Liz Potter: What Civic Nebraska means to me

Civic Nebraska's director of development on community, connection, and coming into her own in her hometown.


My Lincoln story begins on December 9, 1992, when I was born down the street at Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center. You would think my parents could have been a little more creative with my name, but here I am. I have lived in Lincoln my entire life. I remember biking down to the farmers market with my family and the dreaded 70th and Pioneers hill on the way back. I remember playing tag in my neighborhood, running lemonade stands, seeing the bike lincoln artwork across town, walking to school and eating Goodrich ice cream in parks across the city.

As a twentysomething who has spent her whole life in Lincoln — through growing up, going to college, and now working at Civic Nebraska —  I often feel the dissonance of wanting to explore beyond what Lincoln has to offer. I battle thinking I need to leave Lincoln and “The Good Life” to fully appreciate it. But there is a part of me that has known Lincoln is special all along.

Growing up in Lincoln has taught me many things about what authentic community looks like. I have seen how Lincoln has physically grown and expanded, by being the only house in our development to a full-fledged neighborhood. I’ve seen how Lincoln has welcomed refugees with open arms and celebrated the diversity that they bring. I have seen individuals working make Lincoln a better place to live for all. People who care about their neighbors having an affordable place to live, a place to attend church, a place to access fresh food, and a place to call home.

This is the work that Civic Nebraska does.

I first heard of Civic Nebraska as a senior Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication major at the University of Nebraska. I was taking ALEC 406 and discovering that I would be commuting to a rural community every other week to facilitate a service learning project with a group of middle-school students.

One of the exercises I led was having students define their community. I asked questions like “Who do you come in contact with? Who do you share space with? Who are the catalysts in your community that can help you change it?” These are questions that I continue to ask myself about Lincoln. How can I give back to a community that has given so much to me? My answer is through my work at Civic Nebraska.

Civic Nebraska took a risk on hiring a freshly graduated mini-adult to be their part-time office manager. From there, I gained an understanding of the work and drive behind the positive forces in our community. Now, as the director of development, I work to provide the means to make this change possible.

Civic Nebraska means so many things to me. It means:

> Writing a grant to work in 5 of the lowest income census tracts of Lincoln, to ask neighborhood residents what they want to change about their community, to create grass-root, substantive change.

> Being in Grand Island as a nonpartisan Election Observer in 2016 and experiencing democracy on the ground level.

> Helping organize the first-ever Civic Health Summit in 2015, and watching Nebraskans from across the state dream about how they can make meaningful changes.

> Starting at Civic Nebraska by managing to do three jobs poorly, to two jobs averagely, to one job decently well.

> Having Soup Wednesday in the office and sharing a meal with my co-workers.

> Planning two fundraisers a year that celebrate defenders of democracy across the state.

> Being socially connected to my neighbors, Connie and Steve, and sharing my garden produce in exchange for letting me borrow their mower.

I’ve grown up both in Lincoln and at Civic Nebraska. Literally growing up in the same place and having my community shape who I am. But also growing up at Civic Nebraska, and realizing my responsibility to engage and give back to a place that has given so much to me.

— Liz Potter

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