Thank you to all those who have submitted their application for the 2017 Jacob Smaus SuperHero Scholarship!

As an avid contributor to her community, Natalie attributes her most impactful volunteer experience to the Nebraska Foundation for Visually Impaired Children and their annual Ruth Sokolof Christmas Party.  The event provides blind and visually impaired children with an independent holiday shopping experience while allowing them to develop social skills along the way.

“It was incredibly humbling to see, no matter how severe their visual impairment, how independent each child was determined to be.  These children who were facing some of the most daunting roadblocks in life never gave up on their goals.  Their will and conviction inspired me to focus all of my efforts into my own life goals and to give back in any way that I can.” – Natalie A.

Natalie’s experience with this event led her to pursue her interest in the disabled community by joining the UNL Disability Club at the University of Nebraska.  The club, which consists of both able and disabled members, has provided Natalie the opportunity to become extremely active within as she is now the Vice President of the group.  In just the past year, the club and Natalie have been determined to better accommodate all individuals by working with multiple UNL campus departments to further educate and incorporate physical activities for the disabled into the University’s campus.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network has also provided Natalie with the chance to expand her knowledge as she has recently attended their annual Autism Campus Inclusion (ACI) Summer Leadership Academy Conference in Washington D.C. this past June.  She is optimistic about learning more about Autism and how she can create systems of change within the campus, and how to implement those changes, along with furthering her education about the disability rights movement and policies.

Natalie’s passion for volunteering doesn’t stop there.  She is also very involved with her local church and has been able to give back to her community in many ways in doing so.  Of these include; teaching children during the Vacation Bible School program each summer,  working with other members to help keep the community clean, and helping those in need in the more underprivileged areas of their church neighborhood by helping with yard work, daily house cleaning, building projects and assisting with groceries and child care as well.  Natalie states that her experience with her church was a great way to create new relationships and encourage her community and children to pursue their dreams and challenge themselves.

“I am so thankful to be able to serve and give back to my community in many different ways.– Natalie A.

As a current Nelnet employee, Natalie loves the fact that one of their top core values is giving back to their communities.  Nelnet has allowed her to be able to give back through multiple causes and organizations such as the United Way and The American Heart Association, as well as through many community projects.

As a member of the United Way program, Natalie donates a portion of her paycheck each pay period to help individuals in her community and across the world.  Natalie also helped her group of fellow interns in raising donations for the annual American Heart Association Heart Walk through Nelnet this past spring, raising over $10,000 for cancer research.  The Lincoln Food Bank allowed her to assist in distributing food to community members as well.

Natalie credits her hard work and dedication to her parents for instilling the importance of responsibility at a young age.  From her first job at age 14 till now, Natalie’s work experience has allowed her to challenge herself and to become a leader and learn the importance of effective communication.  She also enjoys being a part of the automotive racing scene and learning about the parts, mechanics, hard work and challenges that go into racing as her boyfriend and his family actively build and race classic BMWs.

Natalie is looking forward to helping foreign exchange students as they learn and become accustomed to American business and culture this upcoming Fall.

 “The benefits that I have taken away from serving my community thus far have already helped me excel and encourage me to do more and to work harder in order to accomplish my goals.”Natalie A.

The members of Seven Mile Ridez proudly recognize Natalie on her efforts thus far towards giving back to her community and we wish her the best of luck on all of her future endeavors!

Natalie pictured with part of the bi-weekly climbing group for the UNL Disability Club where she serves as Vice President.
Natalie pictured with part of the bi-weekly climbing group for the UNL Disability Club where she serves as Vice President.

If you are or know someone deserving of consideration for the award, be sure to check back next March to apply for the 2018 Jacob Smaus SuperHero Scholarship.  We encourage all 2017 applicants that were not selected to apply again as well.

The Jacob Smaus SuperHero Scholarship is offered to currently enrolled college students who are actively involved in local area charity work, non-profit organizational support, or giving back to their communities via volunteer-basis contributions.

These traits were some of which Jake Smaus displayed everyday throughout his short but accomplished life.  Jake’s uplifting character is honored through this scholarship with hopes of inspiring those whose actions impact others in need.

Jake Smaus passed away in July of 2015 due to an unfortunate accident.  As one of our original members, Jake was a huge part of our organization as well as the entire community.

We look forward to helping students meet their college expenses for years to come in honor of Jake’s memory.  He was indeed…our SuperHero.