Extension in partnership with AmeriCorps VISTA to impact Nebraskans | Nebraska today


New faces are joining the ranks of Nebraska Extension, and they have a very specific goal – to increase capacity and access to extension programs, particularly in disaster resilience and poverty alleviation.

In 2021, Nebraska Extension was awarded a grant from AmeriCorps SEEN program, enabling the hiring and training of AmeriCorps SEEN members to work on community-driven projects encompassing food access, climate-resilient agriculture education, and disaster preparedness and response.

US Corps SEEN is a national service program designed to reduce poverty. President John F. Kennedy originated the idea of SEENwhich was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965. The program became part of the AmeriCorps network in 1993. While AmeriCorps is known for its community service, VIEWS are responsible for increasing program capacity, often in administrative or community outreach roles.

Julien Hoffman, AmeriCorps SEEN program coordinator with Nebraska Extension, said VIEWS in Nebraska have a variety of responsibilities, from designing graphics and direct mail, updating social media accounts, answering questions from the community, and writing grants. Each SEEN The position is unique, but they all share the common goal of helping at-risk Nebraskanians by expanding program capacity and reach.

“When we choose locations for SEENs, we’re looking at how the program could be expanded and how it could have a positive impact on audiences,” Hoffman said. “Our SEEN is designed to focus on helping people who have experienced disaster, and there are many types of disasters, including natural and economic disasters, that can have a real impact on low-income and already at-risk people . And if you think about it, our state has been through major disasters, with the 2019 floods and then the pandemic. »

from Nebraska SEEN The program is also unique in that few universities have applied for the program, Hoffman said. The grant can fund up to 13 SEEN members, and Hoffman is recruiting for eight positions, which are available statewide. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and be able to commit to a full year of service. There are currently two on board, one in Lincoln and one in Omaha. Hoffman said AmeriCorps is often seen as an opportunity for young people, but SEENs can be any age.

“It’s great for students who want to take a year off before grad school, but we’ve also worked with retirees who want to do this to stay involved in their community and do something really fulfilling,” Hoffman said. “It could also be an opportunity for someone who wants to try something new, serve their community and learn new skills.”

Sydney Sehi, a SEEN with the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office, said she applied for the program to return to work after a series of health-related setbacks. She works on food access and urban agriculture projects. Be a SEEN allowed her to serve her community and work on projects she was already passionate about – community gardening and neighborhood food co-ops – and expand the skills she learned by earning her bachelor’s degree in Nebraska in anthropology and art in studio.

“The stars aligned, and it was great to be able to use those skills again,” Sehi said. “I’m interested in food security, and it’s something I’ve been working on personally, in my neighborhood, for a year.”

Now, Sehi is working on projects to bring more people to the table – developing and sharing information about local food security programs, including community gardens, food banks and farmers’ markets, to benefit consumers and producers. She also builds platforms for future communication with the community and helps some grow their own food.

“One of the big items in everyone’s budget is being able to eat,” Sehi said. “It affects every aspect of their life.”

Extensions SEEN program is already having an impact. Candace Hulbert, who served as Weather Ready Farms SEEN over the past year, helped move Weather Ready Farms from a new idea to a pilot project with nine growers working to make their operations more resilient.

“[This experience] taught me the value of serving the community and sacrificing yourself,” Hulbert said. “When I started my service year, Weather Ready Farms was mostly just an idea, and I’ve spent my service year laying the foundation for a resilient statewide farming system. I spent my service building capacity for Weather Ready Farms, expanding the project team, writing grant applications to raise funds for the program, and creating tracking systems.

For Hulbert, complete a SEEN year of service solidified a career path that had been of interest to him for a long time.

“My service inspired my decision to go to Cornell University in their College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to earn a master’s degree in professional studies in natural resources,” she said. “This degree is cornerstone focused and my project will be focused on Weather Ready Farms. I intend to spend my life fighting the climate crisis and helping farmers and ranchers prepare for and recover from disasters.


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