CHADRON – Chadron State College seniors in the Social Work program presented a conference Nov. 8 entitled Helping Overcome Poverty and Eliminations (HOPE). Members of the SW435 class taught by Rebecca Fernau are Ashley Gonzalez-Rodriguez of Marquette, Neb., Makayla Keck of Pueblo, Colo., Minh Le of Saigon, Vietnam, Nicole Scarrow of Chadron, and Madison Watt of Broomfield, Colo.

The morning sessions consisted of speakers followed by a poverty simulation in the afternoon.

Interim Dean of Curriculum, Accreditation, and the School of Professional Studies and Applied Sciences Dr. Grant Sasse said he applauded the faculty and students in the professional Social Work program for a successful conference.

“With all the changes in the department, the conference was a real achievement. Especially the poverty simulation. It gave the participants a real perspective on real issues that folks encounter on a daily basis,” Sasse said.

Keynote speaker Anitra Warrior, American Indian Child Psychologist and owner of Morningstar Counseling in Lincoln, opened the conference by describing factors that contribute to generational poverty.

“We need to try to understand the lens through which the people we serve view the world,” she said. “What is being passed down from generation to generation? We need to consider the unwelcome inheritance including thought processes and mindsets.”

She shared a video explaining the welfare trap, a situation when benefits decrease as heads of households gain employment, effectively penalizing them for working and creating an incentive for them to stay on government assistance.

Warrior said 94 million people in the U.S. live close to poverty. Although Nebraska is not as low as the national level of poverty, post-pandemic anxiety, depression, and fear among students and teachers are creating a teacher shortage and negatively affecting access to quality education for Nebraska’s children, according to Warrior.

Other factors that influence poverty include economic stability, transportation, food security, and crime.

“Poverty really costs us a lot, as residents and as a nation,” Warrior said.

She explained that to assume everyone can read or process text on a slide is just one subtle example of discrimination and privilege that future social workers should be aware of.

Warrior asked for other examples and audience members shared that they work with the elderly who need to access benefits or services online even though they do not have a computer or are not comfortable with using computers. Additional examples were dyslexia and children not having warm winter coats.

Following Warrior’s presentation, a panel discussion included Jennifer Schaer, Director of Project  Strive/TRIO at CSC, Rachel Johnson, Director of Volunteer Services and RSVP at Northwest Community Action Partnership, and Derek Bauer, Chadron Public School District School Resource Officer.

Schaer said often helping students in need can consist of something as simple as listening.

Audience member and CSC alum Toi Riggs, a social worker with Chadron Public Schools, said most school counselors have food in their offices for children. 

Johnson shared a number of programs her agency administers or assists with including parenting classes, Head Start, the Kiwanis weekend backpack program for children, Salvation Army, and the Donate Don’t Dump It partnership with CSC where unwanted furnishings are donated in May when students move. In five years, sales of the items rescued from the landfill totaled $88,000 for meals through the Feed a Senior in Need program.

In a discussion about alternatives to fines or jail time, Johnson said useful and practical volunteer options for community service hours exist at locations such as Closer to Home where lunches are served during the week.

“I enjoy being a capacity builder. Helping people help other people is rewarding. Give people the benefit of the doubt as you work with them,” she said.

Bauer, a CSC graduate, said poverty seems to have a higher correlation with mental health issues and drug and alcohol issues, even though both cross all income boundaries.

He said the local Shop with a Cop where children in need buy coats with officers is good, but inadequate for the variety and level of need.

The final speaker of the conference, Jeff Mugongo, a 2020 CSC Social Work alum, outlined characteristics that helped him survive life in a refugee camp in Rwanda and eventually be able to resettle in Colorado with his mother and siblings. They are gratitude, faith or unwavering confidence in the darkness, self-discipline, and resilience.

As a nine-year-old, he had to take 41 goats to the jungle every day to graze for seven years.

“It was not an easy life. There were wild beasts in the jungle. I did start losing hope and was on the edge of despair. Moving to the U.S. was a complete culture shock,” Mugongo said. “When I was in college and wanted to drop out and work to help my mom, she reminded me to stay in college. I felt so driven after she talked to me.”

Mugongo, founder of JTS Fitness, a sports training program designed to assist children and youth in developing athletic techniques, was driving a motorcycle in June when a car hit him breaking both of his legs.

He described challenges to his recovery from the injuries including facing questions, doubts, fears, and pain management medications. His doctor shared the example of Alex Smith an NFL player who recovered from a similar injury in 2018 that threatened his leg and his life.

“Alex Smith went through that challenging time and worked hard in the gym with a goal to come back to the NFL and play. He did and led his team to the championship. Hearing that story helped me. I hung on to that,” Mugongo said.

A two-hour poverty simulation in the afternoon featured participants assuming the identities of family members facing poverty while role-playing a month trying to maintain basic needs.

During the debriefing, led by Fernau, volunteers who staffed stations representing agencies providing services said some of the services were under-utilized.

Some participants said they felt it was necessary to leave children or disabled adults home alone because they could not access affordable childcare. This decision often led to encounters with child protection or law enforcement officers, further complicating the situation.

Other participants expressed their frustration about applying for benefits since office hours conflicted with their work hours and transportation was not always available.

Fernau invited the participants to share their experiences from the simulation with family, friends, and contacts in the community.

Campus hosts Universe Unfolding exhibit

CHADRON – Chadron State College’s Art department invites the public to attend the Universe Unfolding art show by Yelena Khanevskaya in Memorial Hall’s Main Gallery. The new exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and ends Dec. 15.

Universe Unfolding is an exhibit of painting and mixed media including the centerpiece Creative Agony, an acrylic painting, Devil in Blue Dress, and mixed media collage, Gaea Creating Herself.

According to Khanevskaya’s artist’s statement, she was inspired to create the Universe Unfolding painting from conversations with her friends about self-perception and body image. Khanevskaya, an Art Instructor at Western Nebraska Community College, said she uses her own body to portray the universe concealed in everyone, just waiting to be revealed.

Universe Unfolding portrays the idea that each one of us is a universe, ready to burst, at the right prompt, with energy, love, knowledge, and share it with the world.

“While using my own body image for this piece, I made the gender somewhat obscure on purpose, hoping to express that this notion is present in anyone and everyone,” Khanevskaya wrote in her artist statement.

Khanevskaya received her first art training in Children’s Art School in Novomoskovsk, Russia. Then she studied in Oryol State Pedagogical University, where she learned drawing, painting, and sculpting techniques and completed her master’s degree.

Before coming to the U.S., Khanevskaya worked as a silk artist.  She has had solo exhibits at the West Nebraska Arts Center, Carnegie Arts Center, Norfolk Arts Center, Burkholder Project, and others.

Art Day provides connections for teachers; ideas for students

CHADRON – A special session for art teachers during Chadron State College’s Art Day Tuesday showcased Paint the Town, a project including more than a dozen murals on buildings in downtown Chadron, and most recently, a city water tank about 15 miles south of Chadron along Highway 385.

Chadron Public Schools Art teacher and CSC alum Travis Hencey said the session he and Chadron Area Chamber of Commerce Director Gabby Michna presented about Paint the Town and Art Alley provided some valuable insights about resources.

“I think Art teachers get asked by their schools and communities to do a lot of large projects. So, we tried to share some information on how to go about it in a way that's not as time-intensive or money-intensive. We wanted to make it seem doable, instead of just another thing they are being asked to do,” Hencey said.

Jessica Klassen from Bayard Public Schools teaches K-12 Art and photography and advises the yearbook staff. She’s done a few murals inside the high school with students and plans to start a new one this month.

“As for the presentation on Art Alley, I was very interested to see how to bring a community together to create art as a whole. It seems like Chadron has developed a good system for creating quality while still incorporating all skill levels. It seems like the community is willing to donate work and help provide supplies,” Klassen said.

Klassen said she found the session particularly useful since some Bayard community residents have asked her to paint downtown murals.

“I've been curious how to make that happen. This presentation made it seem like there are answers and there are people who have figured out how to make it work,” she said.

Klassen thinks CSC’s Art Day is a positive opportunity for students and educators.

“I love giving my kids the opportunity to see what it's like to be in college classes. Art Day opens them up to more possibilities than I can offer, which is wonderful. I love getting time to see other art teachers and talk with them about things they're doing in their classes,” Klassen said.

Kathy Brock from Alliance, Nebraska, said she wasn’t aware of Chadron’s Art Alley until she received the invitation to attend Art Day. She and her students painted one mural in Alliance about 10 years ago and the CSC session prompted her to think about the possibilities for more murals in Alliance. Following the event, she took her students to see the murals in downtown Chadron.

Kira Dermatis, Tavian Urban, and Addison Neville from Edgemont, South Dakota, also attended Art Day.

Dermatis found the graphic novel session especially helpful since she is working on something similar for her senior project.

“I've seen a lot of different creativity today and it's just kind of cool,” she said.

Urban said the session about graphic design was fascinating.

“I've never done anything like that and didn't really understand how it worked. But now I have a much better understanding,” Urban said.

Neville said she discovered some unique, in-depth, and interesting aspects of art.

CSC sophomore Maya Goss of Cheyenne, Wyoming, taught a session at Art Day for the second time. Her topic was graphic novels.

“I'm not normally teaching, so it was a little awkward, but pretty fun because we were talking about graphic novels, something I'm passionate about. It seems like the groups got together and talked well with each other while working on storyboards and thumbnail sketches,” Goss said.

Raquel Moore of Beatrice, Nebraska, taught four different watercolor techniques even though she is a Psychology major with a minor in Criminal Justice. She has painted commissioned art pieces and is taking a painting class as an elective and jumped at the opportunity when Mary Donahue asked her to lead a session.

“A lot of the students are really good. They quickly catch on to the gradient shift technique, blending two colors or fading one color from light to dark. One of the things a lot of them struggle with is the single-stroke technique, just letting the paint be where it's at. I struggle with that, too. This technique is used in a lot of impressionist paintings and that's why I think a lot of them are so well known and liked. Even without the perfect brushstroke, you can tell what you're looking at,” Moore said.

Three student directors prepare production about the U.S. Constitution

CHADRON – The Chadron State College Theatre department plans a unique presentation of Heidi Schreck’s play, What the Constitution Means to Me, this month and in December.

According to publicity material from Concord Theatricals, the hilarious, hopeful, and achingly human script resurrects Shreck’s teenage self, in a debate format, to trace the profound relationship between four generations of women and the founding document that shaped their lives.

Theatre Professor Scott Cavin said he selected three directors, Olivia Freeze, Josie Fritz, and Halle Smith, who will each have a separate cast.

“I thought it was a great way to get as many people involved as possible. Each director will direct their cast with their own unique interpretation,” Cavin said.

All nine performances, three by each cast, will be in the Black Box Theatre. The language and content are intended for adults. Audience members may reserve tickets online at

Smith said her biggest challenge is a lack of directing experience. When she was a senior in high school, she wrote and directed a devised theatre piece that placed fourth at state.

“Since then, my only other experience was a beginning directing class here at Chadron State. However, I have learned a great deal from my past experience with a wide range of directors and I am extremely confident they have given me everything I need to put on a successful show,” Smith said. “There are so many ways this show can go with alternative monologues, metaphors, and endings.”

Riley Perry, who portrays the character of Heidi, said the script touches on some serious discussion topics.

“The show is deep and serious with plenty of comedic moments. However, I love how real its message is. Audiences can look forward to a serious, real, and raw show. We have created some special moments that will touch the hearts of our audiences and other moments that will have them laughing,” Perry said.

Perry said the teenage Shreck is awkward and funny.

“She is also open and honest, which are my favorite qualities about her. Her advocacy for basic human rights, and mainly women's rights, allows me to connect with her on a deeper level. Her words are inspiring and impactful,” Perry said.

Perry invites the campus and community to see more than just one cast's performance.

“Even though the scripts are the same, our directors all see the show in a different light. That is what's so special about what we're doing. Every person interprets and imagines the story differently,” Perry said.

Trista Topil, who portrays the Legionnaire, a time official who helps Shreck relive her favorite debate when she was 15, enjoys the novelty of three directors and three casts producing the same script.

“Even though all the characters and dialogue are the same, this show was written to have slight variations in dialogue to give the audience a slightly new experience,” Topil said.

Performance Schedule

Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. (Fritz)

Friday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. (Smith)

Saturday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. (Smith) and 7 p.m. (Freeze)

Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. (Fritz)

Friday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. (Freeze)

Saturday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. (Freeze) and 7 p.m. (Fritz)

Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. (Smith)


Director: Halle Smith of Wheatland, Wyo.

Stage Manager: Reidun Hammer

Heidi: Riley Perry of Box Elder, S.D.

Debater: Lily Militello of Box Elder, S.D.

Legionnaire: Maiya Timm of Box Elder, S.D.


Director: Olivia Freeze of Bridgeport, Neb.

Stage Manager: Madison Kinney of Gering, Neb.

Heidi: Isabella Ashley of Rapid City, S.D.

Debater: Amber Harvey of Centennial, Colo.

Legionnaire: Samuel LaRive, alumni


Director: Josie Fritz of Rapid City, S.D.

Stage Manager: Chloe Shatswell of Box Elder, S.D.

Heidi: Olivia Behrends of Alliance, Neb.

Debater: Tonah Alexander of Hot Springs, S.D.

Legionnaire: Trista Topil of Lincoln

CSC joins JED Campus Fundamentals to support student mental health

CHADRON – Chadron State College has joined The Jed Foundation (JED) Campus Fundamentals program to support student well-being. The program is a nationwide initiative designed to help colleges evaluate and strengthen programs for students in mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention.

As part of the college’s JED affiliation, all enrolled CSC students will receive an email link to JED’s Healthy Minds Study (HMS) survey between Monday and Dec. 8.

Both Dean of Student Affairs Austen Stephens and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jim Powell, co-chairs of the JED Campus committee, encourage students to respond. All participants will be entered into the nationwide HMS survey sweepstakes for one of two $500 gift cards and one of 10 $100 gift cards. Additionally, five CSC participants will receive $50 gift cards.

Powell said the survey is designed to guide CSC through a collaborative process of reviewing comprehensive systems, policies, and programs customized to support or address existing student mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention.

“The JED Committee is excited about this opportunity to survey the current climate on campus and use those data to help improve our support for everyone on campus,” Powell said.

Stephens said the HMS survey takes about 25-30 minutes to complete. All self-assessment responses and feedback reports are confidential.

The JED Campus committee has been established to assess, support, and implement program, policy, and system improvements. The committee will review the comprehensive survey feedback report in the spring 2024 semester. A virtual site visit will follow with JED Higher Education representatives during which they will assist the CSC committee in identifying successes and opportunities for enhancements including strategic planning.

Stephens said by joining JED Campus Fundamentals, CSC demonstrates a commitment to the emotional well-being of its students.

Committee Members

Dr. Grant Sasse

Dr. Nathan Favaloro

Dr. Tara Wilson

Dr. Brittany Helmbrecht

Chantel Merchen

Kimberly Hernandez

Channing Jons

Chelsea Turner

Morgan Cullan

Samantha Hill, student

Brodie Eisenbraun, student