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Rotary presents awards, learns about ag education

June 13, 2018 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF — Each year, the Scottsbluff/Gering chapter of Rotary International hosts its Rotary Gold gala to raise funds for organizations that benefit the entire community. This year was no different.

Receiving a $3,000 award was Camp Scott, the summer program for handicapped children, which provides a social and recreational program for developmentally disabled children and adolescents, ages 7-21.

“We usually have about 40 kids in the program, but this year we have 42,” said Camp Scott President Reenie Berry “We’ll use the award to purchase a laptop computer and a printer-copier that we’ve never been able to afford. We’ve also purchased a Bluetooth speaker so we can play music for the kids. They really enjoy that.”

Berry said most of the award is being spent on special sports equipment especially designed for autistic children.

Receiving an $18,000 award was the North Platte Natural Resources District, which is building a new solar-powered, geothermal-heated greenhouse. It’s being built on 1.6 acres of land just south of the NRD building at the Western Nebraska Regional Airport.

NRD Assistant Manager Barb Cross said because of Rotary’s generosity, the greenhouse will be sustainable well into the future.

“We’ll be feeding people with what we grow as well as educating our kids,” Cross said. “We have all the citrus planted and about half the vegetables and things are going well.”

Cross invited Rotary members to join them for a grand opening, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 9.

After awards were presented at its June 12 meeting, Dr. Jack Whitaker, director of the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center, spoke about the university’s program bringing students from Rwanda to learn about agriculture in the U.S while earning their undergraduate degrees.

After graduation, the students will return to their native Rwanda to help improve their own country’s agricultural production.

Located in east central Africa, Rwanda is about a tenth the size of Nebraska, but has six times the population. About 75 percent of the land is usable for agriculture.

“Ninety percent of Rwanda’s population only produces enough food to feed their families,” Whitaker said. “Still, agriculture is a dominant economic factor in their country, so this program aims to increase that knowledge.”

He said the program will help build Rwanda into a middle-income country that would be a model for increased food security in Africa.

“A big part of that is investing in human talent,” Whitaker said. “That’s why we have these Rwandan students at the university. Over the course of the program, about 200 students will be in Nebraska to improve their skills and take them back to Rwanda.”

Over the course of their degree program, students spend two summers of experiential learning in the field. Until the end of June, students are studying at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff.

After a visit home to Rwanda in July, they will be back in Lincoln in the fall to continue their education.

“Scottsbluff has become a second home to us,” said sophomore Germain Intwari, who is studying plant pathology. “I had a great experience my first year and I wanted to come back.”