Hometown Internships inspire young Nebraskans to return home

University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Paige Kniep didn’t know she wanted to return home until completing her Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF) 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 intern coordinator and the community made sure she knew she would always be welcome.

“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 Bennet, Diller, Wayne, Keith County, Cuming County, Hebron, Deshler, Columbus, McCook, Crofton, Norfolk, Butler County, Red Cloud, Chester, Howells and Nemaha County. 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 Hometown 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 Intern 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 are (asterisks indicate a returning intern):

Rachel Orth, Hometown Intern Coordinator*
Orth will offer support and advice to interns, organize peer learning sessions, meet one-on-one with interns, document their work for publication and much more.

Dakota Cherney, NCF/NCF Marketing Department*
Cherney, in his third year as an intern, will work with NCF’s Marketing Department on a variety of projects.

Maggie Buettner, Bennet Community Fund
Buettner will help develop the Fund’s social media presence, develop an interactive website and assist with the community’s Christmas in the Park festival.

Hayley Denner, Diller Community Foundation Fund*
Denner, a returning intern, will mentor and work alongside fellow interns Jadyn Schultis and Skylar Pretzer.

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.

Chloe Hintz, Hebron Community Fund
Hintz will work on marketing projects, surveys, asset mapping and event planning for a countywide Big Give fundraiser.

Miah Hoppens, Keith County Foundation Fund
Hoppens will continue the Fund’s asset mapping for newcomers and residents around Lake McConaughy.

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

Paige Kniep, Deshler Community Fund*
Kniep will create a business directory, assist with community events and create a brochure celebrating the Fund’s 10 years of success.

Maci Witte, Red Cloud Community Fund
Witte will intern at The Valley Child Development Center.

Alexander Lyons, Butler County Area Foundation Fund
Lyons will play a role in helping Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art gain historical status for its new building, as well as work on asset mapping.

Stephanie Meyer, Foundation for Thayer County Health Services Fund
Meyer will work with medical professionals in her area of study to gain experience, as well as gaining knowledge of other professions within a rural healthcare facility.

Ean Miller, Nemaha County Future Fund
Miller will work on community outreach and building awareness of Nemaha County Future Fund, alongside other duties.

Skylar Pretzer, Diller Community Foundation Fund
Pretzer, along with Denner and Schultis, will help build the Fund’s youth philanthropy efforts and update the Fund’s website and social media.

Chasity Samaniego, McCook Community Foundation Fund
Samaniego will assist in expanding the Heritage Square Walking Tour and work with local tourism professionals on a new storytelling program.

Jadyn Schultis, Diller Community Foundation Fund
Schultis, along with Denner and Pretzer, will help build the Fund’s youth philanthropy efforts and update the Fund’s website and social media.

Miranda Shreves, Nemaha County Future Fund*
Shreves will work with Miller on community outreach and building awareness of Nemaha County Future Fund, alongside other duties.

Luke Swanson, Red Cloud Community Fund
Swanson will work on Heritage Tourism projects, community surveys, social media and more.

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.

Logan Wiedel, Hebron Community Fund
Wiedel will work on marketing projects, surveys, asset mapping and event planning for a countywide Big Give fundraiser.

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