We’re featuring a guest blog to share an inside-look at our Rural Civic Action Program (RCAP). RCAP is a joint program with the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication Department at UNL. Throughout the academic semester, undergraduate fellows enrolled in a leadership class connect with middle and high school students in rural communities to identify community assets and liabilities, then create and implement substantive service learning projects to address genuine community needs. Elizabeth Potter is currently a senior Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication major and in the middle of her RCAP project.
By Elizabeth Potter
I began working with Civic Nebraska this spring semester for my Agricultural Leadership class. I had no idea what to expect for the class and was surprised the first day to discover what we would be doing. We would be going into rural communities surrounding Lincoln and leading our very own service learning project. On top of that, my partner and I were the only group to have middle school students, which made us both excited for as well as a little nervous! We have been working with the community of Weeping Water, specifically within their school to help facilitate a Service Learning project. My partner Chris and I go to Mrs. Roehl’s 7th grade class and educate them on the different ways they can be an assets to their community.
After brainstorming several ideas, the students decided they wanted to impact the community of children’s hospital. While it surprised me that they didn’t pick something more local, the students reminded me that their community can be defined as where you choose it to be. After the project was picked, the students’ imaginations took off. I was genuinely touched with the amount of empathy they were showing and how they have made this project their own. One of my favorite answers that I got when asking the kids how we could implement our service learning project was from a student named Nicholas saying, ” We can help the kids feel normal because they probably don’t feel that way since they are in the hospital all the time.”
We are set to tour Children’s Hospital in April and also have gotten the students to put up posters in their school to raise awareness for children facing illness as well as collect donations for our gift baskets. Through Civic Nebraska, UNL, and the Rural Futures Institute, I have gained great experience in learning the best way to help set others up for success. Friday mornings – the days Chris and I rotate between visiting Weeping Water and having Rural Civic Action Program class meetings at UNL – have become one of my favorite times because I get to interact with the class and see how excited they are to go help others. This class has grown and stretched me in ways that I didn’t think were possible, and I feel like I have learned more from the kids than they’ve learned from me!