From preparing flood recovery materials to helping victims apply for FEMA support, students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have begun working in communities across the state through a new summer serviceship program created in the wake of this year’s devastating flooding.
Twenty-four Nebraska students from all four University of Nebraska institutions are beginning serviceships in 14 communities, with more students being placed on an ongoing basis as the university matches students’ skills with local needs. Of those 24 students, 18 are undergraduates at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
An additional group of eight students from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at Nebraska is traveling across the state to share stories of the flooding’s impact and document recovery efforts.
“Our commitment to Nebraskans from the beginning has been that the University of Nebraska will be a partner for as long as it takes for our state to rebuild,” said Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of Nebraska Extension, which is coordinating the NU system’s flood response efforts together with a university-wide team of experts. “Our students have a wealth of knowledge and an eagerness to serve. The flood serviceship program is a perfect opportunity for them to gain real-world experience in meeting the needs of our communities.
“We’re proud of our students for stepping up, and we’re excited to have projects underway that will help Nebraska on the long road to recovery.”
Based on a successful model developed by NU’s Rural Futures Institute, the flood recovery serviceship program will place a maximum of 50 students in communities across the state to work with local leaders on recovery efforts.
Serviceships run a maximum of 10 weeks each, up to 40 hours per week, based on a student’s schedule and a community’s needs. Students are paid $12.50 per hour and may be able to earn college credit for their work.
Students engaged in the program thus far represent a wide range of disciplines, including agriculture, teaching, business administration, engineering, communications and more.
Sophomore geology major Aryca King is spending the summer near her hometown of Garland as a Federal Emergency Management Agency intern at the Butler County Courthouse, in David City.
Since late May, King has worked under associate extension educator Katelyn Pleskac to help FEMA applicants upload their damage inventory documents and navigate the grant portal website. Having someone there to assist with the process, King said, can help residents feel a little less stressed — especially those who may not be familiar with using a computer.
The extension office plans to continue its efforts through the fall, as need for FEMA assistance is expected to only increase over time.
“When I signed up, I assumed that I’d be working hands-on with the cleanup,” King said. “But when I got an office job, I was open to anything. I was just willing and able and ready to help Nebraska through the recovery process.”
Laura Gamboa, a senior global studies and political science major, is returning to her hometown of Grand Island to help members of the community feel more prepared in the face of future disasters.
“I grew up in Hall County, and [the flood] hit a lot of people who just didn’t know what to do,” Gamboa said. “When it happens, some people are just stuck and don’t know who to talk to or where to go.”
Under community vitality extension educator Sandra Barrera, Gamboa will help prepare educational materials like fliers, pamphlets and videos that help residents before, during and after a natural disaster. The information will include resources and contacts for Grand Island residents to turn to in case of imminent emergency.
Gamboa, who is bilingual, will also translate the materials to Spanish to ensure all members of the community are included in the initiative.
“I feel like we should all help out one another,” Gamboa said. “I’m getting a lot of information about natural disasters, so I’ll be prepared myself, and I can help my friends and my family.”
The university is continuing to accept applications; all undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all NU campuses, including the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, are invited to apply. Community leaders with ideas for serviceship projects are also encouraged to continue to apply to serve as hosts for students. The flood serviceship program is funded by a $250,000 investment from the University of Nebraska.
Complete information on the university’s flood response efforts is available here.