Staff spotlight: Val grateful for the opportunities living in a rural community have provided

Small Towns

Although I wouldn’t have believed it growing up, rural Nebraska has provided me with every opportunity I have wanted in life. 

Raised on a farm near Osmond, Nebraska, I saw my parents sacrifice time and money to do work that they believed in. They made farming and family top priorities in life. I felt supported at home and at school, where our small class sizes gave us every opportunity for success. With the small town came a freedom to walk or bike for hours and spend time with friends. My parents encouraged independence as long as we were responsible to be home on time, while placing school and extracurricular activities first.

Our small high school gave every student the chance to be involved in as many activities as possible. Farming kept my dad busy at all hours, but my mom was able to devote time to volunteering at school and serving on committees in town or at church. If we needed to visit the courthouse, she would stop in to see her dad who served as a county commissioner for 24 years. My grandfather served in the Army, was a lifetime dairy farmer, a county board chairman, and served on the community school board as well. My mom would take her passion for serving and work for the City of Osmond for 20 years as office manager, assistant treasurer, and then city treasurer.

After high school, knowing I wanted to work in an area where I could help people, while using my strengths in math and English, I decided to pursue a business degree at Wayne State College. There, I met the man I am lucky to call my husband. After earning our degrees, we got married and started a family. 

We continue to call the Wayne area home and are learning the early opportunities provided to us are valuable to our children as well. We appreciate the academic and extracurricular opportunities they have enjoyed and, just as my parents did, my husband and I are there to support them. As a family we work hard, and then find ways to enjoy Nebraska by kayaking, boating, fishing, and exploring the great outdoors. 

My professional career has revolved around community engagement and advocating for students and families. I have been fortunate to meet and work with an incredibly talented and diverse group of people. I am excited to join the Center for Rural Affairs to work for Nebraskans in new ways, with a focus on policy and rural communities.