NCF network helps Nebraska schools thrive

The sights and sounds of summer are giving way, slowly but surely, to the hallmarks of fall in Nebraska—Memorial Stadium packed with Husker faithful, freshly pressed apple cider, and combines roaming fields. One sign of summer’s waning is already kicking up dust on roads throughout the state: the yellow school bus. As students begin filing into Greater Nebraska classrooms, we at Nebraska Community Foundation want to lift up a smattering of our network’s impact on local school districts. From one end of the state to the other, dedicated volunteers utilize their affiliated funds’ resources to help students, staff, and communities achieve a margin of excellence in education and ensure Nebraska schools thrive into the future.

From Diapers to Diplomas

We frequently celebrate Shickley Community Foundation Fund volunteers for their successful transfer of wealth work, but their longstanding collaboration with Shickley Public School is no doubt worthy of attention. Of the $700,000 the fund has reinvested into the community, more than 25% has gone toward education.

One of the biggest outcomes of the partnership is the local daycare, operated by the school with supplemental assistance from SCFF. Housed in a converted old social hall, the daycare began operation in 2013 and has become a premier amenity and people attraction tool for the town of just under 300 people.

The daycare serves families with infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children and uses curriculum designed to provide the support necessary for early childhood development. All teachers are certified by the Nebraska Department of Education. The comprehensive system, which children attend from daycare through high school graduation, has been affectionately dubbed by residents as “diapers to diplomas.”

Bridging the Learning Gap

The NCF network stepped up in a big way during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. When schools across the state began operating remotely, affiliated funds stepped in to make sure no child fell behind. With the generous support of an anonymous donor, the Bridging the Learning Gap funding opportunity invested $1.2 million into Nebraska schools coping with unprecedented times. The money helped with technology purchases, sanitizing equipment, and mental health programs, among other efforts.

Learn more about the opportunity and see a complete list of communities impacted here.

Bringing cutting-edge tech to Greater Nebraska

Bertrand Area Community Fund helped the local school leap into the future by awarding grants for virtual reality headsets and Microsoft’s HoloLens software. The equipment allows Bertrand Community School students to immerse themselves in their lessons, whether they’re learning about anatomy or practicing valuable skills in various trades.

A $100,000 grant from the Sidney Community Donor-Advised Fund, an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation, will result in expanded offerings and opportunities for Sidney High School students involved in the Career Pathways program.

Developed in 2017 by Superintendent Jay Ehler and his team, the Career Pathways program is providing real-life skills and work experiences to Sidney High School students. Currently, the program includes introductory and intermediate courses, capstone classes, job shadowing and internships within six high-demand career clusters including human sciences and education; business, marketing, and management; and health sciences, among others.

Making big moves

Lewiston Consolidated School broke ground on a new outdoor track complex thanks in part to NCF’s work with an anonymous donor. The donor contributed $1.5 million dollars towards the dream of keeping the Lewiston school district alive for generations to come.

As part of the donation, the district’s board of education also pledged to set aside $1.1 million for a new agricultural education facility. The district identified the track and the ag facility as worthy improvements during a needs analysis conducted with NCF staff assistance.

Superintendent Rick Kentfield said the track project is something that could not have happened without the donor’s generosity.

“This kind of gift is just amazing,” Kentfield said. “We are so thankful to be a recipient.”

Listening to youth

NCF’s youth surveys are an indispensable tool when it comes to understanding how to plan Greater Nebraska’s future. A big part of that planning is stepping back and actively listen when young Nebraskans voice their ideas for how to help our communities continue to vibrant places to live, work, and play.

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.

Read more about NCF’s youth surveys here!

Farm to (cafeteria) table

In Overton tortillas are homemade and the school garden and a new educational greenhouse (funded by Overton Area Community Fund) is helping make a local science teacher’s dream of creating an interactive, firsthand learning environment come true. Seth Ehler’s students are highly engaged in STEM learning, not to mention exploring new career paths.

The Titan Beef Boosters Club for Thayer Central Schools in Hebron was one of the first programs in the NCF network to bring local foods to school lunch trays. The school highlights area producers on a banner in the cafeteria. Students see their own names on the banner along with names of friends and family. FFA students are growing lettuce in the cafeteria using tower gardens, and a local farmer provides many of the vegetables.

Diller Community Foundation Fund’s Fed from the Farm Local Food and Nutrition Program account raises funds to help support the Diller-Odell Public Schools’ Fed From The Farm Local Food and Nutrition Program, including but not limited to: processing costs related to locally donated meats, nutrition education, and costs to support other locally grown and produced food.

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How does your community partner with and provide support to schools in your area? Get in touch with your Affiliated Fund Development Coordinator if you’d like to expand your fund’s impact on local youth!”

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