Hosting RFI Serviceship



By Tina Biteghe Bi Ndong, West Point Chamber of Commerce
This summer the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska partnered with 31 organizations to send 10 student interns into rural communities for nine-week “serviceships,” or service internships. Projects the students worked on varied greatly depending on the needs of each host community; however, the ultimate goal of each serviceship was to make a positive, quantifiable impact for rural.

Tina Biteghe Bi Ndong served on the West Point, Neb., host team. For more information about the 2017 West Point Serviceship, check out Amber and Madeleine’s story.


How did the Serviceship students’ work help you achieve your strategic goals for the future of your community?

Two of our main goals were related to our recent influx of young families that have moved to West Point. The work done through the Serviceship project created a foundation for programs that will hopefully engage, retain and recruit additional young professionals and their families.


How did the University of Nebraska contribute to your community’s goals through this program?

They offered support for our community branding goal. We tapped into the Engler Entrepreneurship program for a project outside of the outlined goals. We are also looking to a Nebraska Extension program as a partner for our proposed leadership program.


Shortly after the interns arrived in West Point, we hosted a BRAN Snack Shop.


Why do you think it is important for communities to give students this experience?

Madeleine and Amber had been involved in community and organizational projects through school and other organizations prior to their Serviceship, but every community functions differently. We were able to share how West Point approaches projects and goals, and hopefully they can use those experiences in the future as they pursue personal and professional goals.


How did hosting RFI Serviceship students bring value to the West Point Chamber?

Utilizing the RFI Serviceship program versus hiring a consultant group, first and foremost, reduced the cost of achieving our goals, but secondly gave greater value to the results. The students were engaged in the community, so I feel that they had greater, and more candid, conversations with area residents and business owners.

A byproduct of having the students working with the West Point Chamber was the positive PR that our office received. They were constantly doing something in the community, which gained a lot of local media attention. We are constantly working on community projects, but they brought another level of engagement to the projects.


How did being on the RFI Host Team develop you as a young professional?

Being a part of the host team, I felt it was important not only to focus on the goals that were outlined in our application, but to make sure that the students were able to really connect with our community in a very short amount of time. It was a good reminder that we need to give other “newbies” that same attention and share our passion for West Point with everyone.


Amber had a great time bonding with my kiddos. This is them at the Sights & Sounds festival––an event they hosted in West Point right before they left at the end of their serviceship.




Tina Biteghe Bi Ndong

Executive Director | West Point Chamber of Commerce

I was born in Iowa, moved to Nebraska as an elementary student, and spent many childhood summers in Minnesota. I consider myself a Midwestern girl with Midwestern values. When I am not busy connecting businesses, people and resources—which are interchangeable on any given day—I enjoy traveling and spending time with my husband and our children doing home and craft projects.




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