Northwest Kansas Today  Fall 2019 | Volume 1, Issue 2

Julia Rabe, executive director of the Beloit Area Chamber of Commerce, and Beloit City Manager Jason Rabe discuss plans with community interns Kelsie DeWitt, of Hays, a senior at K-State; Kollette Keeten, of Phillipsburg, who graduated in May from Fort Hays State; and Maci Hancock, a Fort Hays State student from Mankato. [PHOTO BY ERIN MATHEWS]

Community interns help launch plans, projects


Big plans are taking shape in communities across Northwest Kansas, and increasingly it’s community interns that help make ideas into realities.

In Beloit, the Dane G. Hansen Foundation funded two interns, and the community found funding for a third, Maci Hancock, a Fort Hays State student from Mankato who helped create a group for young professionals.

Kollette Keeten, of Phillipsburg, who graduated in May from Fort Hays State in graphic design, worked on a variety of projects, including wayfaring signs and a new logo for the city. She also designed marketing materials for Lakefest, a fundraising event held for the first time this year.

She created signs for north and south entrances to Beloit with parts that can be changed to keep the sign interesting.

Kelsie DeWitt, of Hays, a senior in architecture at K-State, worked up drawings for a master plan of improvements proposed for Chautauqua Park and the city sports complex. Amenities proposed for the park in surveys and public meetings included a splash pad, playground, new community building, stage, walking trails, fishing docks, a dog park, updated basketball courts and a sand volleyball court.

Two new ball fields and other improvements were proposed for the sports complex, but the feature that seemed to excite most people was a 300-space parking lot.

City Administrator Jason Rabe said Beloit’s interns did an awesome job.

“We were super fortunate to have their expertise and their passion and their energy,” Rabe said. “They’ve helped conceptualize what everyone’s been talking about. People are seeing it, and now that’s what they want — especially the parking lot. Everybody loves the parking lot.”


Interns can also be of assistance when it comes to new technology.

Jack Polifka, a Northwest Tech precision ag student, was one of two Kansas Extension Service interns who conducted 4-H day camps about unmanned aerial systems. He said kids enjoyed the camps, and he found a lot of interest among their parents as well. In his appearances at county fairs, farmers had lots of questions, too.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are ready to pull the trigger on a drone, but they have questions like, ‘Do I have to be certified?’ ‘What do I do with it?’ ‘What’s it going to cost me?’” he said.

At the day camps, Polifka helped children enter coding for and fly small drones, using their cell phones as controllers. He said children came to the camps with a diverse level of experience.

“We had a kid who took his drone all apart and rebuilt it and put different parts in it, and he’s 11 years old,” he said. “It’s interesting to see things like that and see all the different levels of interest and knowledge that we have.”

He said professional possibilities for drone use in the area include assessing crops, monitoring livestock and other ag applications; inspecting difficult to reach places, such as roofs, powerlines, bridges, radio towers and flooded rivers; search and rescue; and filmmaking.

“There are a lot of different avenues they can go,” he said. “Very quickly, as drones become a bigger industry — and we can prove that we’re responsible, that they work and people aren’t doing bad things with them — they’re going to become more and more used.”

He said it’s important that kids are taught safety procedures from an early age, just as they would be for use of a gun or pocket knife.

“If you already have all those safety fundamentals and rules in your head, it’s second nature to you when you are flying something big,” he said. “Unfortunately, if you have something big like an agricultural spray drone – especially if it has chemicals in it — we can’t really afford to have mistakes.”

He said he would recommend continuing the day camps for kids next year, but also adding chances for area producers to learn more.

“I’m going to try to write up my experience (in a final report) in a way that they’ll do this again,” he said. “It’s been great for me, and the kids want to do it again.”

Recipe from Somnath Mukherjee 


1 ½ cups onion
1 ½ cups bell peppers, inch-size pieces
2 cups tomatoes, cubed
4 cups chicken, cubed
2 cups plain yogurt
Basmati rice
2 Tbsp. butter
Fresh cilantro, optional
Bay leaves
Raw masala (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom)
Cumin seeds
Ground cumin
Garlic paste
Ginger powder
Garlic powder
Black pepper
Garam masala
Chicken masala
Green chilis, optional 


Cut the chicken, onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Wash chicken in water with turmeric. Set aside. 

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. turmeric, ½ tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. ground cumin, salt and pepper, 2 tsp. garam masala, 1 tsp. chicken masala, 1 Tbsp. butter. Mix. Add chicken and massage the marinade into the chicken. Let sit for an hour or more to absorb the spices.  

Wash and prepare the rice (2:1 ratio, rice to water, plus a few cardamom pods). Cook. 

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, pour 4 tsp. oil, 3 pieces of cinnamon bark, 3 broken cardamom pods, and 5 cloves. Let cook for a minute. Add the green chilies (optional), 1 tsp. cumin seeds, and 3 bay leaves and fresh onions until the onions turn golden brown. Add the tomatoes, salt, ½ tsp. turmeric, ½ tsp. garam masala, ½ tsp. chicken masala, ½ tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. nutmeg, and ½ tsp. asafoetida. Cook until the oil comes out on top of the gravy and the tomatoes are soft. Add the chicken and marinade, stirring quickly so the yogurt doesn’t separate. Cook for 30 minutes and add the chopped bell pepper and then cook until the chicken is cooked through. 

Remove from heat. Add fresh cilantro and a dash of lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve. 

Substitutions:  You may substitute cauliflower or eggplant for the chicken. If you choose to, do not mix with the yogurt, but with oil instead. And don’t add the cinnamon. You can add mushrooms and paneer when you are adding fresh vegetables to the pot of oil and spices. 

  • Ag education student Nikole Cain, Kansas State University, who worked with the Northwest Kansas 4-H Leadership Program.
  • Architecture students Melinda “Minni” Davis, Iowa State University, who worked on plans for renovating Phillipsburg City Park; Kelsie DeWitt, K-State, who worked on plans for Chautauqua Park and a sports complex in Beloit; Somnath Mukherjee, K-State, who worked on plans for a community event center in St. Francis; Harley Schuster, K-State, who worked on a housing project in Republic County; and Mariah Tobin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who worked on a Mankato downtown revitalization plan.
  • Communication studies student Katie Messerla, K-State, who provided administrative support for the Dane G. Hansen Foundation and Lovewell Institute for the Creative Arts.
  • Finance student Brady Stephenson, Fort Hays State University, who helped a Salina nonprofit determine whether a program under consideration was feasible.
  • Graphic design students Morgan Choitz, Fort Hays State, who worked at the Grassroots Art Center in Lucas; MaKinlieHennes, Fort Hays State, who worked on a plan for marketing Downs and Osborne County; Kollette Keeten, Fort Hays State, who designed logos and signage in Beloit; and Michaela Preusz, Sterling College, who developed a marketing plan for Smoky Hill Development Corp.
  • Interior design student Casey Ambrosier, K-State, worked with 12 Norton businesses to redesign storefronts in the historic downtown.
  • Marketing student Madilyn Staples, Emporia State University, who worked at Brown Grand Opera House in Concordia.
  • Media studies student Emily Cox, University of Kansas, who recorded videos in Jewell County for social media posts.
  • Regional and community planning student Matthew Barnes, K-State, who worked on usage plans for historic SappaPark in Oberlin.
  • Technology science student Erik Espinosa, of Fort Hays State, and precision ag student Jack Polifka, Northwest Kansas Tech, who conducted day camps about unmanned aerial systems for 4-H youth.