Rural Fellows begin 10th year serving Nebraska communities

· 5 min read

Rural Fellows begin 10th year serving Nebraska communities

Rural Fellows Faith Junck (left) and Benoit Kayigamba (right) served in Chadron in 2022.
Courtesy | Faith Junck
Rural Fellows Faith Junck (left) and Benoit Kayigamba (right) served in Chadron in 2022.

Rural Prosperity Nebraska will kick off the 10th season of its Rural Fellows internship program next month. Beginning June 5, 21 students will live in 10 rural communities across the state, working on community development projects that range from public health to downtown creative arts districts.

The Rural Fellows program places university students in Nebraska communities for seven weeks each summer to work with local leaders on community-designed projects. While most students are enrolled at one of the University of Nebraska institutions, this summer, two come from out of state — Waldorf University in Iowa and the University of Northern Colorado. All students receive real-world education in the workforce and experience life in rural communities, which they have been preparing for since February.

This year’s fellows are ready to hit the ground running, said Helen Fagan, program director.

“In the past, students and community leaders connected a few days before the internship began,” she said. “This year, students have been communicating with their community leaders all semester long. So when the students arrive in their communities on the 31st, they’re already well-versed in the projects they’ll be working on and familiar with the team they’ll be working with.”

The longer onboarding process has augmented a key tenet of the program: that students are placed in locations in pairs, based on how applicable their skills and education are to community or county needs. Because the summer-long projects are designed by the community and county leaders themselves, the application process for students includes a skills assessment to ensure that communities receive the students best suited to their needs. Projects this year include marketing and event planning for county fairs, tourism development, database management and social media/website design.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure our communities and students are ready,” said Darrell King, the program’s community engagement coordinator. “Our students have got the skills and the drive to make their summers in their communities a success. And our communities have created some really impactful projects. So the influence these student fellows have will last way longer than just the summer.”

This year, for the first time, high school students will have a chance to work with the Rural Fellows, too. Two students in Sidney will provide volunteer assistance to fellows Murengezi “Ben” Atali Benimana and Bobby Coleman in their community development work. Upon completion of their service, the students will receive a $1,000 scholarship toward classes in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Additionally, both student fellows and community leaders involved with the program receive leadership coaching. Among other skills, local leaders increase their capacity to draw from the diverse voices in their communities and enact more inclusive practices to complete their community projects.

As Nebraska becomes more diverse, the good of the community will increasingly rely on drawing from lots of perspectives, Fagan said. This year, 10 of the 21 student fellows are international students.

“I feel I grow a little more each year in being inclusive,” said Terri Haynes, a grant project manager at Educational Service Unit 13 in Chadron, who has participated in the program for four years.

Below is a list of host communities and the student fellows serving there this summer:

Box Butte County:

  • Ritu Jadwani, UNL, human sciences graduate student, Lincoln
  • Marissa Lindemann, UNL, broadcasting, Nevada, Iowa

Butler County:

  • Kate Holcomb, UNL, agricultural education, Broken Bow
  • Juliana Monono, University of Nebraska Medical Center, epidemiology, Yaoundé, Cameroon


  • AmunRa Jordan, UNL, emerging media arts, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Madeline Swanson, UNO, business administration, Beatrice

Curtis (Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture):

  • Joy Ishimwe, UNL, integrated science, Kigali, Rwanda
  • Maryam Sule, UNL, chemical engineering, Bellevue


  • Naidaly Gonzalez Miranda, UNL, agricultural leadership, education and communication, Omaha
  • Aruna Sree Posanipalle, UNMC, biostatistics, Hyderabad, India

Knox County:

  • Helber Fernandes Ribeiro, University of Northern Colorado, piano performance, São Paulo, Brazil
  • Maycee Quick, UNL, hospitality, restaurant and tourism management, Alliance

Lincoln County:

  • Antonio Azpeitia-Lopez, UNL, applied sciences, Omaha
  • Laurent Ikuzwe, UNL, integrated science, Kigali, Rwanda

North Platte:

  • Jacob Abaare, UNL, electrical engineering, Tamale, Ghana
  • Sonika Khanal, UNMC, public health graduate student, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Menli Nepesova, Waldorf University, business management, Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan

Scottsbluff (Empowering Families):

  • Maroua Afi, UNL, agricultural economics, Tunis, Tunisia
  • Lorraine Taylor, UNL, agricultural science and natural resources, Curtis


  • Murengezi “Ben” Atali Benimana, UNL, integrated science, Kigali, Rwanda
  • Bobby Coleman, UNL, advertising and public relations, California, Maryland

Student fellows will be in their communities from May 31 to July 21, with a final presentation ceremony scheduled for July 28.

For more information on the Rural Fellows program, including the application process and project highlights from previous years, click here.

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