You can see it in their faces. How they light up when you ask, "Why do you want to be a nurse or a physician's assistant?"
Their answers give you hope and make you proud.
"You're the first one to notice, as a nurse, what's going on with a patient, you get to know them as a whole person," said Hannah Kirkpatrick, a junior at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
That need to know, for this Broken Bow native, comes from experience. Her mother died when she was a teen and left her father to raise her, a twin sister and two younger siblings. Along with all the other realities that come with that, Kirkpatrick knew her hopes of going to college, of becoming a nurse, were slipping away.
Enter the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska-University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) Health Services Scholarships. The scholarships – made up of a gift of $300,000 in an endowed fund – are awarded to Nebraska high school students who attend UNK and want to pursue a healthcare career in rural Nebraska.
"This is our way of investing in lives that can have a ripple effect in Nebraska communities," said Marjorie Maas, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska's director of community engagement. "It puts the pieces together that support the next generation of healthcare providers."
For Kirkpatrick that could mean becoming an emergency room nurse or a flight nurse but she wants to start out in a small community like her hometown.
For Ryan Sowle, a Wallace, Nebraska native, the ability to stay in central Nebraska and be a physician's assistant adds to the rewards of the profession.
"The reward for me is to see how I can help change people's lives in a meaningful way," said Sowle.
Sowle graduated from UNK in May of 2015 and is in his first year of the physician assistance graduate program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
It isn't an easy path. Scholarship recipients must be pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree, be in a pre-professional health care program, or getting a degree in nursing to qualify.
"Our product is students; there is no better place to invest than in people," UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said. "Preparing a quality health care workforce is essential for improving the quality of life in the state."
Scholarship recipient Taryn Trosper, who graduated from UNK in May of 2015, is looking at 13 months of classes and 15 months of rotations until she can be a physician's assistant. It's very demanding and there's no time for a part-time job.
"It's very expensive. The scholarship helps, obviously, so you don't have to pay back so many loans," said Trosper of Grand Island, Nebraska.
Trosper is in her first year of the physician assistant graduate program at UNMC working towards her masters degree.
The commitment to serving rural Nebraska will outlive loan payments.
These students and many more will eventually become much needed medical practitioners throughout the state; the ones we all count on to comfort and treat us when we are sick or injured. Their aspirations for making things better represent the changing face of healthcare in Nebraska.
The other scholarship winners include Emily Buck, Arianna Fletcher, Allyson Hart, Jacalyn Johnson and Kaylee Samway.