Taking the Kids’ Chance of Nebraska Mission Full Circle

Cadrien Livingston shares her journey from scholarship recipient to board president.

Taking the Kids’ Chance of Nebraska Mission Full Circle

Taking the Kids’ Chance of Nebraska Mission Full Circle

Cadrien Livingston shares her journey from scholarship recipient to board president.

Cadrien Livingston was 10 years old when she lost her father to a grain bin accident. Her sisters were babies — 18 months and the littlest only two weeks old. Whatever Cadrien might have assumed about her life going forward would change forever.

“The last thing I remember about my dad was having breakfast with him,” Cadrien said. “We had waffles, and he read daily devotions to me while we ate.”

When she returned from school that day, neighbors were gathered at the house. One of them explained that her father had been in a grain bin accident. He did not recover, and the four Livingston women — Cadrien, her mother, and two sisters —were thrust into making crucial life decisions.

“My sisters were too young to know what was happening,” Cadrien recalled. “My mother sat me down to discuss what to do next. We could move to the city, or we could tough it out on the ranch, fulfilling what was our family's dream. I chose the ranch knowing, even at that age, that doing so would require grit and sacrifice. It was an empowering moment.”

Cadrien’s commitment to agricultural safety began then and there. “Before my father’s accident, I wanted to become a school teacher,” she said. “In fact, my dad was my first student — I used to help him with his spelling! But now the only thing I wanted to teach was farm safety.”

“My father was a rancher,” Cadrien explained. “He grew up learning how to be safe in a ranching environment. Farming has a different set of safety guidelines that he didn’t know because he wasn’t raised on a farm. He did not know about the dangers of going into grain bins and about the precautions one should take when entering one.”

Cadrien’s passion for promoting farm safety grew as she progressed in school, but she didn’t know if college would be possible. “The University of Nebraska at Lincoln is the only college in the state that offers a program in agricultural communications,” she pointed out, adding that her dad had been an avid Huskers fan.

A high school guidance counselor encouraged Cadrien to apply for a Kids’ Chance scholarship. Her scholarship application fell into the hands of Chad Armstrong, a previous member of the Kids’ Chance of Nebraska (KCNE) board and at the time a risk insurance manager for the agricultural supply chain Gavilon Group, LLC, which is now part of the global agricultural network Viterra. Armstrong was so taken with Cadrien’s story that he advocated for her scholarship.

Armstrong also arranged a summer internship at Gavilon for Cadrien. “He connected me with the marketing and communications manager,” she said. “I was able to use my story to advocate for agricultural safety within the company. It was an amazing experience.”

“My gut was right,” Armstrong added. “Cadrien is now a vital person to our business and to the safety of our employees. The scholarship couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person. I’m so very proud of her journey and what she’s now doing with her education.”

After completing her degree, Cadrien began her career as a risk control consultant for an insurance brokerage, where she coached more than 116 clients on safety. “I had hoped to join Gavilon, but there weren’t any opportunities for me at the time,” she said.

The wheels of fate were turning, however. Just three years later, Viterra acquired Gavilon. Among the first positions to be added was a regional safety manager — the perfect role for Cadrien.

 “I love working there,” Cadrien said. “I oversee more than 20 grain elevators. Every day I get to promote safety for workers. And I owe it all to Kids’ Chance!”

At the 2019 Kids’ Chance of Nebraska banquet celebrating scholarship recipients, then-president Joseph Dowding invited Cadrien to serve on the board. She jumped at the chance to give back to the organization that gave her so much. By January 2020 she was attending her first board meeting and joining the marketing committee. Two years later, she was elected board president. “Everyone was so supportive,” she says, noting that the term for presidents is limited to one year. She handed the title to her successor in January.

"As president of Kids' Chance of Nebraska in 2019, I reached out to our graduates to get their impact statement,” Dowding said. “I was inspired by Cadrien's journey, especially when she shared her belief that ‘difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.' Her story personifies our mission. I knew she could lead us in our primary purpose of turning tragedy into opportunity. I am very proud of her. She is an overcomer. She is powerful evidence of what Kids' Chance can help accomplish."

Cadrien is looking forward to the Kids’ Chance of Nebraska 10th anniversary celebration. “We just formed an outreach committee,” she says. “To date, our organization has been focused on manufacturing and construction in the cities to the east — Omaha and Lincoln in particular. We have a new board member coming in from western Nebraska, which will help us reach families in the more rural ranching and farming communities.”

It was only a few months ago that Cadrien fully appreciated how impressive her resume is. “I was at a conference for women in agriculture and one of the speakers was encouraging us to seek out board seats at nonprofit organizations,” she said. “And I realized that I was already doing that — and had even served as president!”