Korinne Caniglia | Special to The Gazette
Joanna Rini is all about raising healthy families in Medina County. The new family and consumer sciences educator looks forward to guiding people through different life stages, from young adults making college choices to seniors planning nutritious meals.
Rini, 26, recently joined Ohio State University Extension, Medina County, to help families focus on health and wellness issues, including nutrition, finances and relationships, and build stronger communities.
County Extension educators help link families to university research through workshops, one-on-one conversations and print and online resources to develop new skills and improve their lives. Experts provide information on these topics: agriculture and natural resources, community development, family and consumer sciences and 4-H youth development. Families might learn how to plant a garden, explore careers, eat healthy or save for retirement.
Rini will lead educational workshops and provide information based on the county’s needs. An advisory committee, made up of 16 professionals representing local agencies and different geographical areas, also will help guide programming.
For instance, Rini will introduce a new program, “Dining with Diabetes,” which is a series of three classes will combine cooking demonstrations and diabetes education for seniors. About 20 percent of adults age 65 and older live with Type 2 diabetes in the county, Rini said. They will learn techniques from menu planning to portion control to help manage the disease.
Weekly nutrition programs at multiple sites throughout the county continue to assist families making healthy, low-cost meals. Families learn how to stretch dollars and use food assistance benefits to make nutritious choices. Topics feature food safety, physical activity, label reading, and the Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate nutrition guidelines. Future programs focused on obesity prevention also are slated to reach more youth.
“Joanna has a nice vision of what we can do in the future to serve the residents in the county,” said Bill Harris, the county Extension director. “She is a very forward-thinking professional, an energetic person and very approachable.”
Rini, who moved to Medina from University Heights, brings experience in family wellness and career planning to her job. She fills a vacancy created through recent retirements.
Rini earned a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from Ohio University and a master’s degree in leadership in higher education from Baldwin Wallace University. She previously worked in college planning.
“She will bring a fresh face and enthusiasm,” said Nick Solar, chairman of the family and consumer sciences advisory committee. He also is the community policing coordinator and public information officer of Brunswick.
“She has hit the ground running,” he said. “I told her to make the job her own. She is trying to absorb all she can about Medina County.”
Rini will contribute her expertise at the county’s college fair in the fall.
“College admission is a transition for students and parents,” she said. “I hope to share information on the process and finding the top college. I want to help youth find their match. It’s important they know their options.”
Financial planning also will engage middle-school students through next month. Annual “Real Money Real World” workshops urge more than 1,700 eighth-graders at seven schools to practice money-management skills.
The students develop personal budgets after receiving fictitious occupations with salaries, family units and educational levels. They track income and expenses, save money and pay bills to set and meet financial goals. The lifelike exercise also allows students to experience unexpected, financial pitfalls or windfalls. Extension and school volunteers work with the students to balance wants and needs.
“Their eyes are really opened to what it means to be a responsible, young adult,” Rini said.
A new, online class on the parenting of teens also will kick off this fall. Parents will receive certificates after completing coursework that explores parent-child challenges, including responsibility, curfews, household chores and homework.
“It’s a nice option for people,” Rini said. “It’s accessible and a good program. You can complete it at your own pace.”
The focus on building successful families effectively combines Rini’s personal and career interests.
“It’s a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I like working with people and being involved in education and in the community. I feel excited to be here and am optimistic about what we can bring to families, the knowledge and research that comes from Ohio State University Extension in Columbus and from the team in Medina County.”