Serving Savannah

by ChaNae Bradley

Posted on Apr 20, 2022

Fort Valley State University 2013 family and consumer sciences (FCS) infant and child development alumna, Leslie Weaver Thomas, on her property in Chatham County, Georgia.

Fort Valley State University 2013 family and consumer sciences (FCS) infant and child development alumna, Leslie Weaver Thomas, on her property in Chatham County, Georgia.

Family and consumer sciences (FCS) alumna improves the lives of residents in her hometown through Extension. 

Leslie Weaver Thomas, a Fort Valley State University 2013 family and consumer sciences (FCS) infant and child development alumna, serves as the University of Georgia’s (UGA) FCS Extension agent/Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) agent Chatham County. The Savannah, Georgia, native shares how the field of family and consumer sciences helped her to become a major resource in her community while rewarding her with a fulfilling career.

Why did you choose to study FCS at FVSU?

“I switched my major from early childhood and special education to infant and child development because I did not want to be stuck in the classroom forever. I wanted to be involved with the whole family. Family and consumer sciences is very diverse. I’m helping people with nutrition, cognitive development with infants and children, and also some forms of life skills and outreach. I felt like family and consumer sciences is extremely broad. From food safety to nutrition, the whole gamut. It’s working with the whole person.”

What did you like most about your major?           

“My professors were real people and they were working in the field. As a student I saw how this was going to work. One of my professors owned a day care center. Another was a state licensed child care provider who went out and trained child care providers for accreditation. One of my professors worked in textiles and helped the local police department make their uniforms and she was in Extension. It was cool to see that these people really did these things for a living. This is not a made up major. Other agencies depended on them to make their projects, grants and programs work. They were a major resource.”

How did FVSU prepare you for a career in FCS?

“FVSU prepared me tremendously. It gave me hands-on experiences and realistic experiences. It exposed me nationally to the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) and the Georgia Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (GAFCS). My professors shared their personal experiences, career paths and how they became home economists.”

What roles has it allowed you to pursue?

“It’s allowed me to pursue collaborations with different agencies in my role at UGA. It’s allowed me to be aware of 1862 and 1890 Extension programming. It’s allowed me to learn how to be a supervisor working with my staff and their family dynamics. It’s also taught me how to work with underserved populations and to nurture their needs and most importantly meet people where they are.”

Talk about some of your previous jobs, and what you are doing now?

“Before I worked at UGA Extension as a county agent, I worked at FVSU in Extension as a 4-H program coordinator. I had a chance to work with underserved and underrepresented youth clientele. I was able to cultivate programming, meeting clients where they are and being current. Extension at FVSU taught me professionalism, how to find resources and how to create resources.”

What would you say to an aspiring FVSU student who is interested in FCS?

“Don’t doubt yourself. You can make it work for you. You can own a day care or maybe become a nutritionist or an Extension agent. This field gives you the ability to create your own experiences. Do it afraid.”

Provide an example of how you give back to your community?

“In 2021, I created a program called Congregations Worshiping through COVID-19. I had a chance to work with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches in the Savannah and Chatham County area. I started here and it spread to AME churches across the state, allowing me to work with nearly 300 churches. I created templates and toolkits for how to get back to worship services safely. I provided signage, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for seating and resources for newsletters. This was so cool to me because the AME church taught me etiquette. To go back as a product of the AME Church and help them during the pandemic serving as a resource through UGA Extension was huge for me. All that matters to me. Also helping give back through C.J.’s Produce, an urban farm that I operate with my husband. It’s very rewarding.” 

What are your future plans?

“I want to continue to work with Extension and outreach. In the future, I want to advance in my Extension role. I also hope my husband and I can continue to grow our agribusiness and become a pillar in the Savannah and Chatham County area by sharing gardening and farming with urban communities. Also, I would love to come back to Fort Valley State and teach a class in family and consumer sciences.”

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