Building Young Leaders: Kim Luis

The Nebraska U. senior from Lincoln provides autonomy and freedom to explore for her Campbell CLC students.

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Kim Luis of Lincoln studies elementary education and plans to help guide the youngest children who come through her school’s doors. The senior in the University of Nebraska’s College of Education and Human Sciences will begin student teaching later this year, and she’ll do it having gained valuable experience from Civic Nebraska’s after-school Community Learning Center at Campbell Elementary in Lincoln. Recently, we sat down with Kim to learn more about why she loves working at Campbell.

I came to this school during a major transition period. Our School Community Coordinator was leaving, and so I came into this position while things were really moving around. I think that’s why our team here is always moving, constantly in motion, always on our feet – that’s the environment we came into and what we’re really used to.

I’m really eager to do my student teaching. I’m not sure yet where it might be; it might be in Nebraska, or it might be in Texas. I guess we’ll see where the wind takes me. I’m applying to grades K-2 as my primary focus. That’s an age of student that I’m drawn to and interested in.

My family and I came back to Lincoln from Puebla, Mexico, when I was three. My parents love it here because it’s a home kind of place. It’s welcoming, and it’s safe, we know our neighbors really well, and love being part of our community.

I have amazing co-workers who have kept me going. Their support, leadership and advocacy inspire me every day to not only be a better teacher but a better human being as well.

The kids here are amazing. Every day, they teach me so much. Whether it’s patience, an actual cool fact, or something about them personally – it’s true, I learn something from them every single day.

We serve kids from lots of different backgrounds. It’s a very diverse school, so it’s important that our staff reflects that diversity. For example, a couple of my students are bilingual. When they found out I was too, they instantly started chatting with me in Spanish. I was like, “Yeah!”

Whether it’s a good day for our students or not, just knowing you can at least put a smile on their face for two seconds, makes it all worth it.

Representation is so vital. I didn’t have any BIPOC teachers until I was 14. And they were all great, and they had a wonderful impact on me! But I couldn’t help but look up and wonder where it was that I fit into the world. It matters.

Last semester, we had a leadership program in one of the CLC clubs. One of the lessons asked, What is a leader? Who can be a leader? In the end, they created this giant list – they named our staff, their parents, and most importantly, themselves. These kids knowing that they matter, well – it makes their learning here so much more important.

They’re learning from one another. At CLC we focus on learning prosocial behaviors and other things that some students may struggle with.

The pandemic has been required constant communication, between our staff and with the children. We constantly have dialogues with our kids – we check in with them and engage with them, because we want them here.

Clarity is kindness. That no matter how crazy the world is, we strive to be as clear as possible. At CLC, that might mean laying out the schedule. You’ll hear me say: “OK, ten minutes until we go outside,” and then, “OK, five minutes until we go outside.” The students know what to expect and know what’s going to happen. Whether you come from a really stable family or one that’s struggling, you know what’s going to happen next here, instead of feeling like you’re in an unknown space.

It’s hard enough being a kid, much less being a kid in a pandemic.

I’m a leader for kinder education. That’s my goal going into elementary education, especially with younger ages. I hope my students can be represented in my classroom, and that I can give them at least some form of autonomy no matter how young they are. I want to give them that freedom to explore so they can learn and grow with one another.

Learn more about Civic Nebraska’s Youth Civic Leadership programs here.

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