Blog Archives

Mural Movement Grows in Clay Center

What began as a local Rotary project to install one mural in 2020 quickly became an entire movement in one North Central Kansas community.

A Mural Movement of Clay Center just saw the completion of its 25th mural in July 2022. Clay Center resident and Community Bank President Brett Hubka was president of the Rotary Club when the project began.

A Mural Movement of Clay Center committee members are shown with the latest mural. Pictured left to right are Dave Borgerding, Brett Hubka, Tracy Lebo, Artists Christian & Jessica Stanley, Michelle Gillard, Maria Pfizenmaier, Shannon Stark, and Jacob Lohrmeyer. (Courtesy Photo)

“Each Rotary Club president gets to do a project during their presidential year. It could be as simple as picking up trash to as complex as an entire playground. A mural was actually not my first idea,” Hubka said. “K-State Architecture, Planning and Design students had come at some point to do some plans for the downtown and a mural was included in those plans. For whatever reason it never got done. I presented the idea to the club for a mural and just for fun in my PowerPoint included other buildings/locations where murals could go.”

When the idea took off, Brett reached out to six others in the community with an interest in growing the movement. That seven-person mural committee continues today.

Murals primarily are located in Clay Center, but murals have also been installed in nearby Longford and Green and plans are underway for a mural in Morganville.

While the movement has received some grant funding through the District Rotary and the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, Hubka estimates 90 percent of the funding has come from local individuals, businesses and alumni. To date they have received about $250,000 and donations from 23 different states.

“We’ve definitely reached a different phase in the project,” Hubka said. “We are shifting to a greater focus on promotion instead of installing more murals.”

Hubka offers advice for communities considering a major project of their own. “For any community project, teaming up with a civic organization is important,” Hubka said. “For us two other big keys to success were a great committee and a generous community. We could not do this without either one.”

To view an interactive map of all the murals or to learn more, visit a Mural Movement Experience.

Congratulations to the following organizations located in North Central Kansas that were recently awarded funding through the Office of Rural Prosperity’s Rural Mural and Public Art grant program:

  • Clay Center Community Improvement Foundation
  • Community Foundation of Dickinson County, Inc.
  • Ellsworth County Economic Development Corporation
  • Mitchell County Strong, Inc.
  • Wilson Tourism Hub, Inc.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Staff Introductions, Transitions Announced

We are pleased to announce the hiring of two new employees and other recent staff transitions.

NCRPC welcomed new staff and announced recent staff transitions. Pictured from left to right at top are Deb Ohlde and Bri Beck and below are Chelsea Smith and Kendra Ryser.

Deb Ohlde returned to the NCPRC in July as Strategic Development Advisor. She brings many years of experience in strategic planning, small group facilitation as well as proposal writing/project management in the public and non-profit sectors. Deb first joined the NCRPC in 1994 and served in a variety of roles culminating in Assistant Director, through 2016. She stayed connected to community development while operating her own consulting company, NEW Heartland Freelance. Most recently she was Director of Grower Services for Kansas Corn before rejoining the NCRPC. Deb is a graduate of Kansas State University with a BS in Agricultural Economics and a Master’s in Public Administration. She has completed the Economic Development Finance Professional certification through the National Development Council and the Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas. She is a certified Ice House Facilitator. While Deb will work throughout the region as needed, her primary counties will be Marshall, Washington, Republic, Jewell, Cloud and Clay.

Chelsea Smith began work in September as Administrative Assistant. In this role she provides support to many of the NCRPC programs and handles accounts receivable and provides support to NCKCN, the 501(c)3 Internet Service Provider operated by the NCRPC. Chelsea previously worked in customer service for 20 years—most recently in e-commerce and web data management. She is a Wichita area native and moved to Beloit in 2014.

Other recent position changes include the naming of Bri Beck as Director of Community Development and Kendra Ryser as Weatherization Director. Beck has been with the organization since 2020 as a Community Development Representative. Ryser joined the NCRPC in 2019 as Weatherization Assistant and most recently served as the Interim Weatherization Director.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Changes Announced for Upcoming CDBG Funding Rounds

Changes in the timing and focus of eligible projects were made to the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program annual competition grants this year. The CDBG program is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce (KDC).

Details for FY 2023 projects were recently released at the Application Workshop. Unless otherwise stated below, application deadlines have been moved from their traditional fall dates to February 1, 2023.

Traditional funding categories for CDBG annual competition grants were housing, community facilities, and water/sewer. The focus of those categories has been expanded. Key changes to note include the following:

  • The CDBG Housing grant has moved from an annual competition round to an open round. Applications will be open from January 2, 2023 through December 1, 2023.
  • Annual competition Water/Sewer Infrastructure grants will only be awarded to communities with KDHE consent orders. These communities must submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) to KDC by November 18, 2022. A draft PER is due with the RFP. Kansas Interagency Advisory Committee (KIAC) meetings will be held the 1st & 2nd weeks in December 2022. KDC will determine if your project is eligible to submit a full application. Please note, CDBG funds will only be used to address the issues surrounding your consent order.
  • The emphasis has changed to funding Regional Water Planning Grants. CDBG requires two or more entities to be involved to be considered regional. Applications will be open from January 2, 2023 through December 1, 2023. LMI requirements do not apply. Please note, KDHE requires three or more entities to be involved to be considered regional.
  • The Community Facilities grant will now focus on three targeted categories: Non-Profit Childcare and Education Facilities; Community Centers, Libraries & Parks; and Sidewalks & Trails.
  • The Youth Training category is intended to be partnered with the JAG program and assist high school students with tuition, books, supplies, and training. This can be used as gap funding with other programs, but there can be no duplication of benefits.
  • The Architectural Barrier Removal grant is intended to assist with accessibility issues upon entering a for-profit business.

To be eligible for CDBG funds, a project must meet at least one of the following federally mandated criteria: benefits low- and/or moderate-income individuals; removes or prevents slum or blighted conditions; or eliminates an urgent need created by a disaster when local funds are unavailable.

For more information about the CDBG program, visit Kansas Department of Commerce or contact the NCRPC Community Development staff.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

North Central Kansas Regional Relocation Program Launches

A new program that seeks to attract new residents to move to North Central Kansas is now available in Cloud, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic and Saline Counties.

The pilot project known as the North Central Kansas Regional Relocation Program seeks to make home ownership more affordable for those relocating to the region by reducing the barriers of down payments and closing costs. It offers a combination of a 0% down payment assistance loan of $10,000 and closing cost grant of $2,500 when purchasing a home of $50,000 or greater. Eligible home purchase types include existing homes, existing homes with planned/financed upgrades totaling $50,000 or greater, manufactured homes including lot and infrastructure, or new construction. Funds are limited and available on a first come, first served basis. The program officially launched August 15, 2022.

An award from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation of Logan, Kansas, assisted in funding the program, along with a donation from NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. The North Central Regional Planning Commission is administering the program. NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. is an affiliate of the North Central Regional Planning Commission.

Program eligibility includes relocating to an eligible county in North Central Kansas within the past 18 months prior to the request. Additionally, the primary bank loan must be provided by a bank having a physical location in the North Central Regional Planning Commission 12-county service area.

“We are pleased to bring this program to North Central Kansas,” Program Manager Debra Peters said. “It offers new residents up to 18 months to experience all the region has to offer before staking roots here.”

Results of the pilot program will be used to develop a permanent regional relocation program in 2024.

For more information about the program, contact your local bank or realtor or visit the NCK Regional Relocation Incentive page.

This article appeared in the Quarter 3 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

2022 Banquet Marks 50th Anniversary

Banquet Presentation Materials

Presentation Slides – A Fifty Year NCRPC Retrospective by John Cyr (PDF, 1.0 MB)

About the Event

The 2022 event marks the 50th anniversary of the North Central Regional Planning Commission. The banquet is also hosted on behalf of NCRPC affiliate, North Central Kansas Community Network Co. (NCKCN).

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Down Under Ballroom
121 W South Street | Beloit, KS 67420

5:15 p.m. | Social Gathering and Registration
6 p.m. | Dinner
Followed by Presentations and Keynote Address

Doug Griffiths, community strategist and noted author, will give the keynote address at the NCRPC Banquet.


Keynote Address:
We will be joined by keynote speaker Doug Griffiths, community strategist and author of two best-selling editions of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.”

Inaugural Presentation of NCRPC Lifetime Public Service Award:
John Cyr will be recognized as the first recipient of the NCRPC Lifetime Public Service Award. The award recognizes individuals or organizations that have made outstanding contributions over many years to the communities and citizens of the region. John dedicated his career to the region, much of which was spent as NCRPC Executive Director

Award News Release – October 14, 2022 (PDF, 172 KB)


This event is made possible by the generous support of the following sponsors:

  • Cunningham Telephone & Cable
  • Kyle Railroad

North Central Region Round Table Discussion August 16

Have you been wondering about how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) might be helpful to your community or a project you’ve been hoping to launch?

You are invited to attend a regional round table discussion focused on the BIL and the additional grant opportunities it brings to Kansas and our region. At the statewide Summit held in Wichita in July 2022, the North Central Regional Planning Commission agreed to convene the initial regional meeting (for the area representing KDOT North Central District 2) to further discuss and strategize about a regional approach to accessing the funds. While cities and counties can partner with other entities that make the most sense for their project, the conversation will begin with counties in District 2. You are encouraged to share the invitation with other interested parties in the region.

When: August 16, 2022
Registration at 10 a.m. – Adjourn at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Salina Chamber Annex
120 West Ash, Salina KS (building is north of chamber office – parking is available in adjacent lot and on streets surrounding the area)

Tentative Agenda

  • Overview of BIL and funding opportunities
  • Finding partners who could work together on possible applications
  • Resources in the region to aid in application preparation


Please join us August 16th for this regional discussion and networking lunch. Lunch will be provided and is being coordinated by TCT Broadband.

Registration is required by August 12 to ensure adequate space and food.

Please register through this link – North Central Region Round Table Discussion 8.16.2022

Learn More

To learn more about the BIL or the Kansas HUB coordination of the state’s efforts, visit the following:

Questions? Contact NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor Deb Ohlde by email at or by calling 785-275-2499 or 785-738-2218.

Home Ownership Program Update

Program Assisted in Purchase of 25 Homes Last Year

Financial incentives offered through the NCK Home Ownership Program assisted in the purchase of 25 homes in the region following the pilot program’s official expansion to Jewell and Saline Counties in June 2021.

The program assisted eligible home buyers with down payment and closing cost assistance. The total value of the 25 homes was $4.3 million, with $312,500 coming from the pilot program. Five homes in Jewell County and three homes in Saline County were purchased with program assistance. Another 17 homes were purchased in counties where the NCK Home Ownership Pilot Program had launched previously. The program completed in December 2021.

The NCRPC administered the program offered by its housing non-profit, NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. The non-profit serves Cloud, Ellsworth, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Ottawa, Republic, and Saline Counties. An award from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation of Logan, Kansas, assisted in the creation of the loan and grant pool, along with a regional match from NCK Housing Opportunities, Inc. The mission of the non-profit is to preserve and strengthen housing in its service area.

The 2021 pilot defined and marketed an eligible home project to include a home purchase price of $50,000 or greater including an existing home, existing home with planned/financed upgrades totaling $50,000 or greater, manufactured home including lot and infrastructure, or new construction.

“The results of this new marketing effort resulted in 10 of the 25 eligible home projects including $211,000 investment in improvements/remodeling of the existing home being purchased and a $1,411,000 investment in new housing stock,” NCRPC Home Ownership Program Coordinator Keegan Bailey said.”

Program data indicate positive local impacts. In a survey of home buyers, 20% were first-time home buyers and 39% took a new job in the last 24 months with 10% of those reporting the program incentive was a factor in their job decision.

“With the expansion of the pilot program to Jewell and Saline counties, we continued to see strong interest from individuals with local ties to the region with 73% of homebuyers reporting that they graduated from a school in the NCRPC 12-county service area,” NCRPC Home Ownership Program Manager Debra Peters said. “We were also encouraged by 24% of buyers moving from out of state.”

Additional pilot programs have been completed in the City of Marysville and Cloud, Dickinson, Ellsworth, Lincoln and Mitchell Counties. Since 2018, home ownership programs have combined to assist in the purchase of 114 homes in the region with an approximate value of $14.2 million. Future plans include the expansion of pilot home ownership programs in each of the remaining counties in the NCRPC 12-county service area, pending the availability of funding.

Learn more about the home ownership programs.

Washington County Home Ownership Program Currently Available
Pilot program launched June 20, 2022. Limited funds available on a first come, first served basis. Act now!

Offered by Four Rivers Housing Opportunities, Inc., a non-profit serving Clay, Dickinson, Marshall and Washington Counties. Managed by North Central Regional Planning Commission.

Learn More

This article appeared in the June 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Project Spotlight: Innovation Stimulus Program

Program Provided Support, Engineering Services to Local Businesses including Double L Manufacturing

By Bret Lanz, Commercialization Director for Technology Development Institute

Double L Manufacturing worked with Technology Development Institute to create SolidWorks™ models for some of its product lines. (Courtesy Photo)

As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, supply chain concerns and labor shortages continue to impact businesses across the region. In an effort to streamline production processes and document its growing line of products, Double L Manufacturing applied to receive engineering support through the Innovation Stimulus Program.

The Innovation Stimulus Program was a partnership between the Technology Development Institute (TDI) at Kansas State University and the NCRPC. It was made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) through the CARES Act.

Since its inception in 2017, Double L Manufacturing, located in Clay Center has continued to grow despite the pandemic challenges. The company specializes in metal fabrication with a mixture of tractor and skid steer attachments which can be private labeled and are sold at a number of implement dealers across the region. It also provides custom fabrication services.

The company applied to the Innovation Stimulus Program in hopes of obtaining engineering support to create CAD models of several of its highest selling products. The models would enable creation of individual part drawings and a detailed set of manufacturing instructions to assist in training new employees.

“We are focused on daily production and ensuring we have all the materials on hand to meet our customer’s needs. We don’t typically have time or the resources to create engineering models and detailed work instructions” said Thomas Mulligan, owner of Double L. “Working with the engineering team at K-State has been a great experience to generate the documentation needed to ensure the highest quality product possible.”

As part of the project, TDI created SolidWorks™ models of the company’s bale spear, pallet forks and tree saw product line in addition to many of the fixtures needed to produce the products. They used the models to work with Double L staff to create detailed manufacturing instructions for each product to improve quality and reduce production time.

“Thomas has done an excellent job of growing his company during some of the most difficult times in recent memory and continues to expand into new products and services,” said Bret Lanz, Commercialization Director for Technology Development Institute.

This article appeared in the June 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Business Owner Creates Platform for Mental Wellness Tools

Loan Provides Capital for Business to Pivot Operations
image of Catherine DiNuzzo

Catherine DiNuzzo

A revenue decline during the pandemic pushed one local business owner to take a new and proactive approach to her business.

Catherine DiNuzzo is a Licensed Professional Counselor, author, and speaker. Based in Beloit, Kansas, she has been in private practice since 2010. Faced with challenges during the pandemic, DiNuzzo pivoted her business model and founded Sacred Heart Mental Wellness. The new platform provides tools and resources for mental wellness and dealing with anxiety from a Catholic perspective. Her accompanying book, “The Catholic Guide Through Anxiety,” is currently available on Amazon.

“When the pandemic hit, the mental health sector did very well. However, in the months immediately following, there was uncertainty and financial constraints and it began to have an impact on my business,” DiNuzzo said. “I was also seeing how the pandemic would affect people’s mental health as a whole and I saw a need. My goal is to change mental health into mental wellness. Part of that shift for me was to be proactive and make tools and resources more accessible with shorter, smaller snippets of information that are more digestible.”

A business loan enabled DiNuzzo to invest in the online resources that she says she would not have otherwise had the capital to do at the time.

“I worked with a local studio for website design/videography and a local person helped me with my book. I really appreciated this opportunity and this was one way I could give back to my area. The loan provided a bridge to help me get to the next place with my business goals.”

The project was made possible, in part, through assistance from the NCK Business Relief Loan Program that was funded by the EDA CARES Act RLF 2020 and administered by the NCRPC. Additional investment was made by the owner.

Learn more about NCRPC Business Finance services and the business.

This article appeared in the June 2022 NCRPC Newsletter.

Rural Voices 2021-2022 Winners Announced

image of 2021-2022 Rural Voices Youth Contest theme and logoCongratulations to the 2021-2022 Rural Voices Youth Contest winners!

About the Contest

The NCRPC sponsors the Rural Voices Youth Contest each year to engage high school seniors in North Central Kansas in thoughtful reflection on rural Kansas and to promote a discussion among citizens based on their insights. The 2021-2022 theme was “Rural Kansas…Tomorrow’s Leaders.”

By Phillip Shirkey

Rural Voices: My Community and Me

America is a rural country.“Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain” is not just a lyric in a song, but a statement about America. What makes our country so unique in the world is that it is a collection, not of massive coastal cities or of densely populated areas, but of small towns and communities who look out for their own and work together to make this country great. America is a country built on small communities, families, scattered throughout the beautiful countryside who, in order to achieve their dreams, encourage learning, leading, and teaching. Kansas is the epitome of that unique American culture and astounding American community.

My community is Concordia, a small town in North Central Kansas whose residents number only five thousand. They make up for that in spirit and in drive, propelling the younger generation to take up the mantle of leadership and to safeguard the community for the generation after them. For example, the American Legion chapter in Concordia promotes two events, Boys’ State and Girls’ State. These are opportunities for high school students a scant few years away from joining adult society to learn how the Kansas government functions and why it sometimes doesn’t. These events see a few Concordians every year go to Manhattan and meet with hundreds of their peers from around the state, form a simulated government, and run a virtual state of Kansas. But, of course, this one-time event only scratches the surface of how Concordia prepares its youth to make their voices heard. Our teachers encourage respectful political discourse in the classroom and challenge our assumptions on politics and power, to show us how a real leader should behave and support our ambitions to make the world a better place. Our school administration coordinates visits and seminars featuring Kansans who have achieved their dreams, such as state Attorney General Derek Schmidt, K-State coach Bill Snyder, and others.  They provide once-in-a-lifetime insight on how an ordinary person can become an extraordinary leader. Our residents are very involved in the political process and the leadership of our community. For example, this last November saw a bond issue come up for debate. Voices from across our city and county spoke on both sides of the issue. Our youth spoke with their parents and researched the issue on their own. We were supported by our community as we did what all Americans should do: learn about the issues which will affect us and use the empowerment provided by our community to speak up on these issues.

While I could go on about how my community has helped me recently, that is but one issue which determines how rural voices of youths like me are heard. Another important matter centers around how a community can ensure that these youth will not simply migrate to the coasts, as so many have done, but will go back to their roots and, like Napoleon coming back to France after his exile, rekindle in their community pride and hope for the future. For a community to survive, it must retain young people to lead it into the next era. If it fails to do so, it will simply go extinct. In a modern world, one which changes every hour of the day, it is impossible to be static. It isn’t enough to say that the younger generation will automatically return to their homeland in a civilization of billions, with countless evolving opportunities. Instead, every community must encourage its youth to return and lead in the future. My community does a good job of this. One would think that a Kansas town would have predominantly old leaders. Those “community grandfathers”, you’d expect, would be running the show. However, nothing could be further than the truth. Many of the people who lead our town are in their 30s and 40s. These are people who were born here, left to pursue their dreams at the time or get an education or accomplish some other task, but returned home when they realized that there was something in Concordia that did not exist in Chicago or Charleston: community. My town of Concordia is small enough and close enough that its leaders personally know everyone that they affect. Whereas the mayor of New York City only sees a handful of his constituents, the mayor of Concordia eats lunch in the same cheap pizza place as everyone else. They have to answer to their community and they are kept honest by them. That is a magnet for good leadership. My community has an ability unique to small towns: it encourages young people to return because they know that they can be led honestly and themselves can lead honestly.

That brings me to my final point. I consider myself a competent and smart leader (of course, everyone thinks they’re smart). I lead my school now and I hope one day to lead my community. Perhaps the most important task of a leader, though, is not just to lead in the moment, but to plan for the future. Otto von Bismarck, ruler of Prussia from 1871 to 1890, was a good leader in the moment, propelling his country forward to create a German Empire. But, for the success he fostered, his country was cataclysmically destroyed a few decades later in World War One because he failed to include the next generation in his plans. Bismarck only planned for his own gain, and did not encourage future leaders to take his place. I have many ways to address this and secure my community’s future. As a leader, I would support programs like the National Honor Society and the Rotary Club, opportunities for our youth to learn the value of having a strong work ethic and moral center. As someone who has grown up in a social-media filled time, I could utilize online polls and the latest technology to gauge how the younger members of the community view our leaders. A group like teenagers, for instance, has little leadership power or political influence, but that’s not the point. The point of community leadership is to let all of our rural voices be heard. That is what my community is best at and that is what I will do with everything I am given.

By Hart Nurnberg

Cultivating Leadership in my Kansas Community

I see lush wheat fields swaying on the rolling hills; I hear the weather vane rattling on top of my barn; I feel a gentle breeze in my hair. These are the sensations that I experience from my front porch. I live in the middle of nowhere in Saline County, Kansas. In addition to living in the middle of nowhere, I also attend a school that’s surrounded by a cow pasture. People from urban communities may think that an absence of next-door neighbors means an absence of community. However, this could not be further from the truth. Though my home is remote, my community is extremely connected and intentionally cultivates driven and energetic leaders.

My first experience with leaders in my community was getting taught by caring teachers. From kindergarten to my senior year, the teachers at my school have been some of the most impactful people in my life. My class has only 50 people, so my teachers have given each and every one of their students special attention. They genuinely care for my peers and me, and the school environment is productive and welcoming because of it. I attribute much of the extreme academic success of my class to this tight-knit school setting where everyone gets the resources needed to succeed. Not only do our teachers encourage us to succeed in the classroom, but they also track our growth throughout our high school careers and encourage us to get involved in activities to apply our unique strengths. One of my most important extracurricular activities, FCCLA, has helped boost my confidence and leadership skills. I never would have joined this club if my FACS teacher, Mrs. Wilson, had not been aware of my strengths and weaknesses and encouraged me to join. The caring leadership and intentional guidance of my school’s teachers help every student succeed in and out of the classroom.

Engaged teachers aren’t the only step toward building leaders in my community. My community has a diverse range of leaders, and they constantly collaborate with the area’s youth to increase awareness and understanding of the impact we can have in the future at a local, state and even global level. In an effort to recognize students’ hard work, my school’s administration team established the Top 10% Luncheon to recognize and celebrate students at the top of their class academically. At this luncheon, students receive an award for their hard work. The most important part about this event, however, is the guest speaker. Every year, a successful Southeast of Saline graduate gives a speech to the students. They talk about their career, their goals, how Southeast of Saline Schools prepared them for their future, and how they apply leadership skills to better their environment. I always walk away from these speeches feeling inspired to give back to my community. I also gain more appreciation for the commitment and dedication that these leaders have to my community. These speakers have included local state representatives, non-profit directors, farmers, authors, artists, foster parents, scientists, and more. Many students don’t see the energy that these leaders put into the community, but the luncheon bridges this gap and shows us that we, Southeast of Saline students, have the ability to affect the lives of others.

Southeast of Saline graduates have had a great impact on their families, coworkers, and wider communities. They reach out to students to show them the power of their voices, and I would like to continue this chain reaction of success. There are a few ways I plan to continue cultivating and empowering leaders in my community. First, I would like to take over my family’s pumpkin patch. My family has run The Sunny Side Pumpkin Patch for the past 20 years, and my parents are ready to retire. I have a lot to learn before I take over the family business, but I’ve gained valuable leadership experience so far through planning and delegating for prom as class president, balancing my FCCLA district’s financial situation as the district treasurer, and helping run the books for my school’s scholars’ bowl tournament as my scholars’ bowl team captain. The pumpkin patch gives families the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy a fun activity together. However, none of this is possible without my siblings’ and parents’ hard work over the summer. We plant pumpkins, roll drip tape, hoe weeds, and spray plants all summer long. The great reward that comes every October is the direct result of our daily commitment. I’ve learned many lessons from living on the pumpkin patch, and I would be thrilled to carry on its legacy of family and community values. As a leader in my community, I’d like to collaborate with the youth in my own way. Once October comes, the business needs many volunteers; it’s all hands on deck. I’d like to bring in some of the youth of the community to volunteer and help execute the daily routine of the pumpkin patch. They’ll be able to apply hard work and diligence, and it will create a tighter-knit community overall.

If I want volunteers, I’m going to need to do something to help retain people to come back to the area after college. The main reason people come back to my community after graduating is because of our school. They want their kids to have the same educational experience that they had. I hope to keep Southeast of Saline an appealing district with its supportive, forward-thinking, rural pull that attracts people to the school. There are many straightforward ways to do this, such as running for the board of education, attending athletic events, and even speaking at the Top 10% Luncheon. I’d love to share the story of my leadership and empower students to come back and lead in the community. I also have parliamentary procedure experience being the president of my FCCLA chapter’s parliamentary procedure team. I get great satisfaction from debating and working out issues between groups with several interests to create a productive result. Applying these skills to my school district would be very rewarding.

Overall, I’m extremely grateful to live in an engaging community that cultivates leaders. Even though I can see wheat fields for miles from my front porch, I still feel extremely connected to my community. Through getting taught by supportive teachers, listening and engaging with inspiring Southeast of Saline graduates, and working on my family’s pumpkin patch, I’ve become a well-rounded leader. I’m eager to come back to my community after high school and inspire another generation of rural youth.

Check back in Fall 2022 for details on the 2022-2023 Rural Voices Youth Contest.