Students of RFI | Amber Ross

Article by: Amber Ross, sophomore agribusiness major at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln


Ross speaking during the student panel portion of the 2015 Rural Futures Institute International Conference

My Experiences

During one event, I was able to spend some time with the future of West Point. (Pictured L-R: Ross, Silva, Severin)

In 2015, as senior at Callaway High School, in Callaway, Neb., I did not really know what I wanted to do with myself after graduation or where I was going to head after college. I had been working with a leadership team on the development of Custer County and was asked to share my experience at the Rural Futures Institute’s Annual Conference. Hearing all the stories of development, growth, retention, and the social impact from the other people on the panel changed my outlook on the rural communities around Nebraska.

In 2017, I had the chance to really immerse myself in a new community and understand what all those people had been talking about. As an RFI Student Serviceship intern I was able to live, work and play in West Point, Neb., for the summer. I learned about the community’s hidden gems, passion for development and hope for the future. Working in West Point helped me realize my passion for developing rural communities in Nebraska.

Since completing my serviceship experience, I have started looking for ways to reach out to communities and change the narrative surrounding “rural,” which I have been able to accomplish as a student intern in the RFI office. I have been helping research and plan various events and interviews. Working in the office has helped me expand my network with people from across the nation that are also interested in rural and everything that surrounds it. This will come in handy as I pursue a career in community development post-graduation. As the summer approaches, I look forward to completing a second serviceship experience, this time in Columbus, Neb., where I will work on a number of high-priority projects with the Chamber of Commerce.

“I can tell you that I would not be the person I am, or be on the path I am, without RFI. RFI gives me hope for the future of rural communities across the state, the nation, and the world. RFI means HOPE.”


My Definition of RFI

My experience with RFI can be summarized in three words:

The connections that RFI has made for people around the state are invaluable. The network that RFI has established is far reaching, on both the national and international levels. They work with people from Australia, Japan, Washington D.C., and Washington state, just to name a few.

The service that RFI has provided to students, like myself, and to communities is unparalleled. RFI has inspired students to learn more about rural communities and has empowered Nebraska’s communities to grow and advance. There is no way that I could have served communities the way I have without RFI.

Finally, RFI is encouraging people to think about “rural” in a totally new way. RFI is using podcasts, Facebook Live posts and Instagram posts to show people what rural really is and how important rural communities are. They are reaching out to forward-thinking leaders to help start the conversation.

What RFI Means

I can tell you that I would not be the person I am, or be on the path I am, without RFI. RFI gives me hope for the future of rural communities across the state, the nation and the world. RFI means HOPE.