July 30, 2019

Fellows Presentations

And now it’s time to celebrate! Join us Wednesday, August 7, at 1pm at the University of Nebraska–LIncoln Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center and online to hear from both the student and community innovation fellows about their tangible impacts and inclusive leadership development.

The 2019 Fellows have completed their experiences throughout rural Nebraska, and now they want to share what they’ve accomplished and learned.

RSVP for in-person attendance and watch online >

Fellows Week 10: Garden County

When you last checked in with Kersten and Courtney, the two were working with the Garden County Communities For Kids Core Team to create a 4th of July carnival. Kersten and Courtney also held a meeting with First Five Nebraska organization, hosting a lobbyist for the state capital who discussed different data about the state of Nebraska’s decrease in funds for early childhood. 

Now, in their last three weeks, Kersten and Courtney are working on finishing their big project, interviewing Garden County community residents to discuss early childhood opportunities in the community and how communication can be improved about the different events being offered in the community. After all interviews have been completed,  Kersten and Courtney will determine common patterns found when it comes to the community’s early childhood experiences. When all common patterns are determined, Kersten and Courtney will present the patterns to the Garden County Community For Kids Core Team and discuss different strategies that could be implemented. 

In addition to finding common patterns, Kersten and Courtney will be researching grants that are available for Garden County to utilize, as well as surrounding areas, like Chappell. When researching grants, the two will be searching for grants that can help with early childhood experiences in the community. In addition to early childhood, the two are also searching for grants that will boost community vitality. 

Last but not least, Kersten and Courtney are sad to leave their community, but cannot thank Garden County for their hospitality. The two have grown in their 10 weeks in the community and have become stronger inclusive leaders than when they began this summer. 

Courtney in a spaceship from the photo booth at the library summer reading program!

Kersten in a spaceship from the photo booth at the library summer reading program!

Kersten and Dustin at the 4th of July Kids Carnival!

Kersten and Dustin at the 4th of July Kids Carnival!

Fellows Week 9: Custer County

Hailey Walmsley and Megan Coan are still hard at work as they fulfill their internship duties in Custer County. Last week their team was fortunate enough to add two new members, Alyssa Beltran from Columbus, Nebraska and Angela Ehler from Elkhorn,Nebraska. With the new team members coming on board, some project restructuring has been done. The four interns now have 8 total projects and 3 weeks left to complete them.

Hailey and Megan are wrapping up their time in Arnold and Callaway. Over the course of the summer in Callaway, Hailey and Megan discovered, through a community wide survey, there was a lack of recreational opportunities in the area, especially for young adults. Last week they facilitated a focus group with 25-40 year olds living in Callaway to dive deeper into the recreational desires of the community. The group came to a consensus that the community would utilize a walking trail. Hailey and Megan are assisting with determining the steps on how to make this dream a reality. Once the steps are determined, they will hand the information over to Carla Kimball, Callaway’s Economic Developer. They hope to come back in a few years and see the progress on this project!

Hailey has been working to create some blog stories of people in Custer County, coming up with ideas to fill a vacant building in town, and helping revamp the curriculum for Youth Leadership in Custer County (YLCC). She considers having Angela and Alyssa on board as a blessing. She loves having more brain power in the office to help come up with some really unique ideas to complete the projects. Megan is working on creating a Custer County passport, continuing to connect the interns from other businesses in Custer County, and looking at the possibility of starting a dog park in Broken Bow. Hailey and Megan continue to work together on planning the Barn’s 10th year celebration.

This week Hailey and Megan are completing some volunteer hours helping with Custer County 4-H. The 4-H organization is near and dear to both of their hearts since it’s something they both grew up participating in. They will be helping by assisting with some of the static exhibit judges and getting all the projects ready to be displayed at the fair next weekend.

RFI Fellows Helping AEDC Move Forward With Projects

Check out our Custer County fellows Megan and Hailey in The Arnold Sentinel!

“In this job, I get to work on projects that play toward my strengths and interests. We aren’t just typical interns who come in and sit at a desk all day filing paperwork or doing the job no one wants to do. We have a lot more responsibilities than traditional interns because we are challenged with finding a project, and seeing that project start to finish,” said Hailey

UN-L agricultural student interns Megan Coan (left) and Hailey Walmsley (right) are in Arnold once a week through the end of July to help the Arnold Economic Development Corporation with some big projects. The girls are also serving as interns in Broken Bow and Callaway.”

Fellows Week 8: Grand Island

By Alyssa and Angela

Wow, the time has flown by! It is hard to believe that we have just finished 8 weeks with only three to go. Plus we have a surprise! We (Angela and Alyssa) finished up our time in Grand Island early and headed west to work with our Custer County team for the last 3 weeks of the summer!

Since our last Grand Island update, we got busy executing projects and doing the preparation for projects happening in the future. 

Angela spent most of Weeks 3 through 7 being our video creator and editor. We wanted to be able to share the impact of Nebraska Extension’s Community Vitality Initiative’s Latino Small Business program everywhere and with everyone. So, Angela created videos in Spanish with English subtitles. One of our favorite stories was Duniesky’s. Duniesky Enrrique is an entrepreneur in Grand Island who wanted to start his own tattoo shop. He utilized the Latino Small Business Program to get one on one technical counseling to discover the insurance, licensing, and legal requirements for tattoo shops in Nebraska. He got everything accomplished and then realized he couldn’t find a place that fit his needs. Nebraska Extension came to the rescue and helped Duniesky find a place to work. Since then he has been making beautiful tattoos in Grand Island. 

While Angela was channeling her inner Steven Spielberg, Alyssa was working on creating training programs for Nebraska Extension including Facebook for Business and Sustainability at Home. Her Facebook training covered how to create a Facebook page for a business step by step, how to increase engagement on your Facebook page, what to post, how to track your posts and evaluate success, and how to utilize paid advertising on Facebook. Her Sustainability training covered everything anyone could need to know about how to be more sustainable and save money at home. From reducing energy costs to recycling through a few easy steps we can greatly reduce the impact we have on the environment and our wallets. Alyssa then took this one step further and started laying the groundwork for a sustainability competition between businesses in Grand Island and hopes to see this happen in the future to create a healthier community and lower the energy cost burden on businesses!

We’ve also made a lot of progress on our 4th Street project. We finished the directory of our businesses and now the program is positioned to utilize that information to make a map of that area that will show off the all of the great diversity that Grand Island has to offer (there are about 100 locally owned businesses on 4th Street). We also were able to host a community meeting for the business owners on 4th Street as well. We are hoping to create connections across race and gender so that the business owners can work together to bring investment and customers to 4th Street and show Nebraska how great of a place 4th Street in Grand Island is!

Then, week 8, we moved to Broken Bow! Stay tuned for all that is to come. Sneak peek it includes dog parks, barn celebrations, intern socials, and more! We’ve loved getting to know this community and have already been working hard on projects this week! 

Wonderful Selfie that includes Alyssa, Angela and Miguel Estevez (Mental Health Therapist/UNO Graduate Student) as they finished their second mental health workshop for the Latino community in Grand Island.
Pictured here is Angela (maroon sweater on right) assisting a photography class to learn how to take good pictures and possibly make a business out of it.

Chadron Instagram Takeover


The Charon fellows took over the Rural Futures Instagram story 06/25/2019! Watch as Beth, Vasu and Bhargav meet with the principle of Chadron middle school about how to communicate more effectively to parents, preform science experiments at Science Camp and visit Western Community Health Resources where they will be helping out with an immunization clinic by spreading information about mental health awareness!

Fellows Week 7: RFI Comm

The RFI comm team has been busy these last few weeks! As a team, they’ve been reading the book Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman and thinking about their own personal brands. They’ve all been preparing content and designs for the upcoming final presentations from the student fellows on August 8th! 

Sydney, the social media guru, has implemented Instagram story takeovers for the fellows! The plan is for fellows to take over the Instagram story for a day to give a little peek into their daily lives as fellows. So far, each of the stories have been receiving over 100 views per post! Sydney is also working hard preparing the invitations and thank you letters to the final presentations.

Tristan has been working on planning and storyboarding out the 2019 fellows summary video. The video concept changed shapes many times but with the helpful guidance of Katelyn, they’ve worked out which direction to take the video. He has also traveled to all four of the communities the student fellows are working in this summer to meet up and talk about what they’ve done so far. One of Tristan’s other main tasks he’s been doing is mastering his drone flying skills and taking video with it. 

Rin has been working on an array of things these past weeks, such as creating invitation cards for the RFI final presentation, making a welcome graphic for our new interim executive director and sending promotional RFI sponsorship items to Chandron, NE to help support the community. The team has also been noticing that the end is near for these community projects. Therefore, Rin will be helping to plan the aesthetic deliverables for the final pitch with the rest of the fellows in the next couple of weeks. 

Our book for our RFI book club!
The invitations we’ve worked hard on designing!
Co-work(out)ers! Had lots of fun at Power Cycle in Lincoln!

July 1 ,2019


Please welcome Mark Balschweid, Ph.D., as Interim Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute. He enters the leadership role of RFI during its launch of the Nebraska Thriving Index and the pilot of an evolved Fellows model.

Balschweid, who has worked extensively in evaluating international programs in agricultural and extension education, joins RFI after 11 years within his departmental leadership role. Prior to coming to UNL in 2008, Balschweid was on faculty at Purdue University in the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education.