What attracted an Ivy League graduate to accept Antelope County's extension position? Safety and community.
Elizabeth Slack, a recent graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, will serve as the new UNL Extension Educator in Antelope County and said she fell in love with Neligh while visiting last week during her second interview. She replaces Anita Hall, who is retiring later this month.
"The board I interviewed with had so many good things to say about Antelope County. The community is so connected, and everyone knows everyone," Slack told the Antelope County News on Wednesday afternoon. "That uniqueness in a community is what I'm looking forward to. When I drove through Neligh, I knew it was a safe place - the beautiful hospital, kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk. I'm excited to be part of a such a close-knit and safe community."
Slack, who is from Park Falls, Wis., said safety was a big factor in the decision since she and her boyfriend, Tim, will be moving to Neligh with their newborn daughter, Hazel Blu, who is 7 weeks and 1 day old. Tim is in the Army Reserve and halfway through his business degree. Slack said he plans to transfer his college credits to either UNL or UNO and take as many online classes as possible from Neligh.
Slack will officially begin her duties July 20 - just before the Antelope County Fair kicks off July 28. She said they hope to be in Neligh around July 1 to have time to settle into the community before starting her duties.
"I'm really excited to get there and get things going in Antelope County," Slack said. "I'm really happy with the decision I made for me and my family."
Greg Ptacek, who serves on the Antelope County Extension Board, said he's excited to not only welcome Slack to Antelope County, but also is encouraged that someone of her caliber wants to make this her home and raise a family here.
"As an extension board member, when they sent the resumes of these applications for the extension position, I had to double-take when I saw Elizabeth's resume because she went to Cornell University, which is an Ivy League university," he said. "That means Antelope County, Nebraska, had just attracted Ivy League applicants and talent. It's absolutely mind-boggling and a testament to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, UNL's extension program and how top-notch the staff is there and the university's mission for outreach in Nebraska."
Ptacek said the local extension program will be focusing more on nutrition of today's youth going forward, which will benefit greatly from Slack's experience and her degree in dietetics.
"I think the focus of nutrition of this program is going to have a huge impact on Antelope County," he said. "I heard a statistic that the life expectancy of today's youth is less than it is currently. That means our 5-year-olds aren't going to live to be 75 or 80 simply due to the obesity epidemic. I think this program, coupled with the new fitness center in Neligh, will make Antelope County one of the healthiest counties in Nebraska."
Slack said she plans to turn her "knowledge into know-how" and doesn't want to be another nutritionist spitting out direction. Instead, Slack said she'll use a hands-on approach to help youth not only learn how to make healthy decisions in the grocery store and at restaurants, but to want to make those choices.
"I want to show them healthier options in restaurants and introduce more variety of foods while giving the knowledge and information for them to be able to do what we can to be healthier and to be happy about it," she said.
Slack graduated from Cornell University in May with a Master of Professional Studies degree and an emphasis in Agricultural Sciences: Behavioral Marketing. She has a bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin Steven Point, where she graduated in August of 2014.
Slack was a graduate student teacher while at Cornell, where she created a mini-series of lessons for K-12 students enhancing the importance of nutrition and physical activity. For her master's degree, she created a marketing plan for Lakewood Vineyards Winery to implement with the intent to sell more wine to local customers.