SPEARFISH | A $1 million gift from Black Hills State University professor of psychology, James Hess, continues to make it possible for students to apply their course material and make a difference in the community.
Rachel Dather, outdoor education major from Verdigre, Neb., is one of this year’s recipients of the Make a Difference Scholarship.
Rachel received a $3,500 scholarship from the Hess endowment fund along with $2,500 to plan and implement a community project.
“My project for the Make a Difference Initiative was to create a sustainable hunting club at BHSU called Prairie to Plate. We take people hunting if they’ve never hunted before and are able to provide resources to those with hunting experience who haven’t had the means to hunt recently,” Rachel says.
Rachel drew from her outdoor education classes at BHSU and experiences with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to create the Prairie to Plate Club.
She works as a hunting intern at the Outdoor Campus West in Rapid City, which provides hands-on experiences in hunting, fishing, and other outdoor skills for youth, adults, and families.
Rachel has already become a HuntSAFE certified instructor, allowing her to offer her own classes here in Spearfish, while her supervisor at the outdoor campus, Keith Wintersteen, offers classes in Rapid City.
With college students new to the Black Hills, Rachel inspires them to continue hunting in South Dakota while they’re in college.
Community members are also encouraged to learn and take classes both in Spearfish and at the Outdoor Campus West.
“Prairie to Plate is actually partnered with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. Anything that students could need to hunt — camo, guns, ammunition — we provide,” she says, emphasizing how easy it can be for people to hunt, even if they never have before.
How is she making a difference? Rachel says her club is based on the R3 model — recruit, retain and reactivate.
With hopes to bring new students to hunting and fishing as well as retain those who have had prior experience, the increase in hunting and fishing licenses will directly benefit conservation.
“The licenses that people buy for hunting and fishing pay for conservation funds — so when less people are purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, we have less money for conservation,” Rachel said.
“Unfortunately, the younger generation is hunting and fishing less than their parents and grandparents, so the funds for conservation are on a downhill slope.”
Rachel applied for the BHSU Make a Difference Scholarship and her project was selected. She knew that this scholarship was a fast-track to transform an idea into a reality and reach a new audience, and with the help of advisors and the funds to make it possible, she’s done exactly that.
Rachel credits her opportunity with the Make a Difference Initiative for strengthening her knowledge of grant writing, safety standards, and risk management policies that are essential parts of her Prairie to Plate Club.
She also loves running a new club on campus because it allows her to meet a variety of students that she typically may not have met. It’s these relationships and the potential to change the environment of hunting in the Black Hills that excite Rachel.