Where do you begin sharing your thoughts about someone with whom you have worked for a decade – and not only a decade, but 10 pivotal years of building an organization from the ground up?
Kent Day and I met in 2012, at a Village Inn off I-80, to discuss our mutual passion for civic education and youth. It turned out to be just the right moment: He had just finished a 30-plus-year teaching career, and I was the one and only employee of a scrappy startup nonprofit called Nebraskans for Civic Reform aiming to get Nebraskans more engaged in their democracy. A few weeks later, Kent became Employee No. 2 – and he would go on to create our Youth Civic Leadership program, which today serves hundreds of students across the state daily. Civic Nebraska has grown a bit since those early days, too, from us two original full-timers to 30 full-time and 80 part-time staff across the state.
About six months after we began working together, we realized we both grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Not only that, but we went to the same elementary, middle, and high schools (just 30 years apart). Our parents were even living in the same small town south of Sioux Falls at the time.
Something must have been in the water up there. A small world, indeed.
In the past decade, Kent has channeled his love of service learning and youth civic leadership and helped create a statewide movement to inspire, educate, reinforce, and empower students across Nebraska. His legacy is already secure: Whenever I am in Omaha, someone will inevitably ask me if Kent Day works for us; usually, that’s followed by a proud note that he was their teacher growing up. They bring up how much fun he was, that he was among their favorite teachers and that they remember his lessons well.
Increasingly, we have that same experience at Civic Nebraska. Kent is known border to border for his advocacy of young Nebraskans. For those who call him boss, he’s someone who was always there with a helping hand and a big heart, happy to dig in and get his hands dirty no matter how big or small the task. Our youth program staff recognizes, just as I do, that Kent is fearless in his pursuit of excellence, whether that’s trying out new approaches or simply placing trust in his people’s ideas.
We all will miss having Kent as a full-time member of the Civic Nebraska family. However, I also know he won’t be leaving us – not really. Kent has left an indelible mark on our organization, something that will live on in each one of our students and instructors whose lives he touched.
Enjoy retirement, my friend. You can do so knowing you leave your state and community stronger, your friends and staff truly inspired, and countless students grateful and hopeful about our democracy.
– Adam Morfeld