Varonica Kennedy is Miller County's new family and consumer sciences extension agent. "Family and consumer sciences agent means I am charged with teaching nutrition and health. Healthy eating, getting moving and teaching about everything from diabetes to financial literacy. Those are some of the big, key pieces I deal with," she said.
In her new role, she also offers information and training about personal and family wellness, two topics that have taken on a higher level of importance in the last 18 months.
Research shows that people with underlying health issues could be more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
So, Varonica's aim is to provide the best information so others can experience their optimum health.
This also includes proactively changing one's diet and and exercising, which can also ward off diabetes.
"One key element in improving health is just being active, 30 minutes a day to elevate your heart rate is good, whether it be with walking, weight lifting or elliptical. It can help so much with your health," she said.
For those beginning an exercise routine, she suggests 30 minutes of walking each day.
At this point, Varonica is still offering face-to-face and virtual training sessions but she will be following the recommendations from the state's extension agency if any changes in training delivery methods are announced.
Varonica is taking on the role formerly held by Carla Due, a longtime Miller County extension agent who left in February to become the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service's Ouachita District director, overseeing extension offices in 25 of the state's 75 counties, including Miller County and the Southwest Arkansas region.
Varonica says teaching comes naturally to her. She was in the education field for 12 years before joining the Miller County extension office and stepping in the role.
"I started out teaching in El Dorado," she said. Ultimately, she moved back to this area where she served as counselor at Theron Jones Early Literacy Center in Texarkana, Texas, and also at Hope High School.
She said thanks to her education background, the adjustment in her new role has not been hard for her.
"It is finding what works best for me to serve the community and the county. The adjustment has been very well," she said. "As a counselor, I consider myself to be the key resource to my teachers, my students and my parents and provide the information needed."
Though she most recently served as a counselor, Varonica said teaching was her first love and getting back into that groove is a welcome change.
Varonica attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello where she earned a bachelors's degree in education. At Southern Arkansas University, she earned a masters degree in education with a school counseling focus.
Education as a career runs deep in her family as her maternal grandmother taught for 38 years and two aunts and an uncle were educators on her mother's side of the family. Aunts and cousins on her father's side are also educators.
Her father, Walter Kennedy, worked at Red River Army Depot. He was an Army major and exuded leadership. He attended Henderson State University and was a founding member of the the school's Omega Psi Phi fraternity chapter.
Her mother, Khrystian Kennedy, was a stay-at home mother who volunteered in her children's schools, providing leadership in both ways.
"My mother took leadership roles in the home and made sure we had everything we needed," she said. "Leadership was instilled in me. My parents were natural-born leaders," she said.
"In the classroom you have to lead, take what information you are given and know how to deliver it and be able to receive and use it the way it is intended to be used," she said.
Varonica, a Liberty-Eylau Independent School District alum, has three brothers who all live in the Texarkana area.
She also has a passion for arts and crafts and is a member of the Texarkana Junior League.
(For more information, call 870-779-3609 ext. 104 or email [email protected])