In February, Michael Bandy was named Civic Nebraska’s director of Youth Civic Leadership. Michael, who has been the school community coordinator at our Lincoln Northeast High School CLC for the past three years, succeeds Kent Day, who retires today after 10 years of leading our youth programs. Director of Communications Steve Smith recently caught up with Michael to learn more about what he has planned.
STEVE SMITH: First, congratulations on the promotion. You’re certainly familiar with the work and goals of our Youth Civic Leadership programs, having led the Community Learning Center at Lincoln Northeast since 2020. What are some of the experiences that you will take from your time as a Rocket to this larger role of building young civic leaders around the state?
MICHAEL BANDY: Thank you, Steve. I couldn’t be more excited to take on this new challenge. There are a couple of things that come to mind. The first thing I’ve learned over the past three years is the power of student voice. The various clubs, programs, and other opportunities we offer are always stronger when students either come up with the idea or have a strong voice in imagining what the outcomes will be.
More than anything, though, working in schools is about building relationships and creating space to collaborate with the community. We are only successful if we intentionally get to know all the people that make a school ecosystem function. For me, it’s taking the concepts of student voice and relationship-building to all our programs across the state.
SS: Those who may be more casually familiar with Civic Nebraska are often surprised to learn we’re working in our schools to enrich students with quality outside-of-school learning and community. With those folks in mind, what would you say are the benefits of reinforcing civic learning in the K-12 space?
MB: Great question! Community Learning Centers are able to provide opportunities to students that they don’t always have during the school day. We are building up and teaching the next leaders and decision-makers in our community. That is a powerful responsibility.
So you ask, What are the benefits? I would say they’re endless. We are co-creating the future with young people and hopefully shaping a better and more equitable world. We are showing students how to get involved in their community. Students get to explore new things and ideas outside of the traditional classroom. This is what a more modern and robust democracy is all about.
SS: What does a young civic leader look like to you?
MB: It’s simply getting young people involved and connected to each other and the community in some way. It also goes back to what I said before about teaching young people how to use their voice and find the things that they are truly passionate about.
SS: Can you talk a bit more about that first “C” in CLC – Community? There’s a popular misconception that the impact of after-school programs, especially those embedded at school sites, is limited to students. Obviously, that’s not the case. What does the Community in Community Learning Centers mean to you and to Civic Nebraska?
MB: That’s a word I keep going back to, so I’m glad you ask. Our community is not just made up of the students we serve. Schools are a central hub in a thriving community. So that means families, neighbors, local businesses and nonprofits, and everyone else that we work with in schools. With that in mind, we are always looking for ways to engage the community beyond students after school. Our CLCs host community cafes, host family and culture nights, and lead our School Neighborhood Advisory Committees, among many other things.
SS: So what’s next for our Youth Civic Leadership programs? What kinds of things will you lean into in your first year at the helm?
MB: Bringing people together and creating space for collaboration is my starting framework. From there, my goal over the next year is to strengthen what we call Mission Aligned Programming, or MAP. As I mentioned before, we are creating the next leaders in our community. It’s our job to provide a safe place for students to go after school and then create quality programs that enrich their educational experience. The world has changed so much in the last three years and students were uniquely affected by the pandemic. I want to find creative and nimble ways to adapt and meet students where they are at.
SS: You’re a busy guy. What do you like to do in your downtime?
MB: Right now I am planning a wedding with my fiancée, Amanda. We are getting married this summer on July 8. I can’t wait. Other than that, I’m an avid reader. Just finished Sea of Tranquility and A Woman is No Man over the weekend. I’m an occasional Scrabble player. Amanda and I have a pretty cool Corgi German Shepherd named Mago. I play in a men’s basketball rec league and try my hardest not to get injured each week. I love music, mostly listening to hip-hop and occasionally some moody pop or folk. That hits most of the highlights.
SS: Final question: Who’s the GOAT, Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?
MB: Is that even up for debate anymore? Messi es la cabra. ¡Periodo! Todo bien, Steve.