Hometown internships inspire young Nebraskans to return home | news

University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Paige Kniep didn’t know she wanted to return home until completing her Nebraska Community Foundation hometown internship in 2021 — now she plans to build a life in Deshler.

Kniep, who served as Deshler Community Fund’s hometown Intern in 2021, said the experience was among many factors that inspired her to make the choice to return to Thayer County after college and start a business in her hometown. Her internal coordinator and the community made sure she knew she would always be welcomed.

“I feel like this internship last summer really assured me that Deshler was the place I wanted to end up,” Kniep said. “Having that one person in your hometown that really encourages you makes a big difference. It really showed me that path was possible.”

Kniep is one of six college students returning to the program this year. This summer’s group of hometown interns is the largest yet with 23 students serving in paid internships in 16 communities throughout the state, including Wayne, Cuming County, Columbus, Crofton, Norfolk and Howells in Northeast Nebraska. Interns will forge new connections and strengthen existing bonds as they work on community-building projects.

“At Nebraska Community Foundation, we believe the community economic development priority should be people attraction and building welcoming hometowns people choose to live and work in,” said Jeff Yost, NCF’s CEO and president. “We should focus lots of attention on those who are already in community with us, along with those looking to join us. Hometown internships are a powerful tool to help us deepen connections with the next generation of community leaders. Through this experience, interns are beginning to realize their hometowns have a lot to offer.”

Hometown interns work with local NCF affiliated funds on a variety of projects tailored to their community and the interests and skillsets of the interns. While the specific tasks and projects will vary from one internship to another, NCF will provide numerous opportunities for interns to connect throughout the summer to give them space to learn from each other, share ideas and foster appreciation for their hometowns while contributing to community development efforts at the local and statewide level.

Hometown internal program partners include University of Nebraska Extension; Nebraska Honors; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication program; and the Center for Civic Engagement.

The 2022 NCF hometown interns for Northeast Nebraska are (asterisks indicate a returning intern):

— Averi Devish, Columbus Area Future Fund: Devish’s internship will work in a partnership with Columbus Area United Way and Columbus Area Future Fund.

— Emmie Dvorak, Cuming County Community Fund: Dvorak will visit with groups, businesses and individuals to map assets and discover the community’s dreams.

— Emily Eilers, Wayne Area Legacy Fund: Eilers’ duties will include boosting social media marketing, developing a newsletter and event planning.

— Jillian Grovijohn, Howells Community Fund: Grovijohn will update the alumni mailing list, coordinate summer youth activities, promote events and manage the fund’s website and social media.

— Sarah Kleinschmit, Crofton Community Foundation Fund: Kleinschmit will work on community asset mapping and supporting the ongoing pool fundraising effort.

— Austin Truex, Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund*: Truex will build a database of 2022 high school graduates and develop a communications stream to keep them updated while they are away from the area.

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