Student civic action begins in Central Nebraska

The Rural Civic Action Program is coming this month to Kearney, Gibbon, Axtell, and Pleasanton to identify and address specific community needs.

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The Rural Civic Action Program, a student-led service-learning initiative benefiting towns and cities around the state, is starting work in four Central Nebraska communities. This month, RCAP is coming to Kearney, Gibbon, Axtell, and Pleasanton to identify and address specific community needs.

Called RCAP for short, the initiative is facilitated by Civic Nebraska and several partners. RCAP encourages local high-school students to think critically about their communities’ strengths and areas of improvement, and then execute a service-learning project addressing those needs. Civic Nebraska has worked with Nebraska U. in Lincoln, Mid-Plains Community College, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney to bring RCAP projects to Nebraska towns and cities over the past decade.

Here’s how RCAP will roll out in Central Nebraska: Eight UNK Chancellor’s Leader Class students serve as peer mentors, facilitating local middle- and high-school students in identifying community needs and crafting meaningful projects to address them. Civic Nebraska connects the UNK students to its network of teachers across the state and ensures that the projects fulfill service-learning and state education standards.

High-school classes at Gibbon, Axtell, and Pleasanton, and middle-schoolers at Horizon Middle School in Kearney each will work with a pair of UNK students to zero in on a community challenge. Then, work begins on solutions, said Daniel Bennett, Civic Nebraska’s rural civic health program manager.

Local students will develop, plan, and implement community projects. UNK students will facilitate the process to meet learning objectives and help guide reflection. It’s up to the students to choose their service projects – in the past, they’ve ranged from building a new high-school track to fundraising to running a coat drive for the homeless.

By semester’s end, college students gain leadership and facilitation skills, while their younger partners become more aware of the strengths and opportunities in their towns and cities.

UNK students, who hail from different areas of the state and outside Nebraska, will be making initial visits to each of the local schools throughout February. Each project will wrap up by the end of April. Students will document their projects as they get rolling – so be sure to check in for updates on their progress.

Here’s more about RCAP. While you’re at it, check out this video from our partners at the Rural Futures Institute that highlights the impact RCAP has on young people and their communities. We can’t wait to see what positive change comes from this semester’s partnerships!

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