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Nebraska Community Foundation support launches hometown interns

Nebraska City News-Press

During an uncertain summer where many opportunities were canceled, several Nebraska Honors students had the unique opportunity to participate in internships in their hometowns.

Through a partnership with the Nebraska Community Foundation, the University Honors Program matched honors students with organizations in their hometowns.

The experience provided students with exciting and engaging learning opportunities that were aligned with their passions and academic interests.

Many Honors Program students are interested in returning home for the summer to give back to their communities while gaining professional development experience—a desire made even more pressing by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students from greater Nebraska make up nearly a quarter of the Honors student population at the university, and this partnership with Nebraska Community Foundation targets Honors students from rural communities.

Honors students were paired with other students from around Nebraska to create a cohort experience and encourage students to share their perspectives and ideas.

Honors students worked with local community foundations that are affiliated with the Nebraska Community Foundation to advance community initiatives and priorities while allowing them to gain valuable experience and a different perspective of their hometowns.

Jay Cleveland, a fisheries and wildlife major, was matched through the partnership and expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to give back in their hometown in Boone County.

“Over the summer, I worked on several projects. I interviewed small business owners across Nebraska and asked them about their communities and businesses. Our hope was to be able to take their ideas to improve life in Boone County,” Cleveland said.

“I also worked on curriculum for Boone Central’s Cardinal Kid’s Club. Boone County has had a childcare shortage, and Cardinal Kid’s Club is an after-school program that is working to address this need. Other tasks I did included writing an annual donor newsletter and countywide report,” Cleveland said.

“This experience led me to gain a better understanding of the communities I grew up in and what needs to be done to help Boone County thrive,” he said. “I also gained communication and leadership skills that will benefit me in the future.”

Chloe Higgins, who returned for her second consecutive summer as an Honors Hometown Intern, coordinated the intern program for the Nebraska Community Foundation, planning professional development opportunities and advising students in the program.

“This summer, I worked as NCF’s Hometown Intern coordinator, meaning I oversaw all of the Hometown Interns and worked with them to create meaningful experiences by building on my experience as a Hometown Intern last summer,” Higgins said.

“My main tasks included hosting weekly meetings to further education and community building, coaching each intern on their CliftonStrengths and serving as a mentor and adviser to the interns throughout their experiences,” she said.

"This summer was an incredible opportunity to watch community development work across the state, and I had the chance to build relationships with other students who love rural Nebraska as much as I do,” Higgins said.

Higgins is a junior economics major from Nebraska City.

Her summer experience was highlighted in an op-ed by the Omaha World-Herald.

“I think many hometown interns were surprised by how much responsibility and autonomy they had over the summer,” said Jeff Yost, president and CEO of the Nebraska Community Foundation.

“Their experiences went far beyond making copies or fetching coffee. They did important work that is going to extend long beyond their internship,” he said.

“We’ve heard from many students that their experience helped them see a different side of their hometowns,” Yost said. “Some said their eyes have been opened to the abundant possibilities that exist in greater Nebraska. A few are already making plans to move home after college. We heard again and again how fulfilling it was to be a part of positive change in the hometowns that raised them.”

The Honors Program and Nebraska Community Foundation are now preparing for the summer 2021 internship season.

Students who are interested in returning to their Nebraska hometowns for summer internships should contact Shannon Mangram at shannon.mangram@unl.edu.

The other honors students who participated in the 2020 initiative were:

Miranda Shreves, sophomore psychology major from Johnson;

Nathan Wright, sophomore history major from Auburn; and

Haley Faust, senior management major from Columbus and Nebraska Business Honors Academy student.