She’s a cowgirl, she’s a student |

She’s a cowgirl, she’s a student

Hannah Harwager poses for her senior picture with one of her horses in the background. The Stapleton, Neb. cowgirl, who has competed at the Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo three times and is headed to her fourth qualification, has won a Rural Health Opportunities Program scholarship and will pursue a degree in nursing. Photo by Tara Boeser Photography

Nebraska high school rodeo athlete receives health care career scholarship

Hastings, Neb. (April 25, 2016) – Hannah Harwager is headed for big things in her life.

The Nebraska High School Rodeo contestant has excelled in the classroom, in the rodeo arena, and now hopes to do the same in college this fall.

The eighteen year old cowgirl is the recipient of a Rural Health Opportunities Program (RHOP) scholarship, a program instituted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center encouraging rural residents to pursue health care careers. The requirements to receive an RHOP scholarship are stringent: a 24 ACT score or higher, a high grade point average, and community and school involvement, among other things.

“I wanted to stay busy, and organized, and I didn’t want to do the same thing every day. I’m a neat freak. I like to be organized and have everything in a row, ready to go. I think it’ll be a benefit.” Hannah Harwager, RHOP scholarship recipient

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As the recipient of an RHOP, Harwager's schooling at Chadron (Neb.) State College is paid for, and she is guaranteed a spot at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). In return, she must keep a certain grade point average and return to a rural community for her medical career.

Hawager's career at Stapleton High School has been exemplary. She will graduate with a 4.0 GPA and as valedictorian of her class. She is vice-president of her school's National Honor Society chapter, president of her school's FBLA chapter, president of the Logan/McPherson Counties High School Rodeo Club, has participated in quiz bowl and the Bronco Buddies mentoring program, has been a class officer all four years of high school, helps with the ESU's Special Rodeo every year at high school state finals, and was prom queen this year. She played varsity volleyball and basketball till her senior year, when she had surgery to repair two torn ankle ligaments.

She's also excelled at rodeo. Hannah competes in the breakaway roping, goat tying and pole bending, and has been in the top thirty in each of her events the past three years, to qualify for the Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo. Last year, she qualified for the National High School Finals in the pole bending.

Hannah chose nursing in part because of her cousins, who are nurses and radiologists. After attending a health occupation day at Chadron State, she decided to be a nurse. "I wanted to stay busy, and organized, and I didn't want to do the same thing every day," she said. "I'm a neat freak. I like to be organized and have everything in a row, ready to go. I think it'll be a benefit."

College might be a challenge, she's heard. RHOP participants have told her how tough it can be, "and that stresses me out," she said. "But I have to rely on the fact that I've done this good in high school, and I will try my hardest in college."

She is planning to compete in college rodeo, unless her studies require more time. "If it gets too stressful, I won't do it. School comes first, always."

Hannah will spend two years at Chadron State College, then will attend the UNMC's satellite school in Scottsbluff for two more years. She'll graduate with a bachelor's of science with an emphasis on nursing and will be a registered nurse.

But before then, she has a valedictorian speech to write, and high school rodeo to go to. Rodeo is her fun outlet. "I enjoy the fact that we're all competing against each other (in rodeo), yet we still cheer for each other and come together at the end of the day. I don't think you can find that in any other sport. It's special."

Hannah is the daughter of Jess and Heather Hawager.

The Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo will be held in Hastings on June 16-17 at 10 am and 6 pm and at 1 pm on June 18. For more information, visit or, or call 402-462-3247.

– Adams County Ag Society