This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week One!

RFI Serviceship Group Photo. May 18, 2018. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication

Starting May 21, 2018, 11 communities throughout Nebraska welcomed 24 students from University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Peru State College to work on strategic, future-focused projects, serve and live. Throughout the summer, the serviceship teams will share reflections and updates on their projects biweekly through RFI’s “This Week In Serviceship!” coverage.


2018 Serviceship!


Alliance, Neb.

The concept of our project is to create a Marketing Hometown America video to attract new residents to Box Butte County. We are also creating social media hashtags and providing input on websites that are involved with Box Butte County. We have yet to determine how long the video will be, but as of right now we have brainstormed multiple hashtags for Alliance and have gotten a good idea of who we want to interview in Alliance and Hemingford for the video. We have also looked through the websites and provided suggestions to improve them.

We have had a very busy first week. On Monday, we toured Alliance to get an idea of where everything was and met the people who work in our office. On Tuesday, we toured Hemingford, met many business owners and had a meeting. On Wednesday, we worked on hashtags and video ideas, had a meeting at the Knights Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance and then had an afternoon meeting in our office. We took pictures of the meetings.

Executive Director of the Alliance Chamber Susan Unzicker said, “Mirissa and Haley have given us in the office a new view of the community through our websites and other outside activities.”

Haley and Mirissa pose with Joni Jespersen of Hemingford, Neb., who is part of their host team during their Serviceship in Alliance.

On Thursday, we had a meeting at First National Bank with the branch president and the president of First National Bank from Omaha, Clark Lauritzen. Then, we went to Chadron and had a meeting with the Western Nebraska Development Network. We also discussed the Alliance and Hemingford websites with our lead mentor Chelsie Herian. On Friday, we sat in on a talk with the Alliance Times-Herald and also visited with a storyteller about our project.

Some cool people we have met while we have been here are: Joni Jespersen, Brenda McDonald, Chas Lierk, Ellen Lierk, Chelsie Herian, Susan Unzicker, Nita Peterson, and Jenny Nixon. Joni is with the village of Hemingford and has attended meetings with us. Brenda works with the Panhandle Prevention Coalition. Chas and Ellen are our host family for the first two weeks we are in Alliance. Chelsie is our lead mentor. Susan and Nita both work in our office and Jenny is with Nebraska Extension. They are all very helpful and will be wonderful to work with while doing this project.

A key takeaway we have realized is that we balance each other out really well. Haley is more go with the flow and Mirissa is high strung but we both think a lot alike when it comes to ideas and contributions to the project. We think we are going to be successful!

This experience has made me realize how important leadership is in rural communities, and I hope that Haley and I can represent Box Butte County in the best way possible so people see what a great place it is to live and work.
Mirissa Scholting
Serviceship Intern, Alliance, Neb.

McCook, Neb.

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.

Through the Rural Futures Institute Serviceship, I have realized that the ideas and work Emily and I bring to the table have actual value in helping make real, positive change in a rural community. The collaboration between community and service is what makes this project so fun and diverse.


There will have differing opinions to work with as we move forward, which means what we learned during our serviceship training about leadership, personality types and strengths will definitely be useful. We look forward to working In collaboration with the museum board to decide on the direction the museum wants to go and who the target audience is in order to move forward.

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

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.

After walking through other museums and brainstorming ideas for the High Plains Museum, we have realized how much potential there really is for the local space. The High Plains Museum could become an important landmark to McCook–one that people will travel from miles around to see and can’t leave town without visiting. Beyond creating a main attraction for tourists, our goal is to make the museum a place that locals keep coming back to through seasonal displays and events. The supportive community of McCook has us excited and hopeful as we proceed with these thoughts in mind!

The Rural Futures Institute Serviceship has taught me that Nebraskans have a shared pride for the rural communities they get to call home.
Emily Frenzen
Serviceship Intern, McCook, Neb.

McCook THETA Camps

We have had an amazing first few days here in McCook. As a trio, THETA is continuing to build upon the foundation laid last summer. We have instantly been thrown into action here in the small community of McCook where we have been making several connections as well as increasing the numbers for our camp attendance this summer.

I’ve felt very welcomed by the community of McCook and in the first week I’ve already seen a large variety of special things that makes McCook stand out from the pack.



Our first full day in town, Monday, we started off by stopping by the hospital to visit with Sarah Wolford and let her know that we made it and are ready to get to work. We also visited the local YMCA, the new facility for the THETA camp, to continue to build relationships and look over the utilities and room we will have access to this year. We believe that the YMCA will be a great location for us to have another successful camp this year as we have plenty of space and resources at our fingertips.

The THETA trio talked with Rich Barnett of High Plains Radio about RFI and their camps live on the air.

Continuing on to Tuesday, we were notified in the morning that we were to be at the local radio station, High Plains Radio, in 45 minutes to promote the Rural Futures Institute and our THETA camp live on the air. We had a great time at the radio station where we were able to visit with a few locals as well as the radio host, Rich Barnett. We also connected face-to-face with Rhonda Graft who will give us additional volunteer opportunities that we will be participating in this summer. Bike Across Nebraska will be stopping in McCook in early June, giving us a chance to help out the community since an influx of people will be stopping in McCook. This opportunity is great for us and the businesses in McCook.

We proceeded to stay busy on Wednesday as we visited the hospital again for orientation and to continue meeting more of the locals of McCook. It was a great experience to see this hospital and how the staff all works together in order to accomplish a shared goal–quality patient care. Tyan and Collin visited the physical therapist they shadowed last year and will be shadowing again this year, and Brad connected through a phone call with the clinic whose doctors he will shadow.

It has been great to see all the old faces and reconnect with past connections. I’m looking forward to another great summer.
Tyan Boyer
Serviceship Intern, McCook THETA Camps

Neligh, Neb.

We are conducting a market analyses, or regional mapping report, on both Neligh, Neb., and the greater Northeast Nebraska region. The mapping report will highlight demographics, SWOT assessments, current and future economic trends, infrastructure reports, geography, and identify technologies for integration into Neligh’s “Responsive City” movement. This report will be used to shape the projects within Neligh’s strategic planning process.

Rhiannon and Michayla sat in on the Nebraska Main Street conference in Beatrice, Neb.

On Monday we went on a walking tour of the downtown business district where we met countless active members of boards and business owners. That evening we sat in on a meeting with Nebraska Community Foundation and the Neligh Community Foundation. The next project for Neligh is renovating the old movie theater in town to get it functional again.

Michayla volunteering at the Thriftway Market Burger Bash.

On Wednesday, we had the cool opportunity to travel to Beatrice for a Nebraska Main Street conference. There we heard from economic developers, both private and public, about projects that are going on around the state and learned of funding opportunities for projects. While we were there a discussion occurred where the question was posed, “How do we get young people to come back to rural Nebraska?” It was interesting to see how different generations viewed that challenge differently and had vastly different solutions that could work. On Thursday we worked in the office as well as attended a City Council informational meeting about the nursing home in Neligh. There recently has been some controversy around management so the city is considering leasing the building. On Friday we served burgers at the Thriftway Market Burger Bash.

This week, we both had some key takeaways. Rhiannon learned how nice people are in small towns, that assumptions are detrimental to development and that leadership and knowledge go beyond positions. Michayla learned that misconceptions exist across all divides, that good ideas can come from anyone regardless of title and how often and easy it is to “cut and paste” solutions in economic development.


Seward, Neb.

We are working with the Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership (SCCDP) under the mentorship of Jonathan Jank. Our primary project is to develop a sustainable Seward County Newcomers program that will engage new permanent residents and many visitors to Seward County each year. We are also teaming up with local businesses to determine how to attract new customers and to take a fresh look at Seward County to determine what first impressions newcomers have of local communities.

We have specifically started to narrow down our goals for the summer. We will be trying to reach out to newcomers and get more information on how we can make Seward County “sticky.” Some of the questions we will ask members of the community include: “What attracted you to move to Seward?” and “How was your experience moving into Seward? What went great? What could have been better?” We will also try to reach out to leaders of surrounding communities such as Milford, Utica, Bee and Cordova. We also know that the lack of housing has been a problem in Seward County. We are trying to find out the necessary information that can help retain newcomers to staying in Seward County in the long term. Conducting surveys or simply setting up meetings with new families and people to the community may solve this.


Maddie poses outside of the Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward.

This week, we met with the local Kiwanis Club, who are a generous child advocacy group consisting of about 50 members. We were invited to join them for lunch on Monday and were introduced to the club’s president Jerry Meyer. Jerry, who is also curator of the Nebraska National Guard Museum, was generous enough to give us a personal tour of the museum and talked with us for an hour about the community. We then participated in the Seward County Chamber & Development Program board meeting, sharing insight into the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals that Seward County will need to be setting for community and economic development.

On Tuesday, we prepared a press release, and then we sat down for a long goal setting conversation with our mentor Jonathan. We also met with Sarah Skinner, who works for Senator Deb Fischer, and she informed us of the work Senator Fischer is doing in rural America. We then made phone calls to influential community members to set up a time to meet with–this meeting would entail information gathering, for us to get better clarity as to what Seward County needs to stay “sticky.”


On Wednesday, we met with Mallory Gibreal. She is the Director of Community Relations at Memorial Health Care Systems. She recently moved to Seward with her husband this past February. We met with her to get more information about what attracted her to Seward, what was good about her moving experience and what could have been better. She gave us very useful information to help us start to find more newcomers and how to retain newcomers in Seward County.