Dan Fernandez, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension county director in Dolores County, was recognized with the State Visionary Leadership Recognition Award at the organization’s annual awards luncheon on Oct. 16.
The award is given each year by the Cooperative Extension professional fraternity, Epsilon Sigma Phi, to recognize a Cooperative Extension professional in the state who exhibits creative solutions and leadership.
"Dan consistently is a creative employee who ‘thinks outside of the box’ to develop programs and find funding that truly addresses the needs of the people he serves," said Milan Rewerts, Colorado State Cooperative Extension director. "As the only Cooperative Extension agent in Dolores County, when the standard is about three to four per county office, Dan accomplishes remarkable feats."
For example, in the early 1990s, Fernandez started a television network through the community Public Access Cable Channel – which was inactive – with a live evening news program written, reported and anchored by local elementary-aged students who were in Cooperative Extension 4-H clubs. The station is managed and operated by Frenandez and Cooperative Extension.
The station reaches a potential audience of 5,000 people in a 30-mile radius in a poor and remote part of the state with limited resources including Dolores County, western San Miguel County, northern Montezuma County and southeastern Utah. The station’s youth component provides 4-H’ers and local school students with an opportunity to develop teamwork skills, verbal and written communication skills, poise and understanding of high-tech equipment.
In seven years, the television station, which began modestly with a portable table in a spare room in a county office, has grown to a broad base of funding of more than $250,000, a 100-foot tower with a broadcast range of 30 miles, one local UHF channel (DCTV), local weather broadcast, two UHF satellite refeed channels, two satellite radio refeeds, one cable channel feed, one vocational technology educational refeed from Cortez, a fully equipped and state-of-the-art television studio and control room, and remote live transmission equipment with live broadcast capabilities of up to five miles. In addition, the station employees two part-time adults and two part-time students.
To build the station to its current state, Fernandez engaged multiple community partners including the Colorado Region 9 Economic Development District, Western Dolores County Economic Development Council, the Dove Creek Chamber of Commerce, the Community Bank of Dove Creek, the Town of Dove Creek, the Dolores County Commissioners, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension campus and regional staff, Dove Creek Soil Conservation District, the Colorado 4-H Youth Fund, Colorado Council on the Arts, AT&T Cable of Durango, the U.S. Forest Service, Southwest Colorado Television Translator Association, Colorado Advanced Technology Institute, Colorado Trust After School Program and the San Juan Resource Conservation and Development Service.
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension brings the resources of the university to you. As part of a nation-wide system, we call upon the latest research to help Coloradoans learn more about gardening and commercial horticulture, healthy eating, personal finances, community resources, agricultural technology, food safety, dealing with changes in their community, family relationships and managing small acreages and natural resources. Our youth development program annually reaches more than 115,000 children in Colorado. Our 57 county offices, serving 59 Colorado counties, help people use university expertise on the job, at home and in their community.