Preparing Nebraska youth for the future

Nebraska Community Foundation focuses on unleashing our state’s abundant local assets. The most important of which, of course, is our people. Our network of affiliated funds understands that well, particularly when it comes to preparing young Nebraskans for the future.

In recognition of World Youth Skills Day, we’re celebrating just a fraction of the work the NCF network does to help our youth realize their potential.

Direct experience

Rudolph Elis’ legacy is helping Northeast Nebraska achieve its goals, including helping local students find their career path. A grant from the Rudolph Elis Donor-Advised Fund helped establish Norfolk High School’s Career Academies, a program that prepares students for futures in industries they care about. Students can choose to enroll in several courses that allow them to test and develop their interest in a wide range of career paths: plant and animal agriculture; construction; drafting; early childhood development; culinary arts; health sciences; automotive; metals; and business and technology, which includes finance, marketing, business administration and information technology.

Many of the academies offer job certification opportunities, work-based learning, and student organization opportunities, such as SkillsUSA, FFA and FBLA.

Encouraging creativity

Shirley Kreutz Bennett, a lifelong learner with a passion for education, left a substantial impact on young Nebraskans through a $600,000 term endowment designed to help small-town libraries meet the demands of an ever-changing world. Many libraries have added makerspaces to their offerings through the Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund, encouraging children and adults to unleash their ideas. Albion Public Library used a 2017 grant to purchase a variety of STEAM items for hands-on learning, including a robot which kids have since learned how to program. Kimball Public Library’s 2015 grant assisted with the purchase of a 3D printer and the planning of a Maker Camp event. Many more libraries have done the same!

Applying knowledge

Numerous college students have had a chance to apply their studies through NCF’s Hometown Internships program. Many have even decided that Greater Nebraska is the best place to use their skills and build a life.

Emily Morrow of O’Neill was recently hired as West Holt Medical Services’ Marketing Director. Hayley Denner of Diller will begin a teaching and coaching job in St. Edward in the fall. Austin Truex will further deepen his Norfolk roots through a Lead for America fellowship – an AmeriCorps program aimed at revitalizing small towns. Numerous others are declaring their intentions to return to Greater Nebraska after college, some crediting their Hometown Internship as a major contributing factor to their decision.

Taking the lead

NCF affiliated funds across the state have created special committees to get young people in their communities involved in local philanthropy. McCook Community Foundation Fund’s Youth Change Reaction puts decision-making power in the hands of high school students, giving them experience in collaboration, compromise, strategic thinking, and much more.

Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund hands substantial power to young people in the community through its youth advisory committee. Every year, the committee has authority to award 20% of the fund’s unrestricted endowment payout.

Designing the future

Volunteers in Laurel collaborated with a Drafting and Design teacher to give students real-world experience in designing a community building. Laurel Community Foundation Fund Advisory Committee member Jim Recob said the level of detail and professionalism displayed by the students was extraordinary.

“We were very impressed with the ideas the students came up with,” Recob said. “We used their design as our rough draft we presented to the architects.”

This list is just a small sample of how the NCF network encourages young Nebraskans to cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the 21st century. Learn more about our affiliated funds here and find out how you can support or get involved in the great work happening in your hometown.

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