Sawyer Smith


Mathematics, Computer Science and Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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2020 Community: Chadron, Crawford & Harrison | Dawes County

Focus: Tourism, PreK-12 Education and Mental Health Awareness, Indigenous Population Inclusion

The student fellows will work to complete SHAPE planning and implementation through data collection and analysis of pre-K-12 youth, with a priority support for the Native American population. Students will focus on methods to reduce stigma of mental health through awareness campaigns, as well as work with Educational Service Unit 13 to create a school-based mental health services needs assessment and a behavioral mental health dashboard for the department’s ongoing use. Students will also assist Dawes County Joint Planning and Discover Northwest Nebraska in the development of programs and marketing campaigns designed to enhance the tourism industry in Northwest Nebraska. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has already and will continue to disrupt the 2020 tourism season for the region. Having interns available for the summer will allow focus on promoting local and regional tourism through staycations and complete several planning projects for 2021.

Peer: Tyra Ann Reardon
Innovators: Katie CarrizalesTerri HaynesSandy Montague-Roes, Kerri Rempp

Sponsored By: Chadron Public Schools, Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) Grant, Educational Service Unit 13, Dawes County Joint Planning, Northwest Nebraska Tourism

Why did you choose the Fellowship Program?

I chose this experience because I thought it presented a unique opportunity to do something that I might not otherwise have been able to do. It gives me a chance to not only develop as a person, but also to be able to serve a community as a part of that development.

What do you hope to gain?

I hope to gain a greater understanding of the world that I live in and the people that inhabit that world through this experience. Additionally, I hope to gain skills and experiences that I can use going forward in my professional career.

Why is it important that students develop inclusive leadership development?

This type of experience is hugely important because of the nature of where our world is headed. As our world becomes more and more global, the people of the world need to become more and more capable of interacting and working with different groups of people, and this type of experience is an excellent way to teach those types of skills.

Why should students work in rural communities?

The fact of the matter is, not everyone comes from the same background. Personally, I was raised in a tiny, affluent bubble, but continuing to stay inside of that bubble isn’t going to help me progress as a person. In order to experience that kind of growth, people (including me) need to change their situation.

Why is it important students give back to Nebraska?

People who live in Nebraska, regardless of whether or not they’re from the state itself, have a lot to gain from the world around them. It seems only fair that if we as people are willing to take, we should in turn be willing to give back, to continue to foster the growth and development of a community.

What new opportunities exist today to help move rural communities forward? What are your ideas?

We are at a turning point for global and personal development. My generation has begun to enter the workplace and influence the world, and the choices that we make now are going to have huge impacts on the future. In order to maintain those impacts and move them in a positive direction, we need to be able to have support from our peers. At the base of this support comes education. I have been very blessed to have the education that I do, and I want to be able to help other people get a similar education. It is one of the most powerful tools that people today can and do have. I believe that making education accessible to everyone is one of the best ways to create change, on a personal level, as well as on the community level.