Peru State College
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News Release
Auburn native Rachel Henry accepted into prestigious public health program at UNMC


Rachel Henry
Rachel Henry


(Peru, Neb.) Peru State College and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) today announced that Rachel Henry, a sophomore business administration/management major from Auburn, has been accepted into UNMC’s Public Health Early Admissions Student Track (PHEAST) program.

PHEAST is a cooperative program between the Nebraska State College System, UNMC’s College of Public Health and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Its purpose is to create a pipeline and cadre of public health professionals who will practice in Nebraska. Once admitted, PHEAST students can select one of 10 concentrations, including biostatistics, community oriented primary care, environmental and occupational health, epidemiology or public health administration.

Henry is the second Peru State student to earn a coveted spot in the program in as many years, following Erin Buri in 2011-2012.

Peru State President Dan Hanson said, “The PHEAST program represents a commitment to the education of Nebraskans and quality health care for the people of our state. I want to congratulate Rachel on this well-deserved placement in UNMC’s prestigious PHEAST program. She is an excellent ambassador for Peru State and her enthusiasm for creating healthier, more active communities is commendable. Rachel has proven herself a force in student and community engagement and I have no doubt she will be successful in any future challenge she takes on.”

Dr. Patrik Johansson, director of the Rural Health Education at UNMC’s College of Public Health, said, “We are delighted that Rachel Henry will be matriculating into the PHEAST program. Ms. Henry will join a cohort of students from other rural Nebraska institutions who, in two years, will convene in the UNMC College of Public Health’s Master’s of public health program. Through their participation in the PHEAST program, it is our hope that Ms. Henry and the other students will become a tight-knit cadre of public health leaders in Nebraska whose work will promote public health and sustainability of rural communities.”

Students selected for the program pay no tuition and are assigned a mentor at the UNMC College of Public Health. PHEAST students must maintain a 3.3 grade point average, have earned qualifying scores on the ACT or SAT, and participate in on-campus activities that enhance leadership development and professionalism. Off-campus activities promoting leadership and professional development are also encouraged.

Henry said, “I am so excited and thankful to have been accepted into the PHEAST and UNMC's College of Public Health. I have been searching for the right career path since high school. By transferring to Peru State, becoming involved in community and campus activities, and learning about the field of public health, I have finally found the direction I need to be headed to make an impact on others while also allowing myself to grow.

“I am passionate about helping others maintain good health and improve their overall well-being, whether it be through exercise and proper nutrition, ensuring adequate/sufficient nutrition and food availability, or simply raising awareness and educating the community on how to constantly better themselves and prevent potential health related issues. I’m excited about my career prospects and can’t wait to make a difference in the lives of people in my community.”

Henry’s campus involvement includes membership in Club Council, Wellness Coalition, CHANCE Initiative and Rotaract. She is vice-president of Peru State’s chapter of Phi Beta Lambda, as well as being active in the Physical Education, Activity & Kinesiology Students (PEAKS) organization.

Henry is part of the three-person team that won first place this summer in the Community Service category at the national Phi Beta Lambda (a state and national business association) competition for their presentation about the CHANCE (Children’s Health, Activity, & Nutrition Community Engagement) Initiative. The group also won first place in the state leadership conference this spring.

Henry’s community involvement includes working with the Food Bank of Lincoln as a mobile distribution volunteer. She is responsible for establishing Feeding 44, a partnership between Peru State, the Food Bank of Lincoln and Catholic Social Services of Southeast Nebraska that created a rural mobile food distribution center for one of Nebraska’s most food insecure areas, Nemaha County.

Henry applied for and was awarded a $500 Sodexo Foundation Youth Grant to get the project off the ground. One-hundred grants of up to $500 were awarded by the Sodexo Foundation to youth-led projects that aim to reduce childhood hunger in local communities throughout America. At the same time, grant winners educate and mobilize their peers around the issue, expanding the pool of people actively searching for solutions to ending childhood hunger. Currently, we have received over $3000 in various grant funding and community donations.

Recent statistics from the Food Bank of Lincoln show that more than 950 individuals in Nemaha County live in poverty, 290 of whom are children. The goal of Feeding 44 is to eliminate this "red area" in Nebraska’s 44th County, Nemaha. Food distributions continue to take place on the second Friday of each month from Noon to 1 p.m. in the Al Wheeler Activity Center (AWAC).Feeding 44 doubled its numbers of individuals fed within the first distribution and the program is continually growing. In July, over 75 family members were able to receive food assistance. 

Dr. Kyle Ryan, associate Professor of Education, co-director of the CHANCE Initiative and coordinator for the PHEAST program at Peru State, said, “The PHEAST program is a wonderful opportunity for students from rural areas that hope to give something back to the State of Nebraska. Rachel was a wonderful addition to the CHANCE Initiative and I was more than happy to help her secure funding for Feeding 44. I wish her luck in all her future endeavors.”  

Henry is the daughter of Todd and Shawna Henry of Auburn.

For more information on Feeding 44, including volunteer opportunities or what items can be donated, contact Henry at or 402-274-7240.

More information on PHEAST is available by contacting Dr. Kyle Ryan at or 402-872-2263.