NORFOLK, NE - About four years ago, Allan Brenner said he had heard of Nebraska but wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint it on a map. His English was quite limited. Today Brenner speaks English rather fluently and calls the Cornhusker State his second home.
He recently graduated with an associate of science degree in agribusiness from Northeast Community College in Norfolk, located 4,777 miles from his hometown in Brazil, South America.
Brenner grew up in Cuiaba, the capital of the state of Mato-Grosso, in west-central Brazil.
“Like Nebraska, Mato-Grosso is one of the top agricultural states in Brazil,” he said. “Cattle and soybeans are the two main commodities.”
While family members have long been immersed in agriculture, they live in Cuiaba, a city of 800,000. His father sells livestock breeding products, while his grandfather operates a farm and runs cattle on pasture and in a feedlot.
Brenner spent his first two high school years in Cuiaba but came to Nebraska in a roundabout way.
Brenner said the coach of a friend, who played American football in a club in Cuiaba, knew a sports agent in Nebraska. Brenner learned of an exchange program with Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School in Waco in the southeastern part of the state.
“I didn’t realize it was such a small town (about 250 people),” he said. “It was a cultural shock for me.”
His arrival in Waco in 2014 coincided with the harvest season.
“My first impression was to look to the left and look to the right,” he said. “All I saw was corn.”
“I was very welcomed,” Brenner said of his junior year experience. “I had really good friends.”
That’s why he said he returned to Waco to finish his senior year, even though “it was supposed to be a
one-year exchange program.” His parents attended his 2016 graduation.
While at Nebraska Lutheran, Brenner met two sisters from Norfolk and learned of Northeast Community College. Their mother, Tere Karella, is an instructor in the physical therapy assistant program at Northeast.
“I never thought of going to college here (in Nebraska),” he said.
The Karellas served as his host family during his freshman year at Northeast that began in August 2016. He enrolled as a finance management major but, by the end of the first semester, he changed his focus to agribusiness.
“I saw similarities and opportunities to my state and Nebraska,” Brenner said. “I looked back at my state and where my family was and decided to switch to agribusiness in my freshman year.”
“I look forward to the future because my goal is to work for an agricultural multi-national company based in Brazil,” he said. “Working on relations between the two countries (U.S. and Brazil) is important because in the end we’re not only competitors, but we should support each other.”
In his sophomore year, Brenner was elected president of the Student Leadership Association, representing the student body on campus. He also was a Phi Theta Kappa honor society member.
Brenner said he “likes the infrastructure of Northeast and the small-sized classes,” which means more personal attention from the instructors.
He said he sees his schooling in Nebraska as “a lifetime opportunity. I’ve gained an education, and I’m learning a second language. When I first came to Nebraska, I knew only very basic English.”
Brenner is spending the winter (our summer) back home. In August, he’ll return to Northeast Nebraska. His plan is to finish his upper-level agribusiness classes for his bachelor of science degree from Wayne State College.
He’ll return to his part-time job as a customer service representative at a Midwest Bank branch in Norfolk, a position he’s held since December 2006. The work ties into his agribusiness and financial studies at Northeast, he said.
“I love my decision (to be in Nebraska),” Brenner said.” It’s hard to stay away from family, but in the end I think it’s going to pay.”
Allan Brenner (left) goes over financial information with Tori Pospisil, a customer service representative at a Midwest Bank branch in Norfolk. Brenner, of Cuiaba Brazil, worked part time at the bank in the same role as Pospisil while majoring in agribusiness at Northeast Community College in Norfolk.