26 students begin the Rural Fellows experience | Nebraska today

Twenty-six students begin their 10-week internships in 16 communities across Nebraska on May 24. They are the new cohort of Rural Fellows, an experiential learning program organized by the Nebraska Rural Prosperity Initiative of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

These students will work with mentors and leaders in their assigned communities to plan and execute community improvement projects. Designed by the communities themselves to meet the needs of local residents, some of these projects include increased civic engagement, tourism development, social media marketing, and improved mental and physical health capacity.

“Rural Fellowship is not a band-aid program where we come into a community, ‘fix’ things for 10 weeks and then leave,” said program coordinator Helen Fagan. “This is a community-based initiative where scholarship students engage with and learn from communities, helping locals amplify their culture and build within themselves the ability to continue to grow and thrive long after the families have left. students.”

After going through several iterations over its nine years, the Rural Fellowship Program was originally called a “serviceship,” a fusion of community service and traditional internship. As the emphasis has always been on the vitality of rural communities, students from all over the world have started to participate. This year, 22 students are from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, five of whom are members of Cultivate Access and four are members of the Rwanda Institute of Conservation Agriculture in Rwanda; four attend the University of Nebraska Medical Center; and the other is from Texas Tech University.

“It’s hard to sum up the positive impacts and benefits this summer’s fellowship project has had on our community,” said Ryan Hurst, general manager of Wahoo Utilities, which hosted students in 2021. “The level of design we get on our future downtown water improvements is much larger than what we normally get on a project of this size.”

“(Scholarship students) have helped us share the importance of early childhood education to the future of our community and local economy,” said Katie Walmsley of the Region Chamber of Commerce. ‘Ord, which also welcomed students in 2021. “It’s not just about new buildings and property tax assessments. It’s also about creating opportunities for everyone who lives here and those who want to live here.

Community improvement is only part of the story, Fagan said.

“Scholarship students also gain hands-on, real-time experience in economic development, event planning, problem-solving and inclusive leadership – many skills that will help them succeed in their careers and be an instrument for the good in the communities they end up living in.”

As communities design their projects, students are often given the freedom to apply their education to the execution of the projects. In 2021, community leaders in Arapahoe wanted to increase business in the downtown area, so student scholars Haley Burford and Kennedy Kriewald hosted a Saturday Small Business Event, where locals could shop for special sales and participate in activities focused on strengthening the local economy. At Imperial, the community wanted to improve recreation, so fellows Isaac Archuleta and Joel Kreifels helped organize a farmers’ market and music festival.

“The hands-on, observational experience I’ve had from this opportunity has been far more rewarding than just hearing about it in a class,” said Allison Metschke, a 2021 fellow who served at Wahoo.

Scholarship students are matched with communities based on their education and experience. They are ready to meet any challenge that awaits them.

“I believe limited exposure to the world gets in the way of what can be done and learned,” said Elizabeth Pernicek, who will serve in the Alliance. “I look forward to meeting new people and gaining more perspectives than before, as well as gaining real-world experience that was previously unavailable to me.”

“Going forward, I would like to be an advocate for rural and underserved communities,” said Marlette Grace Dulcinee Mabiala-Maye, who will serve at Valentine. “So this experience will be an asset for me as a future community leader.

This year’s fellows represent 13 communities, 11 majors, four countries and two states. They are listed below by the communities in which they will serve, along with their major(s) and hometown.

  • Alliance: Landyn Bish, architecture, Lincoln; Elizabeth Pernicek, architecture, Brainard; Eric Pulver, Masters in Public Health, Omaha.

  • Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux Counties: Faith Junck, communications in agricultural and environmental sciences, Carroll; Benoit Kayigamba, Integrated Sciences, Lincoln.

  • Gering and Scottsbluff: Lauren Campbell, pre-medical biology, Kearney; Esther Ingabiribyishaka, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Kimball County: Clare Umutoni, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Nebraska Cooperative Development: Pascaline Niyonshuti, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Nebraska Energy: Yvonne Ingabire, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda; Anne Kluthe, environmental studies, Flower Mound, Texas.

  • Leadership Development in Nebraska: Marthe Niyingenera, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Nebraska— IANR Communication : Laurent Ikuzwe, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Nebraska Rural Daycare: Flora Sangwa Gwaneza, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Nebraska Rural Community Resilience: Japhet Ingeri, Integrated Science and Natural Resources, Lincoln.

  • Rural housing in Nebraska: Aline Abayo, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Scotts Bluff County — Area Visitors Office: Murengezi Atali Benimana, Integrated Sciences, Kigali, Rwanda; Ashtyn Humphreys, Agricultural Economics, Odell.

  • Scotts Bluff County — Family Empowerment: Arden Kimme, Master of Public Health, Lincoln; Alexandra Salinas, agricultural director, Mission, Texas.

  • Stanon: Josie Ganser, pre-vet medicine/animal science, Ainsworth; Gabin Kundwa, integrated sciences, Kigali, Rwanda.

  • Valentine: Marlette Grace Dulcinée Mabiala-Maye, Master in Public Health, Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo; Carine Mushimiyimana, Integrated Sciences, Lincoln.

  • Wakefield: Devi Venkata Naga Akshay Varma Dwarabandam, Epidemiology, Hyderabad, India; Jacob Zitek, Mechanical Engineering, Plattsmouth.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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