Flood serviceships

Rachel Block and Alyssa Spartz served as interns for the Washington County Fair Board and Washington County Extension, respectively, during the fair.

From power washing the flood-damaged buildings to documenting volunteer hours for FEMA, two University of Nebraska college students helped the Washington County Fair Board and Extension Office prepare for this year's fair.

Twenty-four NU students, representing the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney and University of Nebraska at Omaha, completed serviceships in 14 communities to help with flood recovery.

Serviceships were to be a maximum of 10 weeks, up to 40 hours per week, based on the student's schedule and the community's need. Students were paid $12.50 per hour and were able to earn college credit for their work.

Hastings native Alyssa Spartz, a fifth-year senior at UNO, was paired with the Washington County Extension Office in mid-June, while Blair native Rachel Block, a sophomore at UNL, worked with the Fair Board for the last month.

Both students are seeking a major in emergency management and saw the serviceship as an opportunity to gain real-world experience.

“(The flooding is) definitely not something you actually want to have happen, but it was a great opportunity for me to go through an actual disaster and apply some of the things I've been learning in emergency management to the situation,” Spartz said.

Spartz helped the Extension repair the 4-H pizza stand and the 4-H office.

“I power washed out the buildings that were flooded and painted them,” she said. “I helped them find furniture to help refurnish the stuff that was damaged.”

Block, who has attended the fair for as long as she can remember, was excited to help her home community. She documented flood damage and tracked volunteer hours for the Fair Board to present to FEMA.

“Without the proof, we can't get the money back,” she said.

Block was also excited to get the opportunity to work with FEMA.

“It gives me a little insight in what goes on to see if I really want to do this,” she said.

Fair Board President Jason Cloudt said the board was grateful for the help.

“We're very fortunate the University of Nebraska stepped in and provided us an intern for a few hours to help us,” he said.

“We really appreciate Rachel and Alyssa providing some of their summer to help us out,” Behnken added.

The flood serviceship program was funded by a $250,000 investment by the University of Nebraska.

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