CHADRON – Makayla Denbo of Ogallala, Nebraska, has been named the Project Strive Student of the Month for February. She is pursuing a major in General Business with a minor in Music.

Denbo, who describes herself as an avid animal lover, plans to use her business degree to open her own dog rehabilitation center one day.

“My main goal is to take aggressive, neglected, or homeless dogs and train them into support dogs for people,” Denbo said.

Originally a Music Education major, Denbo’s plan to own her own business developed during her time at college after changing her major and having to register her own dog as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA).

“I did a lot of research when I wanted to bring my dog to campus as an ESA and started thinking about ways I could help people in my future career,” Denbo said. “That’s when I realized I could put the two together and decided I wanted to open this type of rehabilitation center.”

According to Denbo, she has always wanted to help people. She views training service dogs as a way to indirectly help people for the rest of her life.

Between growing up around dogs and owning an ESA, Denbo feels comfortable training dogs for other people.

“I am very familiar with training animals to be ESAs, and training them yourself is definitely easier, but I understand that some people who really need an ESA may not have the time or emotional state to train one,” Denbo said.

After her time at CSC, Denbo plans to return home to expand her nursery while growing her dog training business, something she said she would be happy to fall back on if her rehabilitation center never comes to be. Denbo manages a small plant nursery from her childhood home in Ogallala that she started during the pandemic.

“I bought a bunch of plants during the pandemic and my mom told me I had to get rid of some,” Denbo said. “That’s kind of when it all started. Now, we sell them at farmers’ markets all over the place.”

Assistant Professor of Business Dr. Nicholas Fisher noticed Denbo’s leadership skills.

“Makayla takes the front and center seat in my class,” Fisher said. “She keeps producing excellent results. I see that in the way that she interacts with other students. She has tremendous leadership which has not been fully tapped. I think that she will go on to do great things as she continues to build her skill set and confidence."

When Denbo isn’t participating in school or school activities, she enjoys reading and writing short stories.

Denbo believes life is too short.

“Everyone should take advantage of every little possible thing we can because we never know when something we love might be gone,” she said.

Chadron State College’s Project Strive/TRiO program, located in the lower level of the King Library, is an academic enrichment program committed to help students succeed. Project Strive also focuses on career exploration, cultural and social enrichment, and self-awareness. To be eligible for the program, a student must be one of the following: A first-generation student where neither parent has a four-year degree, meet low-income status based on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services criteria, or have a documented disability. For more information, visit

RBLI signage project moves forward

CHADRON – A team of Rural Business Leadership Initiative students who won a pitch contest and a grant for a civic improvement project is working with Chadron High School students. The team members hope to transform their vision of better wayfinding on C-Hill into a reality.

Team members are Chadron State College students Logan Parde of Ceresco, Neb., Lilliana Foose of Burlington, Colo., Elizabeth Heger of Underwood, North Dakota, and recent graduate Siddhant Shelke of McKinney, Texas.

Their goals include providing information to increase trail awareness and usage by the college community, community members, and tourists.

Seven signs are being made from severe weather plywood and the signs will be covered with lacquer and water sealant. The funds for the project range from $2,297 to $2,497, according to Foose.

Foose said stakeholders and beneficiaries include the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, CSC students, community members, and Chadron High School.

The team members have consulted with Dr. Britt Helmbrecht, president of the Northwest Nebraska Trails Association, and coordinated the placement of the signs with the CSC maintenance department.

Business Associate Professor Dr. Cassandra Ritzen, co-coordinator of RBLI, said the students have taken the initiative to collaborate and connect with many different stakeholders in the community and throughout the CSC campus.

“It is an exciting time as this group of RBLI students begins to see their ideas, hard work, and collaboration move closer to actual community impact. This group has demonstrated the ability to craft and carry out a plan and move forward with action. The success of this group continues to expand the opportunities for current and future RBLI students,” Ritzen said.

Instructor and co-coordinator of RBLI, Dr. Caitlin Redden, said the students have worked hard on their project and it shows.

“We know the pitch contest for the grant money was difficult and winning was an accomplishment they should be proud of. Now, we get to watch the students bring their project to life. We are excited for all who will be able to reap the benefit of the time and work these students have put into the signage project,” Redden said.