'Where Are They Now?' featuring SNR alum Adam Rhoads

Adam Rhoads at his office when he worked for the Lincoln Children's Zoo as the volunteer and special events coordinator. (Courtesy photo)
Adam Rhoads at his office when he worked for the Lincoln Children's Zoo as the volunteer and special events coordinator. (Courtesy photo)

For Adam Rhoads, it all started with a table.

"I first became interested in the Peace Corps after visiting their recruitment table at a career fair while in school," he said.

After graduating in December 2000, the natural resource and environmental economics major received a job offer with an inter-agency work group in Missoula, Montana.

"I took the position and lived in western Montana for two years, during which I applied for and was accepted into the Peace Corps," he said.

In 2003, Rhoads headed to Jamaica to begin two years of volunteer service.

"The organization I was placed at worked with local residents to conserve Jamaica's last remaining forested area, focusing on education and development of income-generating activities that were less dependent on forest resources," he said. "Working at a non-government environmental conservation organization in a rural part of the island, I fell in love with Jamaica's people and culture, and ended up staying in Jamaica for four years."

While there, Rhoads partnered with another volunteer to start Mystic Rhoads Productions (http://www.mysticrhoads.org), a non-profit organization that provided school supplies and scholarships to underprivileged youth and organized sporting events for local communities.

"Upon moving back to the United States, we decided to keep the organization going," Rhoads said.

MRP is now a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Lincoln with a mission to improve communities through education, healthy lifestyles and environmental conservation.

"This is accomplished through supporting community gardening in Lincoln all the way to helping a fellow Peace Corps volunteer provide clean drinking water to children in Zambia, Africa," Rhoads said. "MRP also makes micro-grants available to smaller community organizations with a similar mission."

In addition to his non-profit work, Rhoads is currently an environmental health educator with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

Some of his responsibilities include coordinating the "Keep Lincoln & Lancaster County Beautiful" campaign and developing educational resources for the department's household hazardous waste program.

"The most rewarding part of this position is that I get to spend a lot of time working in the community, trying to create positive behavior change from the ground up," he said. "I work with neighborhood associations, youth groups, schools and other community-based groups, providing resources and education so we can all enjoy a clean, healthy and safe community."

When reflecting on the past, Rhoads said he sometimes thinks about what he could have changed.

"Many times I've looked back on my life, including my time at UNL, and thought about things I should have done differently or new things I could have tried," he said.

But he quickly catches himself.

"Then I realize how fortunate I am, both personally and professionally, to be where I am today," Rhoads said. "I've worked with local, state and federal governments, lived in a foreign country for several years, served at a handful of non-profits and have spent much time educating others about the importance of our natural environment. None of this would have happened if I didn't leave Lincoln for Montana shortly after graduating, always keeping in the back of my mind that Peace Corps recruitment table I visited at a UNL job fair while still in school."

Having accomplished so much in his professional life over the last 15 years, Rhoads said his priorities for the future have shifted.

"I have two young daughters – ages three and one – and my only real goal in life is to make sure they grow up to be happy, healthy people," he said. "What I hope to achieve is ensuring they have the same opportunities at success I was given – maybe even getting a great education from UNL."

— Mekita Rivas, Natural Resources