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EDUCATOR SPOTLIGHT: Tari Lee


Name:  Tari Lee, Craig County Extension Educator FCS/4-H & Youth Development/CED

Start Date: November 11, 2001, making this week my 12 year anniversary!

Program Highlight:  I am especially proud of a group collaboration this summer entitled “Learn to Grow”.  FCS and Ag educators from Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Nowata, and Ottawa Counties teamed up with Cherokee Nation and DHS to provide a garden in the yards of all interested child care providers and centers in our five counties.  

68 Child Care Homes and 11 Relative Child Care Providers participated.  90 raised bed gardens were delivered and served approximately 2,902 children!  The average family size in child care facilities is 3.5 which allowed the “Learn to Grow” project to potentially impact 10,157 children and families!  In addition, they received lettuce, radish, and spinach seeds along with 1 slicing tomato plant, 1 cherry tomato plant, 2 cucumber plants, and 2 squash plants.  They also received the soil for the bed, a plastic mineral tub for more space, a tomato cage, hand shovel, dramatic play garden set, traditional foods book, and Ag in the Classroom booklets about fruits and vegetables.   

We wanted to teach children and their families about gardening.  We hoped to increase healthy eating habits for better nutrition, better health, and physical activity.  We gave the children hands on experiences by letting them harvest crops and prepare recipes using the fresh grown vegetables from their own garden.  A goal was to decrease the amount of cancer, asthma, and diabetes facing our youth!   

Cherokee Nation provided most of the money needed for the project and we are now in the process of documenting the success of the gardens by printing a 40+ page book highlighting the children’s experiences.  Our plans are to send a copy to First Lady, Michelle Obama as it fits in with her “Let’s Move” garden initiative!

Why I chose to work for Extension: I have a degree from Oklahoma State University in Home Economics, with an emphasis in Fashion Merchandising.  I pursued this degree because of my love for retail and clothing. 

Having three daughters, my mother owned and operated a women’s clothing store in Vinita for several years before turning it into a bridal shop.  Girls came from all of the area towns, including Tulsa to get their prom and wedding dresses there.  My mother made it special for everyone by making sure that no two “alike” dresses would ever end up at the same prom!  She had a book with 8X10 pictures of the dresses in it…below each picture was a list of which school that dress would be appearing at!  If it was a moderately priced dress, it could go to the same school, but never in the same color!  More expensive dresses simply could not go to the same school at all! 

 I always loved working in retail and especially enjoyed going to the Apparel Market in Dallas a couple of times each year to help choose what would be sold in our store!  Loving to draw, I always wanted to get into designing or at the very least, work at the apparel mart for a designer.  As it turned out, I was a home town girl that was only willing to drive back and forth to Tulsa to work every day, but didn’t want to move to Dallas! 

One summer during my college years, I got a job at the Craig County OSU Extension Office in Vinita.  Joyce Martin was the FCS Educator at that time.  I had a great time helping Joyce that summer.  Two of the more memorable tasks she gave me were to put on a “charm school” for young girls in the community and to handle the details of the “Fairest of the Fair” pageant at the Craig County Fair.  Both events were well attended and I learned a lot about what it takes to put on an event. I knew then, that I might be interested in becoming an Extension Educator if the opportunity ever presented itself. 

What am I passionate about in my work? I have always been passionate about helping others.  Before working for extension, I was a social worker for 13 years.  There is a similarity in being an Extension educator because we have a unique opportunity in our position to make a difference in people’s lives as well as improving their living conditions.  I especially love working with Oklahoma Home and Community Education members.  I respect them and their commitment to their families, neighbors, and communities.  They are an amazing group of people and I think their creed says it all!  I enjoy preparing Leader Lessons for them because I always walk away learning from them as well. Their life experiences are priceless.  I am especially passionate about the topic of family heritage because it is so important to future generations.