Rural Fellows Spend Summer Strengthening Panhandle Communities | Nebraska today
Three students from different parts of Nebraska spend the summer in the Chadron area of northwestern Nebraska learning while helping to strengthen the community through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Rural Fellows Internship Program.
Rural Fellows help strengthen tourism efforts and mental health services for K-12 students.
The students, Jacy Hafer, Hanna Jemison and Chantelle Schulz, work with several local organizations under the coordination and mentorship of Jenny Nixon, Rural Prosperity Educator with Nebraska Extension in North Panhandle.
Rural Fellows, an internship program of Rural Prosperity Nebraska, and part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, connects students with rural communities to provide hands-on work experience to students while promoting meaningful change for communities. Students from Nebraska and beyond spend their summers living and working in rural communities in Nebraska and the Midwest, completing projects focused on supporting communities, while progressing toward strategic and specific goals that help the community achieve. prosper.
Hafer, Jemison and Schulz are among 35 rural fellows placed in 17 locations in Nebraska this summer. This fall, Rural Fellows will encourage communities to apply to participate next summer.
Rural Fellows typically focus on community, labor, and economic development; Business development; early childhood education; marketing and community communications; entrepreneurship; mental health services; inclusive leadership development; and other areas. The Rural Fellows program benefits both students and communities.
This summer in the North Panhandle, several local organizations and agencies are key partners, according to Nixon. They include Educational Service Unit # 13, Chadron Public Schools, and the Discover Northwest Nebraska Tourism Bureau.
At Chadron, fellows support Chadron Public Schools’ services to families by developing materials to explain the school district’s policies, services and key professionals related to mental health.
Another project supports the promotion of tourism, which is important for the local economy. Fellows develop a survey tool and work on using the survey to collect data by directly contacting visitors and obtaining cooperation from companies to also disseminate surveys. And they boost tourism in another way by creating videos of the area’s recreational trails.
“There’s a lot going on for these interns this summer and I’m really excited because they’ve taken off and accomplished so much so quickly,” Nixon said.
Rural Fellow students were matched with communities based on their interests and skills, according to Nixon. The communities submitted a proposal.
Jacy Hafer, originally from Dunning, is a junior in Nebraska majoring in agricultural leadership with a minor in agricultural entrepreneurship and psychology. After graduation, Hafer plans to work in rural development or human resources for an agricultural company.
She is working with Kerri Rempp, director of Discover Northwest Nebraska, to create an app that provides information to visitors. The application is intended to be a one-stop source of information on restaurants, hotels and other places to stay, tourist attractions such as state parks and trails. Hafer has been busy entering data.
“It’s a long process, but we hope to have all the data available for test trials by the end of the summer,” she said.
She also assists the Chadron Public Schools Cardinal Facilities Fund by creating advertisements and slides to recognize donors who have helped. CPS update and maintain their buildings. And with Jemison and Schulz, she’s working on a psychological and behavioral health manual for UDE 13.
Hanna Jemison, a student at Central Community College in Columbus, has been placed in Chadron due to her interest in mental health issues and leads projects related to mental health. With a degree in psychology, Jemison plans to become a mental health care provider.
“I come from a rural community and there is a huge shortage of providers, so this is very important to me,” she said.
Jemison is in the process of creating three brochures: a list of mental health providers and resources available to the entire Dawes County community; a manual for parents of students in Chadron public schools listing and describing the mental health resources available to them; and a parent’s guide to emergency protective custody.
“This can be a really scary situation and they have a lot of questions,” Jemison said. “Of course, they want the best for their child.”
Chantelle Schulz is a McCool Junction senior who plans to graduate in August and plans to enter the workforce in an agriculture-related field, but has long-term ambition to earn a master’s degree and to put her to work in a field related to agriculture. . Schulz helped Jemison develop the CPS student services manual. Eventually, she hopes to use the textbook as a model for her hometown school.
She is also working on the tourism data project. The survey is intended to collect data on the origin of visitors; how many people are in their group; how long and where they stay; how they got to the area; which attractions they visited and which of the ones they enjoyed the most.
“People involved in tourism here want to understand the economic impact of tourism – how much tourism impacts Dawes County and how they can increase it for future reference,” she said.
Using video to share information about the trails in the area is an idea Hafer and Schulz came up with in early summer. They plan to use videos and photos to showcase the area’s trails, landmarks and knolls, working with an intern from Discover Northwest Nebraska, and share them on the tourism organization’s website.
Both projects are local priorities. Chadron has had several students over the years who have worked with them on mental health issues. The community is a hub of health resources for the region. And the tourism project has great potential to help the local community move forward on a project that is important for future tourism development.
Local organizations do not have the staff available to tackle some of these projects on their own, she said. Often they have only one employee.
The fellows said they hope to have lasting positive effects on communities.
“Overall, the goal for us in tourism and especially mental health is to empower our community through education – from a mental health perspective, by disseminating these services and brochures. so that people understand what is available to them, but also by getting rid of the stigma that surrounds mental health. health, ”Hafer said.
Schulz added that local organizations are supportive.
“Every organization we work with… (a) has allowed us to have an open space to work, study, whatever we need,” she said. “They always make sure that we have the opportunity to do our best. Not all internships are like that.
Jemison said the fellows thrived on the support of their local partners.
Rural Fellows also fulfill service commitments to local communities. Hafer, Jemison, and Schulz spent time cooking and serving at Closer to Home in Chadron, which offers free hot meals.
Nixon says that one benefit of the Rural Fellows program that is not immediately apparent is the connection between different communities in Nebraska.
“The ability to share good news and issues or issues between communities allows us to share what is working well and creative ideas for solving community issues,” Nixon said. “I am happy that this program is set up to interconnect communities.