Hometown Intern – Mallory Denner

Name: Mallory Denner
Hometown: Diller
Affiliated Fund: Diller Community Foundation
School: Concordia University, Nebraska

What’s it like to return to your community after being away for a while?
It was refreshing to return to my community after being away for a while. I was able to see my hometown with new eyes after seeing the assets of another community. There were places where I spotted potential for growth in my own community. When coming back to my hometown, there’s a sense of belonging, of reconnecting with people and places. Overall, returning to my community after being away offers a chance for reflection, growth, and reconnection. This allows me to rediscover what assets my town has and be able to contribute to its ongoing growth.

What are some of your hometown’s greatest assets?
One of my hometown’s greatest assets is the Opera House. The Opera House can be used to host events and is a great historical building in our town. Another asset in my town is the community park, which we just made new updates and improvements to. The music that always plays through the speakers downtown is another great asset in our town. I can hear it whether I am in the park, walking downtown, or outside at my own house.

 What about the NCF Internship experience stands out to you so far? Why?
One thing that stands out so far is the opportunity to help progress and grow my community. After our Peer Learning Session out in Ogallala, I was able to see how big we as interns can dream for our communities. I have also learned that there is potential everywhere in your community, you just must have the creativity and ideas to dream it.

Everyone has gifts and talents to share. What do you hope to share with your hometown this summer?
Since I am an elementary education major, I have the gift to work well with kids. This will come in handy with our Youth Serviceship Camp. During this, we will be teaching our kids the value of their community. Another gift I have is working well with others. This will be useful as I will be working with Jadyn and Mikayla, the other Diller Interns, to collaborate ideas about our summer projects.

What should older adults know about your generation of Nebraskans?
Something that older adults should know about our generation of Nebraskans is that we have ideas on how to better our communities, we just need the help of others to know how to make some of them work. My generation wants to make a positive impact on our communities and the world in general. We utilize things like technology to connect with others, access to information, and express ourselves creatively. Even with our reliance on technology, we still value face-to-face interactions and meaningful relationships.

What makes you feel most attached to your hometown?
The thing that makes me feel most attached to my hometown is the connectedness of everyone in the community. I know I can always count on the help or support of a neighbor or fellow community member. The memories and connections I’ve built over the years also contributes to my attachment. It’s the people whose bonds were forged through shared experiences and mutual support that create a sense of belonging that anchor me to my hometown.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of your community?
I hope that my community continues to thrive economically, with local businesses and more employment opportunities for all ages. This entails fostering entrepreneurship, investing in education and workforce development, and creating a supportive infrastructure for economic growth. Employment opportunities will draw new and familiar faces into our community. I also hope that the kids we are teaching come back and use the skills we share with them at the Youth Serviceship Camp.

What are you looking for in a place to call home?
I am looking for a safe and supportive community to call home. I want to be able to know that I can count on my neighbors or others in the community to help me if I needed it. It needs to be a place where people are open to changes, even if it means changing something in the community. There should be places where kids can play, explore, or learn, as well as places to eat and entertainment.

If you were designing a future for yourself in Greater Nebraska, what would that look like?
I see myself graduating college with my elementary education degree and using it to teach in a small-town public school. I will be involved in helping the community grow and help them see and find their own town assets. I see myself raising my family to be involved in their community and show them the value of community. I would learn to appreciate all the other towns in Greater Nebraska and if I visit or drive through them, I will stop and look for their assets.

What’s a piece of advice you have for older generations of Nebraskans?
One piece of advice I have for older generations of Nebraskans is to embrace change, while still staying connected to your roots. Change is something you can’t avoid so embracing it allows for growth and adaptation, allowing you to thrive in a rapidly changing world. It is also important to stay connected to the traditions, values, and community that have shaped you as a person. Value the wisdom passed through the generations and continue to contribute to your community. Continue to engage with the younger generations, giving them mentorship and mutual respect. Sharing your experiences, knowledge, and insights will help you guide the next generation of Nebraskans.

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