Texas Sea Grant’s Cummins named ‘Woman of the Year’

February 19, 2015

By Cindie Powell

PORT LAVACA, Texas — Rhonda Cummins, Texas Sea Grant’s Coastal and Marine Resources Agent for Calhoun County, has been named “Woman of the Year” by the Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce.

Cummins earned the award, which is open to nominations from anyone in Calhoun County, for her professional and personal dedication to the community, especially in her activities that focus on education and marine issues.

“I don’t really like being in the spotlight, but it is very meaningful to be appreciated by the people you serve,” Cummins said. “Someone nominated me because they see value in what I give to the community and they recognize that it is more than just a job to me. That’s a powerful sentiment, and I am truly honored by their support.”

She conducts educational programs for all ages — K-12 classroom programs on marine life, boat-building projects that incorporate hands-on math and science instruction for seventh graders at the local Catholic school and, for adults, a regular “Cooking with Seafood” demonstration series that focuses on safe handling and preparation coupled with experts who discuss marine science. Cummins also offers programs on recreational fishing for youngsters and kayak instruction for adults and youths.

Her ongoing wetland restoration project for Little Chocolate Bayou engages students, Texas Master Naturalists and other volunteers to transform a five-acre natural area that was damaged by vehicle traffic into one with value and purpose. The project includes protecting current native vegetation so it can spread, transplanting native species in areas most degraded by traffic and erosion, and developing an educational component to teach park visitors about the importance of the area.

Cummins organizes and coordinates two Adopt-A-Beach cleanups with the Texas General Land Office each year on a six-mile stretch of Magnolia Beach; manages the collection of fishing line in Calhoun County for the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program, which removes significant amounts of the nylon line from the environment; and operates a low-power radio station, K-YAK 1610 AM, that broadcasts information about points of interest, natural history and recreational opportunities in the Lavaca Bay/Matagorda Bay estuarine and marine environment.

She was a member of a team of Texas Sea Grant agents and specialists who provided training and helped commercial shrimp fishermen qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group won the 2012 Superior Service Award in the team category from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for their efforts. Cummins also represents Calhoun County as a member of the Board of Directors of the Texas Chapter of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, and is the newly elected vice president of the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Bay Foundation.

“For more than six years, Rhonda has been providing educational programming and support to marine businesses in Calhoun County, and it is great to see that she has developed such a strong relationship with the communities,” said Josh Gunn, Texas Sea Grant’s Extension Program Leader. “It is always reaffirming to know that the communities you live and work in appreciate your assistance, and I am very pleased that Rhonda has been recognized by the Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce for all of her hard work.”

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.