Inviting young Nebraskans back home

Pender-Thurston graduating seniors pose with handmade gift inviting young Nebraskans to return home.

Graduation season offers a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of Nebraska high schoolers and the communities that raise them. It also offers the opportunity to invite those young people to return home. If the results of NCF’s youth surveys are any indicator, young Nebraskans are more than open to that idea.

Students’ dream communities look a lot like where they live now. Sixty-four percent of 2021 respondents said their ideal community is small, like their hometown—a significant increase from 47% in 2020. When asked whether a stigma accompanied staying in or returning to their community, 76% said no—up from 70% in 2020.

Greater Nebraska youth are also community-oriented—and busy. They balance sports, jobs, volunteering, and club activities all while attending school – 87% have jobs in their community, and 84% are involved in school activities like sports or choir. Young Nebraskans are also active in bettering their places, with 71% saying they join others in their town to do something positive for their community at least once a year. Despite these high levels of engagement, only 25% of respondents said they feel they play a role in their community—down from 49% in 2020. These students are involved and want to play a part in shaping their community—adults must continue inviting them to share their voices.

Here a just a few ways NCF affiliated funds invite seniors home during graduation season:

Shickley Community Foundation Fund continues to give “welcome back” mailboxes along with a card signed by all FAC members.

Red Cloud third graders pose with their Willa Cather books gifted by Red Cloud Community Fund.

Red Cloud Community Fund gives Willa Cather books to seniors, incoming freshmen, and third graders.

Axtell Community Fund gives seniors a nice pen and a wireless phone charger. Both include invitations to return to Axtell in the future.

McCook Community Foundation Fund gives graduating seniors a charging station, as well has having two young returners share their stories of why they are back in McCook.

Imperial Community Foundation Fund puts local Chamber Bucks in graduating seniors’ wallets. They need to come back home to use them!

Like Shickley, Eustis Area Community Foundation Fund gives graduates welcome back mailboxes.

Perkins County Community Foundation Fund provides seniors with a toiletry bag, which includes an invitation to come home.

Close up photo of Pender-Thurston gift, a metal cut-out of Nebraska with a written invitation for young Nebraskans to return home.

Pender-Thurston Education and Community Fund gives seniors a metal cut-out of Nebraska inscribed with a “There’s No Place Like Home” message. The gift was made by a local artist and was accompanied by an invitation to return.

Across the state, communities are finding novel ways to invite their youth to play a part in shaping the future of Greater Nebraska. You can play a part, too. Visit NCF’s website to find your local affiliated fund and support its work in making your hometown the kind of place young Nebraskans want to return to in the future.

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