Today we're talking to the new Youth and Family Extension Educator through the UW Extension in Washburn County, Danette Hopke, at our favorite coffeehouse The Dock Coffee in Spooner, WI.

First of all, what kind of coffee are you drinking this morning?

"I like the dark roast, and I take it black." 

Great way to start a busy day! Now a few questions. 

How did you decide to begin your career in the area of Nursing?

I believe my interest in healthcare is a result of my exposure to the field as a young child.  My Dad was a Physician's Assistant, and during his years in private practice I would spend time in his clinic, traveling to hospitals and nursing homes to visit his patients and even into their homes, it was not unusual for him to do home visits and provide in-home care. 

According to your widely circulated press release, you have an extensive educational background that you are bringing to this new full-time position. How are you able to use this training in your new job to accomplish your goals?

When I was working on my master's degree, I had multiple professors tell me how valuable the combination of my skill sets would be in my future.  I remember thinking that made a lot of sense but over the course of time their wisdom has proven true over and over again.  My knowledge and experience as a holistically trained healthcare provider in addition to my education and passion related to overall well-being and empowerment through education will support ALL of the various paths that my work in extension may lead me down.  My focus has yet to be refined in regards to my work with Extension but it will be responsive to the needs identified in the county and may fall into any of the following categories:  health promotion, food & nutrition, parenting, aging, and financial capability. 

Your press release also mentions empowering individuals to realize their full potential, spiritually, professionally and personally. What does that mean?

Personally, I believe in supporting individuals to realize and achieve their greatest potential in each of these areas.  I see education as a means to not just gaining knowledge but also an opportunity for self-reflection, growth, and change. When individuals can take ownership of their lives, by being valued, treated with respect, and given the necessary tools, they can then do the work themselves.  This ownership, of our life’s work, fuels dignity which then drives empowerment and the positive spiral of fulfillment can begin. I believe empowerment and ownership in all three areas are pivotal for overall well-being – and that the work really never ends. I believe everyone is deserving of these opportunities regardless of where they are or where they have been.  I also believe there is always hope.  Through my work with UW-Extension, I intend to not just educate but to empower.

You're married to a local guy, Pete Hopke who, as a member of the National Guard has been deployed three times, once to Oklahoma and twice to the middle east, each time the deployment lasting a full year. How did you and your family of four kids deal with this?

First off would be faith – without prayer, our own and others, and the grace of God the outcome of those experiences could have been much different.  We also have a very supportive family and special friends that made those tough days manageable in many ways.  I think our sense of pride and patriotism as a family and a long history of military service in our families also just gave us a sense of this is just part of what we are called to do. As a family, we worked hard to support each other through it, although trust me there were some pretty ugly moments.  I also reminded myself often that while I was overwhelmed with managing four kids, a hobby farm, and work I was surrounded by all those familiar things and that every day Pete was missing all of those things, that helped to ground me.    

When you get settled into your position as the Youth and Families Extension Educator, where will we expect to see you and what will you be doing? 

Beginning this month, I will be out in the county connecting with past partners and working to build new partnerships for our Extension work.  In addition, we will be working on identifying needs assessment data and developing tools for identifying needs as well.  All of this work will lead to my collaboration with partners to again develop and deliver training, workshops, and materials related to the categories I mentioned earlier.  My goal is to be a flexible and accessible resource within this county through the programming and research available to us (UW-Extension) through our direct relationship with UW-Madison. 

How do you want to affect the county? 

My goal is that UW-Extension and all of the resources at our fingertips are seen a vibrant, valuable, and invested partner in the work going on within Washburn County to address the needs of its citizens.  Also, I intend to be an avid and on-going learner that has a focus on the identified needs of this region and can bring the work going on in the southern part of the state to our area.  Finally, I will work to be an advocate for the unique needs of this region as well as an on-going proponent of the benefit of living, working, and raising a family in this area.  Living in this area is not without its challenges, but there really are great people and great things happening here that we can all be proud of. 

Would you like to do a Dock Talk with us?  Let us know! or message us on Facebook.

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