Fellows Week 6: Chadron

By Beth, Vasundhara, Bhargav

Here in Chadron we have been full force with our projects. The Bean Broker has continued to be one of our go to places to work on our projects. We have thoroughly gone through the SHAPE Assessment to identify gaps, and now most of our time has been spent working on resource mapping to find the mental health providers available to Chadron and beginning to bridge partnerships between the providers and Chadron Public Schools. We have gotten to know more about the school system and how it operates by going to School Board Meetings and meeting various teachers through our helping out with different camps offered to elementary students. 

            Vasu, our third intern, has also moved in and has jumped right in offering suggestions and helping us to accomplish our goals! She has been a great teammate to have and has given ideas to help promote with tourism in the town. 

            Bhargav and Vasu have been helping with Science Camp at the intermediate school with 3rdand 4thgraders. They have planned an experiment with the students to electroplate a quarter. Beth has been working with the Art Camp at the primary school with kindergarten through 2ndgraders. All three of us plan on helping with Drama Camp, The Little Mermaid is the show, in the next coming weeks. 

            Our partnership with Western Community Health Resources led to us helping with their Respite Day at Fort Robinson this past Saturday. We worked in teams with a small group of kids to ensure that they had a great time. We went on horseback rides, swimming, and on a jeep adventure through the surrounding buttes.

            Some local artists have been working on sprucing up the downtown area by creating murals in the alleyway. There have been two different weekends dedicated to this. They incorporate children in the area by having children come and paint by number to help paint the murals. We were able to help out one afternoon, priming the area for the students the next day. 

            Some of our upcoming excursionsinclude us taking a trip to Scottsbluff to meeting with Region 1 Behavior Health, Panhandle Partnership, and ESU 13 to see their role in the Panhandle and how we can use what they do to bridge gaps here in Chadron. We are also going to be helping Fur Trade Days and Bands on Bordeaux, a weekly event where community members see bands preform downtown. In July, we will give a presentation to the Rotary about what we have been doing with our time in Chadron and how we can and need to end the stigma around mental health. Along with these projects, we are also helping with the Immunization Clinics at Western Community Health Resources by giving out information in regards to mental health and the help that is available in the area. 

            We look forward to our next month in Chadron and all of the upcoming events! 

We were able to visit a farm and milk a cow! The fresh cow milk was delicious and Wayne and Mary were lovely hosts! 
A beautiful picture of C-Hill and the entrance to Chadron State College.
Art Alley Before the children came to paint
 Final Mural for Art Alley
A beautiful view from the jeep ride up the buttes at Fort Robinson
Science Camp
Respite Days at Fort Robinson

Creating their desired futures — Connie Reimers-Hild, Shawn Kaskie depart RFI

Rural Futures Institute (RFI) Interim Executive Director and Chief Futurist Connie Reimers-Hild, Ph.D., and RFI Special Projects Coordinator Shawn Kaskie are leaving RFI to pursue new opportunities.

Thank you, Dr. Connie

Reimers-Hild is building her leadership and strategic foresight coaching firm, Wild Innovation, through which she works with company CEOs and hospital administrators to plan and pursue their desired futures at the intersections of technology and humanity. Clients range from rural hospitals in Nebraska to remote villages in Nigeria and include a small business with a $22 million annual footprint as well as global organizations like Lockheed Martin.

Before serving as RFI interim executive director for the past year, Reimers-Hild served as associate executive director for three years. She led the development of the RFI Engagement Nexus, initiated the evaluation model the Institute is carrying forward and mentored faculty, staff and students. She fostered relationships with eight universities around the world as well as companies such as Microsoft and organizations such as the Japan Society. Reimers-Hild also represented the Rural Futures Institute, rural people and the University of Nebraska at global conferences such as the Women’s Forum Global Meeting. She also hosted the Rural Futures Podcast, which has nearly 8,000 downloads nationwide in just 30 episodes. 

During her nearly 25-year tenure with the University of Nebraska, Reimers-Hild authored or co-authored 55 publications, 10 workbooks, six videos, six coaching tools, three books and one book chapter. In total, her digital publications have been downloaded by 3,300 institutions more than 70,000 times throughout 175 countries. She has also taught more than 25,000 learners from around the world.

Thank You, Shawn

Shawn Kaskie will continue leading innovative projects and programs throughout rural Nebraska as an Educator and Associate Professor with Nebraska Extension Community Vitality Initiative. With RFI since may 2016, Kaskie led two major strategic initiatives of the Institute. 

First, the pilot of the RFI Fellows program, which invited faculty and community leaders together for future-focused discussions about rural thriving. It is through this first iteration of RFI Fellows that the Nebraska Thriving Index was born, and it provided the catalyst to RFI’s new working model with students, community leaders and faculty.

Kaskie is also credited with critical leadership and ongoing contributions to the University of Nebraska SourceLink® Resource Navigator, which links entrepreneurs and community leaders to solutions and opportunities by curating university resources in one online platform.

Fellows Week 5: Garden County

Kersten and Courtney are both living it up in rural, small town western Nebraska. The two are working with the Volunteers of America Western Nebraska to provide the groundwork for possible early childhood experiences. It was a slow start, but the two have picked up the pace since the first week. As Courtney and Kersten continue to work in Garden County, they are quickly finding out what it means to be immersed in a small town. Both have helped with concession stands and umpiring for the town’s youth baseball and softball games. Additionally,  they helped with a social event with the Sixpence program and the summer school CHAMPS program by helping teach a lesson once a week according to the weekly theme.

Kersten and Courtney have spent the last four weeks getting to know the Garden County communities: Lisco, Oshkosh, and Lewellen. During this time they have been working with the Garden County Communities For Kids Core Team to come up with focus group questions to ask as a follow up on a recent county wide survey that was done. During these focus groups, Kersten and Courtney will be visiting with residents in Garden County to find out what the communities feel it needs for its youth. This may be deciding another daycare center needs to be built or more community wide events need to be offered. After the focus groups are completed, the two will host a Communities For Kids Core Team meeting to discuss the common patterns that were found. During this time, the Core Team will discuss the different strategies that can take place in the community to boost early childhood opportunities.   

In addition to the focus groups, the two have been working on setting up games for a fourth of July carnival they will be having at the city park in Oshkosh. The two have also been chosen as judges for the fourth of July parade. Also, the two have created Facebook pages for both the Oshkosh Public Library and Garden County Communities For Kids to help bring awareness to the program and business, but to also connect with people around the Garden County area about the events both have to offer. In addition to the carnival, Courtney and Kersten will be hosting a community event to allow the public, or those who were not randomly selected for the focus groups, to ask questions or speak their concerns about the current early childhood opportunities available.

Lastly, the two held a meeting with First Five Nebraska at the Most Unlikely Place in Lewellen. During this meeting Elizabeth Lopez Everett, a lobbyist for the state capital, discussed different data about in the state of Nebraska and how the state is seeing a decrease in funds for early childhood. She also discussed how the more early childhood facilities that a town has available, the higher chance that people are willing to live in that town and invest in that town.

Kersten and Courtney have also experienced Western Nebraska at its finest. Kersten overcame her fear of rattlesnakes for a day and visited Chimney Rock. The two also took time to visit the Hierloom Festival in Bridgeport. The festival was a mini-version of a Junk Stock, for those that are familiar. Lastly, the two have spent almost every weekend at Lake McConaughy. Between just driving past and looking at the beautiful view and laying out for hours to reach complete relaxation, Courtney and Kersten are becoming very comfortable in Garden County!

Fellows Week 4: Custer County

Hailey and Megan are both loving their experience in Custer County so far! They are working on a variety of projects over the course of their time in Custer County. Although they are staying in Broken Bow, they aren’t just working on projects there. The two of them will be working on projects in Arnold and Callaway as well.

Megan’s first project that she is focusing on is an “Intern Connection” project that will bring all of the interns within Broken Bow closer together to help them have a sense of belonging to the community. The first event that will bring all of the interns together will be June 20th. This event will be taking place along with the “Third Thursday on the Square” in Broken Bow that has live music, food, games, and fun for all ages.

Additionally, she is working on creating a Custer County passport. The purpose of this passport is to bring awareness to the hidden gemstones that each community in Custer County has to offer. She has spent her time touring Custer County’s communities to see what each community has that makes it unique and special compared to the communities within the county.

The final project that she is focusing on for Broken Bow is “The Barn.” The Barn is the visitor center for Broken Bow and is apart of the Sandhills Scenic Byway. Her goal is to increase awareness, create more events, generate revenue and drive more traffic to The Barn.

Hailey is working individually on two projects, the first is taking new pictures to market the community. The pictures of many of the buildings and events throughout Custer County are outdated. Hailey will be taking pictures of many of the main areas and attracts in Custer County.

For Hailey’s second project, she is working with a local nonprofit called Capable.

Capable runs a year-long program called Youth Leadership in Custer County (YLCC) for high school students throughout Custer County. Hailey is helping to rework the structure of the program to shift to a design thinking and entrepreneurship perspective.

Together the two of them are working side by side in Callaway and Arnold. In Callaway, they are currently interviewing business owners as well as community members to assess their needs. After collecting their data, they will evaluate it and move forward with what is the

greatest need in the community. In Arnold, they are working on business and housing improvement/development. They are assisting in evaluating the current state of houses/business in order to qualify for federal assistance from the government to improve the community.

Some events that they have gotten to experience in their few weeks in Custer County include Market on the Square, various ribbon cuttings, and the Muddy Creek Festival in Ansley. The Market on the Square takes place every Thursday from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. The ribbon cuttings served as a great opportunity for the two individuals to meet key stakeholders in the community and the county. By attending the ribbon cuttings, they got the opportunity to get connected with the journalist at the Custer County Chief where she interviewed the two of them.

As Hailey and Megan have interacted with numerous community members over the past few weeks, there was one quote in particular that stood out to both of them, “Be open to what we don’t know.” After hearing that quote it put life into a different perspective for the two RFI fellows. The first time Megan and Hailey went through each community, they had the opportunity to meet community members and business owners. Nearly every person they met told them how happy they were for two to be in community, and couldn’t wait to see the work they did. This was a very eye-opening experience for the two, they got to see they weren’t just impacting the community, but also the people in it.

Fellows Week 3: Grand Island

Written by Angela Beltran & Alyssa Ehler

Wow what a busy few weeks it has been! Grand Island has proven to be a dynamic, fun, and diverse community, and we hit the ground running from day 1!

We started off by getting to know what our Community Lead Mentors Sandra and Griselda due with Nebraska Extension Community Vitality Initiative and REAP (Rural Enterprise Assistance Program) respectively. Also, during out first week, we were invited to attend a mental health training program specifically targeted to help youth. After the floods in Nebraska and the immigration raids in O’Neil awareness of the importance of mental health has been growing and the week after we were able to attend a workshop focused on adults. 

In our first weeks here, we participated in a few of the programs that the Latino Small Business program hosts for the community, a marketing workshop, a women’s conference, and a cleaning academy. We also sat in on meetings with several entrepreneurs and were able to see how this program assists from start to finish with the start up process. 

We also got to visit the All of Us truck. All of Us is a research program that has been touring across the United States to create a database of information from underrepresented groups and to educate people of the many influences that impact health to create a future of precision medicine that is inclusive to all.

Our most recent meeting was with Mayor Roger Steele, who came to Nebraska Extension to visit with the Grand Island Latino Network. We were able learn from Mayor Steele about the current efforts to ensure Grand Island is inclusive and accessible to all and share our insight of how Grand Island can continue to progress. 

We have also started working on a variety of projects. One of our main projects this summer is analyzing the training topics covered by the Latino Small Business Program and areas of community need. We have already started to develop 4 workshops including Facebook for Business and a multi week mental health program. For the mental health workshops, we were able to partner with a graduate student from UNO who returned to Grand Island for his internship and is working at the Friendship Home. We are so excited to bring accessible mental health training in Spanish to the citizens of Grand Island. 

The Latino Small Business Program helps many entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams. To share these stories with all of Nebraska, we are filming videos of some of the business owners that have been helped by Nebraska Extension and REAP. 

Our biggest project is to help promote 4th Street, which is the center of Latino entrepreneurship in Grand Island. We are working to ensure that these business owners are equipped with the tools and leadership training needed to make 4th Street a welcoming, diverse, attraction in Grand Island and to create a united business district downtown. 

We are excited to continue working with people from all parts of the community in Grand Island!

We were able to sit in on the Grand Island Latino Network’s meeting with Mayor Steele (Grey Suit on the left) it was an awesome opportunity to share with community leaders what we’ve been working on and learn about Grand Island. 


Who doesn’t love smoothies and tea?! We stopped by Big Red Nutrition one of the businesses UNL Extension helped start in Hastings!

Alyssa is pointing out an interesting fact that she noticed when we visited the All of Us truck. 
We all learned something new, such as all blue eyed people relate back to one person!