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Articles & Releases

#RFIFellows In Action: Wahoo Final Summary

July 31, 2020
It’s hard to believe our summer in Wahoo is coming to an end, but we are more than grateful for the wonderful experiences and learning opportunities we had this summer. Although our projects are wrapping up, we will carry many …

Celebrating the end of the “Visit531Nebraska” tour as they returned to their hometown, Wahoo!

It’s hard to believe our summer in Wahoo is coming to an end, but we are more than grateful for the wonderful experiences and learning opportunities we had this summer. Although our projects are wrapping up, we will carry many things from this summer with us far into the future.

“This summer showed us how important it is to see the possibilities. We all know how quickly our “normal” can change. Emerging on the other side of those changes will be easier if we better understand ourselves and where we want to be. Oscaline, Amanda, and Savannah moved many projects forward, but also helped us see our community differently and this will help us long after they are gone.”

Theresa Klein, Community Innovation Fellow

Savannah: This summer we came in with the idea that we’d spend our time helping revive businesses and getting projects started, but what we quickly learned was that there was already plenty happening in Wahoo. Almost every day, we have had the opportunity to meet with someone new to learn another perspective or another story about what makes Wahoo a thriving rural community that is focused on embracing their roots and has their eyes set on the future.

Our ideas and our perspectives were positively embraced from day one, and we felt as if every meeting we had, we learned something new and walked away with another valuable connection. It will be difficult to move away from a town like Wahoo, but the connections I’ve made here will undoubtedly carry with me through the remainder of my college experience. 

Oscaline: As the summer wraps up, I reflect on the first days when I moved to the community – the warm welcome I received, the sweetness of people whom I met, the excitement I had to get started, and the lessons I learned along the way. Now after a wonderful opportunity to work on different projects including a community guide, designing brochures and the H.O.P.E. campaign, I have learned many lessons that I will take with me on my next journey. 

Working with people who are different from me in various aspects made me realize that diversity goes deeper than what is seen on the outside. As a woman of color who is living in a time of social injustice, it made me realize how Wahoo is an inclusive community. Looking back I would say that this was such a stretching, yet rewarding experience in many ways. I am grateful for all this growth.

“With all the conversations happening in our country today about diversity and inclusion of everyone, we have had a lot of honest and open conversations with our fellows. Through this, I have learned so much about how to think beyond my little world here in Wahoo.”

Melissa Harrell, Community Innovation Fellow

Amanda: Through this experience, my eyes were opened as to what it takes to operate a rural community and truly help businesses and residents thrive. The amount of drive and dedication in the Wahoo community to make this happen is inspiring. 

We were welcomed with open arms and given the creative freedom this summer to work on projects that were challenging, yet aligned with our strengths and interests. We did our best to spark innovation, creativity, and a multitude of new ideas. 

Now it’s time for Wahoo to continue to develop a unified approach as to the direction they want to go and how they will get there. The relationships I built and the learning I experienced will outlast the summer weeks that flew by so quickly. I will always cherish my summer with RFI and the Wahoo community who supported us and did whatever it took to help us have the best summer possible.

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#RFIFellows In Action: Ravenna Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Ethan Weiche, Connor McFayden, Kori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase As our time in Ravenna comes to a close, we’ve had a chance to reflect on what this experience has meant to each of us and what we are going to carry forward. It’s …

By Ethan WeicheConnor McFaydenKori Siebert and Andromede “Andy” Uwase

As our time in Ravenna comes to a close, we’ve had a chance to reflect on what this experience has meant to each of us and what we are going to carry forward. It’s hard to believe that just a couple months ago, Ravenna was little more than a name on a map to us and now it has become a second home. We learned a lot from this small town, from the projects we dedicated our working hours to and the people that filled the spaces inbetween, and we are thankful that we were able to give something back to the community that welcomed us so warmly. With that, we’d like to take this last opportunity to tell you about the projects that meant the most to us. 

Kori & Andy: We have been working hard to finalize all of our projects, while also starting some new ones! Our main focus this summer has been with local businesses and marketing content. Through our interactions with business owners, we have both grown so much in the aspect of not only hearing the needs of others, but understanding where they’re coming from. We are glad that we helped bring more awareness to these businesses and to the growth of their operation in the future.

“This experience has been eye opening and transformational. I’ve learned new skills and gained experiences that can’t be taught in a classroom. If there is one thing that I will take away from this fellowship, it is that people are the most important thing. The relationships and friendships that I’ve built are so fulfilling and help grow towards progress, not only in myself but in the heart of this community.”

Kori Siebert

“I have worked this summer by contributing to Ravenna’s development and learning new marketing skills and strategies, which helped me better understand the importance of marketing for businesses. Through this experience, I have seen how young people are crucial to the development of rural communities.”

Andromede Uwase

Connor & Ethan: With most of our projects coming to a close, we’ve realized how much we’ve done for Ravenna, and in turn how much Ravenna has done for us. For example, our largest and most consistent project, landscaping the medians on Main St., will end with us submitting a final application to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, handing off our final calendar to our newly appointed garden club president, and then, waiting. Waiting because plants cannot be planted until next spring. This has taught us the value in planning for the future and thinking ahead; asking ourselves what the community members will need in the future has been a critical exercise in many of our projects.

“This experience has challenged me to think about what my actions will accomplish a year from now, 5 years from now, a decade from now. It’s difficult work to anticipate what will come in the future, especially in light of our current turbulent times, but it is crucial to achieving change in a big way.”

Connor McFayden

“This experience has been transformational in several ways, chief among which is how I have come to view ‘sustainable’ work. I am leaving Ravenna with further clarity that sustainability has as much to do with the people and those involved, as with the type of project; inspired and committed community members must be involved if a project is to have any meaningful lifespan and impact.”

Ethan Weiche

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#RFIFellows In Action: Pierce County Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Judith Grey and Marie Meis As our time in Pierce County is coming to a close, we cannot help but be sad to leave Pierce County. We have been welcomed by the residents of this area, and we have loved every minute …
Marie and Judith with local ice cream shop owner, Wanda Backus

By Judith Grey and Marie Meis

As our time in Pierce County is coming to a close, we cannot help but be sad to leave Pierce County. We have been welcomed by the residents of this area, and we have loved every minute we have shared with them. Susan Norris has helped us form deep connections that will last long past our eight weeks here. 

“Pierce County offered so much I didn’t expect. Such as being able to form connections with so many great people and how often these rural communities have an event planned. Each town offers something unique and we hope our projects were able to capture that. Pierce County will always have a place in my heart.”

Marie Meis

Pierce County is a thriving area, and we got to see firsthand how much it has to offer. We feel very lucky that we could help with their marketing and promotion. Our community videos had a huge response from residents, and it is because there are people in rural Nebraska that are passionate about where they are from.

One way that we have grown is from working to put our ideas and plans to action. Marie typically struggles with idea creation and seeing where needs are. Judith is an idealistic person but can’t always see how to put my ideas into action. Together, we spent hours brainstorming how we could tackle the priorities for Pierce County and put our skills together. Ultimately, this led to us being able to produce seven videos, two logos, three community events, six flyers and much more in our short time here. It was only able to happen because of a great program, fantastic boss and supporting communities. 

“My experience in Pierce County impacted me as much as we impacted them–if not more. It’s inspiring to see the potential for change and the action needed to start rolling toward the goals.”

judith grey

As we leave Pierce County, we will be taking a lot with us. We are grateful for the connections we formed, the leadership skills we gained, and the knowledge of how to put our ideas into action. 

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#RFIFellows In Action: Pawnee County Final Summary

July 31, 2020
By Rachel Williss This summer was chaos, I must say. Even now that I can look back on my summer experience in full, I have trouble organizing it into words. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from the thousands …
Rachel interviewing Dr. Robert Diffendal who is a retired UNL geology professor.

By Rachel Williss

This summer was chaos, I must say. Even now that I can look back on my summer experience in full, I have trouble organizing it into words. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from the thousands of photos I’ve taken this summer, it is that the picture you see depends greatly on the lens you use, the angle you look from and the details you choose to focus on.

Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I am more independent and adaptable than I thought I was. The changes and uncertainty that came with COVID-19 were the start of it, but our community team and schedule went through a lot of changes as well. In the future I will have more confidence to embrace change, although right now it seems to be the only way forward. 

I have also been able to refine my technical skills like photography, video editing, and graphic design. Although I have taken related courses at UNL, dedicating my entire summer to those skills has made me more comfortable with them and given me a portfolio that I can be proud of. 

Lastly, I have gained a new appreciation for learning the history and story behind everything. The museums and old buildings of Pawnee County are filled with good stories, and I wish I would have time to hear them all. I am motivated to learn more about the history of my own town as well when I return this weekend.

As I wrap up my experience here in Pawnee County, I am leaving behind a starting place for them to build their brand as a tourism destination. Going forward, the Pawnee County Promotional Network (PCPN) will be able to:

  • Continue to build the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles (@seepawNEecounty) that I created and set a structure for. Having an online presence will help them reach a wider audience, show what the county has to offer to people farther away and have an accessible method of communication with potential tourists. 
  • Pull content for social media and other marketing materials from the photo library of roughly 1500 of the photos I took throughout the county, combed through and sorted. This will make it faster and easier for them to develop marketing content in the future, as well as providing a more cohesive look.
  • Use the videos I constructed from interviews, video and photos of interesting places throughout the county to create a self-guided, county-wide driving tour. They will also be able to use the raw footage I took for the videos in other promotional media as they see fit. The driving tour is something that has worked well as a promotional tool in other places, which is why the PCPN wanted someone with the skills and the time to develop one for Pawnee County. It will encourage people who would normally just drive through the area to actually stop and explore each town. 

I can’t wait to see how the projects will develop in the future. I will definitely go back to Pawnee County to visit, and I am sure I will see new angles to take pictures from. It really is the perfect day trip destination (and I am not just saying that because I get paid to). 

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