Amber Ross

RFI Community Innovation Fellow – Custer County, Neb.
Custer Economic Development
Workforce Intern

Why did you choose this experience?

I’ve been involved with this RFI Serviceship Experience for three consecutive years in varying capacities. In each experience, these students have created an invaluable piece of work that’s benefited our organization and community in both direct and indirect ways. This program is always an obvious choice for us.

What do you hope to gain?

Progress. Our communities have people constantly working on developing this County as a whole and we get in the trenches often. These students bring a different way of thinking and enough autonomy that we create meaningful and measurable progress.

What value will this bring to your community?

It’s always a win to get young people, especially those with rural backgrounds and an understanding of community, to work with us. The tangible value will be in the progress and completion of our outlined projects. The intangible is the connections with our business and community leaders – the growth of the network and collaboration with high-achieving students with a different worldview and persisting desire to help.

Why do you think it important community leaders have this type of experience in terms of inclusive leadership development?

We are always striving to build something that people want to be a part of. The best way to accommodate those people is to hear and see their needs – we can’t define them from afar. That’s what these students bring.

Why is this contribution of students from NU significant to you?

To my knowledge, there’s approximately one avenue for communities to have a brokered relationship with students at the University. Unless we’ve develop our own individual way with our limited resources, these students don’t have rural Nebraska top of mind. RFI accomplishes this beautifully.

Why does now provide tremendous opportunity to move rural communities forward?

If not now then when? We live in the information age. People have access to anything whenever they want it. Rural America can be competitive if we show up and do the work and remember to tell people about it. There is uniqueness baked into every small town and it’s our responsibility to showcase it and exploit it to create an experience people want to move to and be immersed in.