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Shirley at The Mill in the Telegraph District

Shirley at The Mill in the Telegraph District.

A 10-week summer stint in Nebraska for a California girl has turned into a 10-year, life-changing commitment.

Orange County, California – that’s where Shirley Peng was born and raised. Just south of Los Angeles, not too far from San Diego, literally blocks away from the ocean, delightful weather ... who wouldn’t want to live there? Yet Shirley has made Lincoln home for the past 10 years, and she has no plans to return to Southern California.

Why? Well, there’s that guy she married. He’s from Nebraska. During Shirley’s 10-week summer stint, she was staying with her aunt and uncle. Seth Fager (that’s her husband) met Shirley when his mom dropped in to visit her aunt and uncle and told Shirley, “I’m looking for a girlfriend for my baby boy.” Shirley was game for a date, and that eventually led to wedding bells. Then along came a job for both Shirley and Seth, a daughter Charlotte … well, you get the story.

Shirley is with Legal Aid Nebraska, and Seth works for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. The Nebraska chapter in her life started in 2008 while she was in law school. She wanted to see another part of the country before her final year in school. Becky Gould with Nebraska Appleseed saw Shirley’s resume online and offered her a summer clerkship. During that 10-week adventure, Shirley met Seth and the two married in 2011.

“In the years I’ve been here,” says Shirley, “I’ve made lots of friends, but I felt I wasn’t giving back. I wanted to be more of a player in Lincoln.” That’s what led Shirley to participate in Leadership Lincoln’s Academy for Local Leadership (Project ALL).

“I loved my time in Project ALL,” she says. “My class was an amazing group. We had an interesting curriculum, and it helped me establish personal goals to plug into Lincoln.”

She’s volunteered at CHI Health St. Elizabeth and served as a Junior Achievement teacher at Riley Elementary School. She is seeking to serve on the Nebraska Appleseed Board, join the Junior Achievement Young Professional Board and even fill a seat on one of Lincoln’s appointed commissions. Shirley’s following up on her desire to be more involved in Lincoln.

Shirley gave quite a list of things she loves about Lincoln. The cost of living was at the top of the list.

“Rent is much less here, child care is reasonable, you can even build a house and still afford to do other things,” she says. Also on the list is the lack of traffic jams, the city’s trails and parks, and the fact that there’s always something to do.

“Oh, and the people. Lincoln’s getting bigger, but we’re still a tight-knit community.”

Of course, I asked the obvious question – you know, the one about snow in the winter. “Oh, snow … it’s still a novelty to me,” was Shirley’s reply.

So, that’s the story of a California girl, the daughter of a father from Taiwan and mother from Mainland China. Shirley Peng came to Nebraska for a 10-week internship and stayed for love … love for her husband, love for Lincoln and love for the people here.

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