Tag Archives: UNL

Four high-school students from Scottsbluff and Bayard are spending their summers teaching elementary students, and in the process learning a few things themselves.

They are participants in the Teens as Teachers program, sponsored by Nebraska Extension and in its third year in Scotts Bluff, second year in Morrill, and a handful of other counties in Nebraska.

Morrill County teen teachers Kassi Garza (left) and Adrianna Salazar plan a lesson. Courtesy Photo

Neb Extension Educator Jackie Guzman and Extension Assistant Leo Sierra coordinate the program locally. Sierra said the goal of Teens as Teachers is to provide positive learning experiences to under-served audiences by youthful teachers who look like them. The lessons relate to at least one of the program areas stressed by 4-H: preparing youth to make decisions for today and the future; engaging youth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and agriculture; and empowering youth leadership and entrepreneurship.

The program started with a grant from UNL. Now in its third year, it relies increasingly on local funding sources. Scotts Bluff County 4-H Council is sponsoring the Scottsbluff teens in 2019. In Morrill County, funding is from Nebraska Extension and Bayard Public Schools. Sierra said he is grateful for the support.

The teen teachers have had a busy June and July. The group attended several days of training in Lincoln. Researched and developed lesson plans along with 4-H curriculum.

The students taught six lessons over a two-week period at Roosevelt Elementary in Scottsbluff or Bayard Elementary.

Sierra said the teens brought ideas for lesson plans to him, and he helped them build the ideas into lesson plans with specific topics and keywords. Before they taught, the youthful teachers needed to get the necessary materials, supplies, and also make prototypes of items that they would be creating with the elementary students during the hands-on sessions.

“We want lesson plans to be fun, but also educational for students,” he said.

One of the teen teachers, Alazay Trevino, a junior at Scottsbluff High School, developed lessons related to tornadoes to share with a group of students at Roosevelt Elementary. One lesson was “tornado in a bottle,” which uses large beverage bottles, water, and glitter to create vortexes, so the students can visualize the effect that tornadoes create in the atmosphere. 

Trevino is considering options for after she graduates in 2021. Two possibilities are law and veterinary school. She said choosing will not be easy because she has broad interests.

“No matter what I study, it will have something to do with kids,” she said.

Jordin Gonzalez Chavez, also a junior at Scottsbluff High, developed and taught a series of lessons related to robotics. In one lesson, he helped the elementary students build a cardboard robotic arm.

He hopes to study mechanical engineering in college, possibly at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After college, he might enroll in the U.S. Air Force.

Two of the teen teachers this year were based in Morrill County. Kassi Garza, who will be a senior at Bayard High School, developed and taught lessons at Bayard summer school around marine biology and its importance. One of Garza’s dream is to be a marine biologist.

After high school, Garza plans to attend WNCC to take her general classes while deciding whether marine biology will be her eventual career path or another field comes along.

The other Morrill County teacher was Adrianna Salazar, also a senior at Bayard High School. She taught a group of lessons centered on art styles and media, in which elementary students got to explore how and why they choose the art they create. Each lesson consisted of a different style and medium.

After high school, Salazar plans to attend WNCC to take general classes.

Trevino and Gonzalez-Chavez both expressed surprise at the amount of preparation needed for each lesson, including finding and buying the materials they would need. Another part of the preparation was making prototypes of any items they would be constructing with the elementary students, so they knew how much time it will take. One of the lessons developed by Gonzalez Chavez had the students building cardboard robotic arms, so before teaching, he had to cut pieces in advance so there would be enough time in class.

The youth have also been assisting with other 4-H summer youth activities, including the Roosevelt-Lincoln Heights Field Day, helping with 4-H mentoring, the Western Nebraska Community College Summer Youth Academy; and have been helping at the Scotts Bluff and Morrill county fairs.

All four of the teens also helped a pair of 4-H interns, Luis Cordova and Hunter Hill, carry out their keystone teaching project, which covered a variety of science and career topics such as cells, electricity circuits, career planning, applying for admission to college, and raising livestock.

LINCOLN, NEB. – Katie Nolles of Bassett, Neb., recently wrapped up a summer in Washington D.C. as the most recent recipient of the Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award.

Nolles is a member of the Rock County Farm Bureau and is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Agricultural Education. The Olsen Internship Award enabled her to intern in Congressman Adrian Smith’s office in Washington, D.C., this summer. The monetary award helped cover Nolles’ living and housing expenses.

“I was truly able to observe and be involved with all aspects of working on Capitol Hill. I loved learning about all of the moving pieces that go into making policy happen, applying what I learned in all of my coursework, and connecting with fellow constituents,” Nolles said Aug. 5.

Noells described her experience in Washington D.C. as a dream internship since her early teenage years. Admittedly, life in D.C. and working on Capitol Hill was an adjustment since she comes from a town of 600 people. But everyone was so helpful.

“Visiting with interns from offices across the country, I quickly found out how fortunate I was to have interned in an office where I got to visit with Congressman Smith regularly, where the staff trusted me with projects, and where my values aligned,” Nolles said.

Nolles said her internship has given her valuable insight and understanding of the federal legislative process that she will utilize in her future teaching career. She is minoring in Leadership-Entrepreneurship through the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars.

“A question that I have been asked frequently since accepting the internship is, ‘Wait, if you want to be a teacher, why are you working in politics?’  I am fortunate that global awareness and understanding of government and democracy was instilled in me from a young age, but many youth don’t understand these concepts.  As a future teacher, I am excited to share my experiences with students while teaching them to analyze issues and how policy affects agriculture,” she said.

She is thankful for the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s support and recommends that any student members who are interested in agriculture policy to apply for the Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award and experience Capitol Hill first-hand.

“Last fall, when I took AECN 345, an agriculture policy course, with Dr. Brad Lubben.  I enthusiastically absorbed any information that was shared in his class, and met all of the guest speakers who shared their careers relating to ag policy. When Jordan Dux spoke to our class, I knew that I wanted to receive the Olsen Award. Finding a paid internship in D.C. is a challenge in itself. While I did receive payment for my internship, it was incredibly helpful to receive this award to help fund housing and living expenses. Especially as I student teach this semester and cannot work, I am so grateful to have Nebraska Farm Bureau supporting my growth and alleviating some financial burden, so that I can focus on doing my best work.” Nolles said.

The Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award was established in 2011 by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation to honor Olsen, who served as Farm Bureau president from 2002-2011 and on the board of directors for nearly 20 years. Olsen had emphasized creating opportunities in agriculture for young people during his years with the organization.

The award provides up to $3,000 to a UNL College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources junior or senior to work as an intern in a Nebraska Congressional office, a Congressional Committee or approved agricultural organization.

For more information, please contact Dr. Brad Lubben at blubben2@unl.edu or 402-472-2235.

A recent study into how pinto beans help lower cholesterol was a collaborative effort among several departments at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that spanned the state from west to east.

Results of the study are reported in the June issue of the Journal of Nutrition (JN), a publication of the American Society for Nutrition. JN has drawn attention to the journal article by featuring it in a news release distributed universally on the World Wide Web.

The study by Dr. Vicki Schlegel of UNL and colleagues suggests that whole pinto beans may effectively reduce cholesterol, according to the news release. Elevated blood lipid levels increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol-lowering drugs are typically prescribed, but the article notes that natural compounds, all of which can be found in pinto beans, might be preferable.

This study sheds light on how effective pinto beans are at lowering cholesterol, as well as the mechanism by which they work.

“Pinto beans contain multiple active agents, such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, saponins, and dietary fiber that all have been shown to lower cholesterol in isolation, but the mechanisms involved in this effect have not been explored nor the synergism between these different components that could aid in the benefit nor prevent the harmful side effects,” according to the JN article.

The research was completed as an on-going collaborative effort between Schlegel, an Associate Professor in the UNL Department of Food Science and Technology; Dr. Carlos Urrea, dry edible bean breeding specialist at UNL’s Panhandle Research Extension Center; and their graduate students and staff.

Pinto beans grown by Urrea at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center were used in the study, which was supported by a grant from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

“It is our goal to understand the effects of different market beans, cultivars, and farming practices on the health benefiting properties, with an emphasis on cholesterol levels and intestinal stress, of dry edible beans,” according to Schlegel. “This information is then expected to be used to determine the optimal dry beans to consume when eating a Western diet and also the dietary agents, whether isolated or synergistically, within the bean that produce positive impacts.

“As such, cultivars or farming practices can then be developed in order to prevent or remediate stresses at the cellular level which, if left unchecked, can lead to various conditions prevalent in Western societies.”

Urrea said one result of the study is to help target his efforts to breed new cultivars of dry edible beans.

According to Schlegel, promoting consumption of, and demand for beans is the rationale behind the research. It is important to western Nebraska’s agricultural sector because Nebraska ranks second among U.S. states in pinto bean production, according to a 2018 Crop Commodity Profile compiled by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA).

The top five dry-bean-producing counties, according to NDA, in order are Scotts Bluff, Box Butte, Morrill, Chase, and Cheyenne. That includes not only pinto beans, but all market classes, such as great northern, navies, light red kidneys, black beans, and others.

By supplementing diets rich in saturated fat with whole pinto beans and their hulls, the researchers investigated changes in cholesterol metabolism and the molecular mechanisms responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effects. The study results suggest that pinto beans effectively lower cholesterol by decreasing cholesterol synthesis in the liver and cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, according to the news release.

The research continues to attract interest from nutrition and biomedical circles. In July, the article was selected to be featured in the next issue of Biomedical Advances, a website focusing on cutting-edge biomedical research with an international audience consisting of academic and industrial researchers and developers.

The American Society of Nutrition news release describes the study design and significance of the results:

Forty-four 9-week-old male hamsters were randomly assigned into four groups based on diet, which included a normal-fat diet, a diet rich in saturated fat, a high saturated fat diet supplemented with whole pinto beans, and a high fat saturated fat diet supplement with pinto bean hulls. Plasma, liver, intestinal, and fecal samples were collected to evaluate multiple cholesterol markers and gene targets.

(Hamsters share similarities in cholesterol with humans, suggesting that pintos would use the same cholesterol-lowering mechanisms in humans.)

The plasma non-high-density lipoprotein concentration was significantly reduced in the whole pinto bean group and those fed pinto bean hulls by 31.9% and 53.6%, respectively, compared to hamsters fed diets high in saturated fats. Analyses of mechanistic pathways indicated that bioactive components present in pinto beans downregulated genes associated with cholesterol synthesis by the liver and cholesterol absorption by the small intestine.

Another important cholesterol regulatory pathway, excretion of cholesterol via feces, was also reduced in hamsters fed diets supplemented with pinto beans.

The results of this study provide additional support for pinto beans as an effective cholesterol-lowering agent. Another noteworthy finding was the cholesterol-lowering effect of pinto beans is partially exerted by hulls. Pinto beans can easily be incorporated into the everyday diet for the prevention of elevated cholesterol or for use as an adjunct therapy for those with existing hypercholesterolemia.

 Dr. Jack Whittier is the recipient of the 2019 American Society of Animal Science Fellow Award for Extension, presented to him during the opening ceremony of the 2019 ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting held in Austin, Texas.

Whittier, a 36-year member and 6-year board member of the ASAS, was raised on a livestock and crop farm in Utah and received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Utah State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska. He has been Director of the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff since 2014.

Whittier expressed appreciation for the recognition.

“I am amazed and humbled to be considered in the same classification as the icons of the profession that precede me on this list of Fellows in my profession,” he said.

Prior to UNL, for 28 years, he was an Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at the University of Missouri and later at Colorado State University, focused on beef cow nutrition and reproduction.

He has given several hundred presentations to producer audiences and initiated the Colorado Ranch Practicum, Colorado Nutrition Roundtable, Robert Taylor Memorial Beef Symposium, CSU Beef Team, and AI training schools. He also provided support and leadership for the CSU Integrated Resource Management Program, Western Beef Committee’s Cow/calf Management Guide, Colorado Animal Identification Task Force, eXtension Beef Community of Practice, and Range Beef Cow Symposium.

The ASAS Fellow Award for Extension recognizes a member of ASAS who has rendered very distinguished service to the animal industry and/or to the American Society of Animal Science and had continuous membership in the Society for a minimum of twenty-five years. This award is sponsored by the American Society of Animal Science.