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Neligh or Scottsbluff?
Brad Averill had all but made up his mind to leave Orlando and venture to Nebraska as an extension educator, but he still had to decide which community to move his family to.
After visiting both Neligh and Scottsbluff, the Michigan native and physical education teacher said the choice was easy. That's why he'll leave Florida on Monday and make the 24-hour drive to his new home in Neligh. Averill will begin his new duties as Antelope County extension educator on Tuesday, July 5.
"Neligh was welcoming and everyone here is so nice. It was a slam dunk to pick Neligh over Scottsbluff," he said. "People are nice and open minded. I think I can have a huge influence in the community."
Tessa Hain, Antelope County's 4-H Youth Development Coordinator, said she's looking forward to having Averill join the staff.
"We are super excited to have Brad as the new extension educator. He's a great addition to Antelope County," she said. "Brad has been living in Florida for the past couple of years, and he's been missing the small town feel and wanted to come to a safe community."
Averill, who is married, will move alone for now with his wife, Michelle, joining him in seven or eight months in Neligh after she finishes several real estate transactions. She's an agent with Keller Williams Realty, which also has an office in Fremont and Omaha.
The 31-year-old Averill is originally from Grand Rapids, Mich., but said his dad lives in a town about the size of Neligh, so he's excited to move from Orlando (population 263,000) to Neligh (population 1,600).
"I'm used to a farming community and small town feel," he said. "It'll be nice to get back to roots and go to where life is normal."
You might say Averill is coming to Neligh with a lot on his plate. After all, he said the obesity rate is at 30 percent in Nebraska and has tripled in the last 10 years, which is astonishing to him, he said.
"As a physical education teacher, my job wasn't just about moving but also about trying to educate high school students on being more nutritionally sound and literate," he said.
Averill said that will be his focus in Antelope County, which is why the job with the University of Nebraska was so appealing to him.
From Orlando To Neligh
The Averills moved from Michigan to Florida "on a roll of the dice, and it worked out." They moved without jobs, which was pretty scare, Averill admitted.
But he had a teaching degree and quickly found a job. Averill had been teaching physical education at Poinciana High School, where he also coached high school baseball and cross country. He received his undergrad from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapid and later his master's degree in physical education from the University of South Florida.
Averill said he found the open positions on www.higheredjobs.com and immediately started researching the University of Nebraska. It seem like a perfect fit, and he secured interviews for similar positions at Neligh and Scottsbluff.
When he visited Antelope County, Averill said he was immediately impressed. He toured the community with Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek and discovered the area's beauty and progressive nature.
Averill said he's excited to be in a community where people wave "because they want to, not because they want to cut you off in traffic."
"It's a big move to Nebraska, so I wanted to makes sure this was a perfect fit," he said. "As it turns out, the job description and opportunity to get my PhD. is something I couldn't turn down."
Averill will begin his PhD program at UNL in January.
What His Job Entails
Sometimes when people think extension educator, the fair or 4-H is what immediately comes to mind. While that is part of the position — and Averill said he is looking forward to the fair in August — that's really not what the job is all about.
Averill said nutrition and physical education are key components to creating a healthier county and community.
"My job is to make people more nutritiously literate. I can do that on a small scale in Neligh and in Antelope County, which will lead to doing that in the state on a bigger scale," he said.
Hain said Averill will bring a key aspect to the position with his physical education background. Averill said he hopes to give Neligh "a push in the right direction" and spend time with people of all ages.
"I want to incorporate physical activity into our conversations," he said. "There are different ways to stay active as a community. You can park your car as far away as possible at the grocery store. That's another way to be a little more active."
As a teacher and high school coach, Averill was at school from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. most days. On the weekends, he balanced a part-time job to help pay for the expenses with continuing his education.
Now that he won't be teaching, Averill said he will have more time to be involved with the local community. He's excited to see first-hand how the Neligh Young Men's Club puts on Old Mill Days during the Fourth of July.
He also hopes to help with little league or other sports in the community, besides service organizations.
"I plan on being very active in the community," he said. "Blood drives, food drives, everything. I'm used to being busy as a coach, so I want to be active in this community."