McCook, Neb.

Host Team

  • Carol Schlegel (Lead)
  • Ben Dutton
  • Lena Koebel
  • Denise Garey
  • Greg Brown

Emily Frenzen

Hometown: Fullerton, NE
Campus: University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Major: Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Communication

“We wanted to represent the University of Nebraska and RFI the best we could, so we thought that bringing in the energy we have, trying to be positive and setting an example for students in high school that it is cool to come back to your rural community at the end of your college experience.”

Sage Williams

Hometown: Eddyville, NE
Campus: University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Major: Agricultural Education

“I think the best part about the RFI Serviceship this summer was that we got to really invest in a community and get to know those people, and then they reinvested in us. Forming those relationships was really cool and an experience I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else.”


About McCook, Neb.

About The Serviceship Experience

The Museum of the High Plains is one of McCook’s historical attractions that gives insight into Nebraska’s early pioneers and life on the American prairie. The historic Carnegie Library comprises a portion of the Museum complex. Built in the style of the Spanish Colonial Revival, the library was constructed with a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation and continues to serve as a place of education with its archives of scrapbooks, yearbooks and a wealth of genealogical resources.

Sage and Emily’s priority project was an assessment the assets of the museum and created a plan of action for the curation of the facility to appeal to a diverse audience. Their secondary projects included community photography through Southwest Nebraska Tourism Coalition, developing the McCook Mastermind Alliance through the McCook Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and establishing the Accelerated Interns of McCook program.


Assessed the assets of the High Plains Museum.

Sage and Emily took, inventoried and labeled more than 4,000 photographs of museum artifacts. They also obtained 100+ online survey results and talked to more than 30 residents about the museum. Through their surveys and interviews, they found that more than 90% of respondents would like to see change in the High Plains Museum.

Created a Plan of Action for the High Plains Museum.

Using a software called SketchUp, Sage and Emily created designs for every room in the museum that would improve the spaces logistically while maintaining the historical atmosphere. In their designs they suggested adding bathrooms, improving wheelchair accessibility, labeling artifacts and exhibits, and rearranging rooms into much needed meeting spaces for McCook residents. They suggested interior design features in certain rooms that would highlight McCook’s agricultural, railroad and pioneer roots.

They created and submitted a 30-page Plan of Action to the High Plains Museum board of directors which included their SketchUp designs, inventory assessments, survey responses and plans for the museum moving forward.

Developed the McCook Mastermind Alliance.

Under the guidance of Andy Long of the McCook Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the McCook Mastermind Alliance brings together highly motivated, like-minded community members to invest in each other’s failures and successes while prioritizing leadership development and collaboration. Sage and Emily assisted by creating the structure and application for the Alliance, as well as designing marketing materials, creating a presentation and hosting a kick-off event to advertise the program to the public.

Established the Accelerated Interns of McCook program.

Using the model of RFI Serviceship as an inspiration, Sage and Emily assisted the MEDC in creating the Accelerated interns of McCook program. They organized the structure of the program, designed marketing materials and created applications for businesses and students.

“Sage and I created a model similar to our experience in RFI, because we loved it so much,” Emily said.

Through this intern program, local businesses will receive help finding and hiring interns who will go through a two-day training course prior to the start of their internship. The goal of this program is to connect local businesses with the future generation of emerging leaders in McCook while promoting rural potential to students. Available to high school and college students, this program offers young leaders paid real-world experience, career exploration, service learning opportunities and biweekly meetings with mentors and peers.

The Accelerated Interns of McCook program will launch in the summer of 2019, and applications will be available in December 2018.

Assisted with community photography.

Both photography enthusiasts, Sage and Emily were excited to get an opportunity to travel to towns across southwest Nebraska to take photographs of the main streets, niche locations and hotspots unique to each community for the Southwest Nebraska Tourism Coalition.


As Engler Entrepreneurship students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, both Sage and Emily were impacted by seeing how entrepreneurship was a vital component to community development in McCook. “Both of us hope to eventually return to a rural community, so it’s awesome to know that there are those opportunities for us should we decide to become business owners,” Emily said.

Final Presentation


Weekly Updates

July 20, 2018

This week has been a big week of event planning in McCook! During our last week, we will be holding a “Fiesta” to kick off the two programs we have been working on with Andy Long, Economic Development Coordinator. We will have tacos and fun for all in attendance as we present the McCook Mastermind Alliance and Accelerated Interns of McCook Program.

Additionally, we will be hosting a membership drive at the High Plains Museum, at which there will be snacks, music and a showcase of 3D designs we have created. To showcase the 3D designs for the Night at the Museum Event, we have been continuously working on exhibit designs through a software called Sketchup. It is so much fun to work with, AND it allows us to give people a visual on what we see for the future of the High Plains Museum!

To prepare for these events, we spent a couple hours walking from business to business with Andy to hand out flyers. This allowed us to meet business professionals in the community we hadn’t been introduced to yet. While we are on the homestretch of our serviceship, it’s refreshing to continue to meet McCook’s stakeholders.

All Week Nine Updates

July 6, 2018

In addition to the museum planning, we have been working on two projects with McCook’s Economic Development Director Andy Long. The first project is called the McCook Mastermind Alliance. The goal of this group is to bring together highly motivated people who are committed to growing personally and professionally. Promotion and connection are two of our main goals for this project. By accomplishing these two tasks, we feel we will be able help start the engine of this creative and collaborative train.

The other project we are working on is the Accelerated Interns of McCook (AIM), which is a program modeled after the RFI Serviceship unique to the McCook community. High school and college students will apply for existing or new internships in the area, and AIM managers will assist with promotion and application screening. Beyond hiring, the program will focus on creating a close-knit community for interns through bi-weekly meetings with one another and local professionals, as well as social gatherings. Interns will also complete 10 volunteer service hours throughout the summer.

All Week Seven Updates

June 22, 2018

Before meeting with the High Plains Museum Board to gauge readiness for change, present our ideas and get feedback, we scheduled individual meetings with the board members. We found it much easier to ask them questions and share our ideas once we had established relationships. They were kind enough to welcome us into their homes or make time to meet us at Sehnert’s, the local coffee and deli hot spot. With each conversation, we got a better taste of McCook’s history.

In preparation for the High Plains Museum Board meeting, Carol also took us on a road trip to three more museums! We were able to speak with Kearney’s Tourism Director, Roger Jasnoch, as he guided us through the Classic Car Collection and Trails and Rails Museum, where we met Director Jennifer Murrish. Here, we gathered several ideas for exhibit presentation, sustainable board leadership, and museum donation logistics to bring back to the High Plains Museum. Following our tour of Kearney museums, we buzzed over to Holdrege to the Nebraska Prairie Museum. The enthusiastic director, Dan Christensen, shared with us his passion for the museum and advice on bringing in future generations.

Emily and Sage pose in the Classic Car Collection and Trails and Rails Museum during their museum road trip around central Nebraska.

All Week Five Updates

June 8, 2018

Over the last two weeks in McCook, we have continued to create an inventory of the items in the High Plains Museum. With nearly 4,000 photographs taken to date, we are nearing the end of our record keeping process! We are also starting to inventory the books in the Carnegie Library. Additionally, we have been interviewing members of the museum board to get their perspective on the future of the High Plains Museum. The interviews have assisted in the stimulation of new ideas and the incorporation of the most significant parts of McCook’s history. Brainstorming sessions have been a vital part of our everyday by keeping our minds moving and fresh ideas rolling in.

One of our secondary projects is to create a library of community photography for future marketing purposes. This means we get to travel across the county capturing small town Nebraska main streets, unique buildings and favorite restaurants in the area like the Rocket Inn where people come from afar for their famous pizza. We discovered the gem that is the Rocket Inn this week while exploring Indianola and then made our way to Bartley for more photographs.

All Week Three Updates

May 25, 2018

Emily and Sage visited Carhenge at the Knights Museum in Alliance, Neb., while looking for ideas to improve the High Plains Museum in McCook.

Day one of week one was spent meeting community members and getting a tour of downtown McCook from our project supervisors Carol Schlegel and Ben Dutton. Walking the brick streets that pave the way for the many successful local shops was definitely a highlight to our first day! We will primarily report to Carol, McCook’s Tourism Director, since our primary project is creating an action plan for organizing and remodeling the High Plains Museum. After touring the museum, we both agreed that we have more work to do than we expected. However, we are tackling the challenge ahead with fixed determination and high energy.

To get a few ideas moving forward, we traveled to the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering, as well as the Knights Museum in Alliance where we also stopped at the famous Carhenge! These were two very high quality museums, and we were able to pull several new and innovative ideas to potentially apply to the High Plains museum. We invested in flip charts to gather our thoughts after our day of asking questions and note taking at other museums. Since then, we have been photographing items in the museum and, as Carol requested, putting together an inventory of the museum’s assets.

All Week One Updates