start them on a path of making good eating choices while having fun and being active.”

two high school girls talking to a college recruiter

Students at Canton High School participated in the school’s largest career expo that the high school has ever seen. University of Illinois Extension staff worked with representatives from Canton Area Chamber of Commerce and Spoon River College to initiate the planning process that turned into a successful program in which 320 Juniors and Seniors interacted with 45 local employers.

young boy holding AWS robotic car shell

How do cars learn to drive themselves?  That is exactly what twenty-five middle school students learned as part of the fourth annual STEM Academy put on by University of Illinois Extension Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, Pearl Technology, Richwoods Township, Caterpillar, Tri-County Regional Planning, and Amazon Web Services earlier this summer. 

women touching a plant sitting in classroom

University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, Master Naturalists and Masters Gardeners have become involved in a partnership among the Illinois Department Natural Resources (IDNR), Mason State Tree Nursery, and Pollinator Partnership in an effort to enhance land across the Midwest to support our imperiled pollinators. The goal of Project Wingspan is to increase monarch and Rusty Patched Bumble Bee habitat in hopes of seeing an increase in their quickly declining populations.

three 4-H staff members in group photo

Katharine Girone, Tazewell 4-H Program Coordinator

“I collaborate with a group of dedicated 4-H volunteers and partners to inspire youth to develop their fullest potential through positive youth development opportunities in Tazewell County. This role gives me the chance to give back to the organization that shaped me into the individual I am today.”

garden with quilt art

Sonja Wright, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties, created a sensory garden in her hometown of Bryant, IL. Through her professional career as a speech pathologist, Sonja understands the value of using all five senses as a means of skills recovery.  As an active member of the community, and as a village trustee, she is aware several community members live with various types of physical and learning disabilities and the sensory garden is of special value to them and their families.

boys working on engineering project

According to the US Department of Education, “...not enough of our youth have access to quality STEM learning opportunities,”  and “The United States is falling behind internationally, ranking ... 22nd in science among industrialized nations.” 4-H  is helping to address this gap. This spring, several fourth and fifth-grade classes piloted a new University of Illinois Extension 4-H program: Engineering Adventures!

preschoolers dancing with their teachers

Kaitlyn Streitmatter and Kayla Swaar, University of Illinois Extension SNAP-Education (SNAP-Ed) Educators from Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit and Logan-Menard-Sangamon Unit respectively, presented at the 2019 National Child Nutrition Conference held in Chicago, IL.  With around 1,600 people in attendance, this conference is an opportunity to bring child nutrition professionals together to learn, network, and gain a better understanding of how best to foster a healthy environment for our children.

lady standing with camera resting in her arm

Anita Wilkinson, Communications Program Coordinator

“Through words and images, I share the stories of our volunteers, members, staff,  partnerships, and programs. The stories I “tell” are created with the goal of inviting everyone to get involved, learn something new, and understand the impact Extension programs make in the lives and communities in our four counties.”

empty grocery store with closed sign

When two more grocery stores closed in 2018 in Southside and East Bluff Peoria neighborhoods, University of Illinois Extension staff joined the team of policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, and activists working to eliminate disparities in equitable access to healthy food. The process to fill the gap in access to healthy food in the City of Peoria is a challenge that is multi-faceted but began with conducting a grocery store survey.

two girls wearing lab coats and safety goggles

For the third year in a row, University of Illinois Extension Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, the Society of Women Engineers–Central Illinois, and Bradley University partnered together to offer STEM Bootcamp to high school age girls. STEM Bootcamp is designed to create a learning opportunity focused on teamwork, solving a problem, and mentorship by female engineers and scientists.

Dr. Shelly Nickols-Richardson shaking hands with a 4-H teen

The work being done through University of Illinois Extension programs and partnerships in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties is recognized for its positive impact at many levels through the University system. College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) dean, Kimberly Kidwell, recently returned for her second unit tour, along with the new Extension director and associate dean, Shelly Nickols-Richardson. The duo spent the day learning about a few of our programs, engaging with unit staff, and networking with volunteers, 4-H members, and partners.

two ladies holding up a marketing photo frame

Joli Pierson, Mason 4-H Program Coordinator

“I am a facilitator for the Illinois 4-H program in Mason County. I invite youth to be a part of a program that offers the elements of Belonging, Independence, Generosity, and Mastery. I strive to develop our local  4-H volunteer leadership structure, where youth can benefit from the  knowledge, experience, skills, and good examples of citizenship that volunteers have to offer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in Peoria County has more than doubled since the year 2000. In that same time period University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit has hired four Spanish bilingual staff to serve that population better. Three of those four staff are Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) instructors who use their language skills and cultural understanding to bring cooking classes and nutritional education to youth and adults. 

group of people holding plaques

The Tazewell County Health Department recently honored Kaitlyn Streitmatter, University of Illinois Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program— Education (SNAP-Ed) educator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties, at the 2019 awards banquet. Kaitlyn was one of five members of the Tazewell County community honored with the Margaret Burt Public Health Partnership Award.

young 4-H girl giving a talk

Within a 4-H club, youth annually give talks and demonstrations to their peers as part of their club involvement. Through these experiences, members gain confidence in their public speaking skills.

Ian Goslin standing a podium talking to a group

Ian Goslin, Horticulture Program Coordinator

 “I coordinate the delivery of high- quality horticultural education and volunteer action that are rooted in research-based knowledge and a commitment to inclusion and care. This empowers individuals and groups to build enriching, healthful, and environmentally sound communities that bring joy and growth to the residents of our four counties.”

high school girl presenting to crowd

Teacher Tuesdays programming continues to work towards building on the priority of supporting science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education by improving connectedness among organizations and individuals.

three teenage girls

The 4-H youth development program prides itself on helping young people grow into outstanding leaders. A statewide study conducted in 2016 showed that participation in any 4-H leadership opportunity leads to a significant increase in leadership skills, including: getting along with others, understanding yourself, working with groups, communication and management skills. Moreover, the more leadership opportunities youth are engaged in, the more their leadership skills increase.

group of Master Naturalists standing in front of display

Fulton-Mason Eagle Day is a popular annual community event organized by the Emiquon Partnership attracting well over 1,000 visitors this year. University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist volunteers assist in a variety of ways each year to help educate youth and adult visitors and inspire them to connect with nature. At the 2019 event, seven Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit Master Naturalists played important roles in the success of this event which has venues on both sides of the river.

three 4-H staff members in group photo

Cathy Ludolph

Peoria County 4-H Program Coordinator

“I plan and coordinate positive youth development programs and activities for youth in Peoria County. I work with an awesome group of 4-H volunteers to implement the programs that provide youth the opportunity to develop leadership, citizenship and mastery of life skills.”

Cathy has been the Peoria County 4-H Program Coordinator since 2000. She began her Illinois Extension career in 1995.

women serving fresh vegetables in food pantry line

Having easy access to healthy foods is not always an option for some residents in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. Staff and volunteers at University of Illinois Extension are working together to provide healthy foods and education about preparing those foods to people in areas considered food insecure.

five Master Gardeners in winter coats holding shovels

The 156 University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (MGs) who live in communities across the four counties of our unit are not waiting for the warm weather to arrive to begin their gardening activity. Planning meetings, new project proposals, educational opportunities, and special events are some of the activities our volunteers have been doing throughout the winter months.

kids doing karate with teacher standing in background

For the past 12 years, youth participating in the 4-H Shotokan Karate Special Interest (SPIN) Club have gained self-esteem, self-defense skills, fitness and health benefits, confidence, and mental focus. The Peoria County based club has attracted new youth to the 4-H program as well as provided leadership development and longevity in the program for teens.

Christine Belless in action

Christine Belless

Ag & Natural Resources Program Coordinator

 “I coordinate logistics and volunteers for commercial agriculture and natural resource programs. I work closely with our team of 90 Master Naturalists as they deliver educational programs, complete continuing education, and work with our partners on projects such as restoration of natural areas and environmental stewardship events.

inside of small grocery store

There are tremendous opportunities in small town’s historic downtowns. This past fall University of Illinois Extension partnered with a Bradley University marketing class to implement a market analysis that will help Delavan, IL identify business opportunities in their community.

girls using virtual reality goggles

We need as many people as possible using their skills and ideas to improve the world in which we live. Girls are being introduced and encouraged to consider careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) including computer sciences by University of Illinois Extension’s 4-H programs in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, & Tazewell counties.

man helping student use microscopes

Since 2014, University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists serving in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties have collaborated with several partners for a special event called Science Adventure Day. Over a two-day period in September, all Canton District 66 fourth graders experience six separate hands-on sessions and the natural beauty at Lakeland Park.