Lincoln, Neb. —On July 19, the West Central Research, Education and Extension Center hosted seven students taking part in the 2023 Rural Fellows program. These students presented their summer projects targeted toward community development in the North Platte and Curtis areas.
The Rural Fellowship program pairs university students with rural communities in Nebraska to complete projects that help the communities thrive. These students work full-time on their projects and volunteer at multiple events. The purpose of this program is to provide rural communities with new perspectives and introduce students into these communities.
Three Rural Fellow students -- Menli Nepesova, Sonika Khanal, and Jacob Abaare -- were placed in North Platte . Their projects included completing a housing assessment, community needs assessment, and a pavement analysis project. The students assessed over 400 houses and covered 44% of the paved infrastructure in North Platte, and found that much of it was in fair condition. Additionally, the students found that the general population in North Platte would like to see more clothing and retail options.
Also in the North Platte area, two Rural Fellows, Antonio Azpeitia-Lopez and Laurent Ikuzwe, worked at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. These students were tasked with presenting a marketing plan for the Lincoln County Ag Society. Throughout the summer, the Rural Fellows created a new logo, promoted the fair, brainstormed off-season attractions, and promoted local fair vendors. Azpeitia-Lopez and Ikuzwe volunteered at multiple NebraskaLand Days events and will be helping at the Lincoln County Fair July 26-30.
At the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, in Curtis, Maryam Sule and Olivia Taylor worked to increase NCTA alumni engagement and create an arboretum walking tour on campus. Sule increased alumni engagement by creating a weekly trivia giveaway on Facebook and creating postcards. Additionally, the students plotted over 300 trees on campus and created a self-guided and audio tour. All 34 different species and their histories are described in detail. You can now take the tour that leads you all around NCTA campus.
Overall, all the students were very grateful to the Rural Fellows program for the opportunity to live and work in rural Nebraska. Furthermore, the interns felt very welcomed by everyone in the community, and now see rural Nebraska in a different light.
The Rural Fellows program is under Rural Prosperity Nebraska and has been connecting college students with rural Nebraska communities for 10 years. According to a survey completed in 2021, in the last ten years Rural Fellows have impacted 70 rural communities and 171 students. This equates to 64,000 manhours of labor and numerous volunteer hours. For more information on the Rural Fellows program visit https://ruralprosperityne.unl.edu/rural-fellowship.