Youth Civic Leadership
Informed and active young citizens transmit a powerful signal: Fresh perspectives, holding leaders accountable, and creating a more inclusive society sustain and expand our democracy. Civic Nebraska invests in youth civic education and engagement across the state as a moral imperative and a strategic necessity. And we do it well.
Our six school-based Community Learning Centers – before- and after-school programs with civic education embedded into students’ daily activities – empower the next generation of leaders to find their voice and learn how to make an impact in their communities. Combining traditional outside-of-school spaces with pro-democracy programming provides students multiple entry points to participate with purpose. In the past year:
›› Students at three Community Learning Centers established community gardens to beautify their schools and neighborhoods, provide healthy food alternatives to families in local food deserts, and promote cross-cultural understanding.
›› Our Omaha-based CLCs collaborated weekly on Civic Buddies, in which middle-schoolers at Lewis & Clark Middle School read civics- and citizenship-related childrens’ books to their counterparts at Sherman and Lothrop elementary schools via Zoom. Thanks to generous sponsors, the younger children could keep their books to enjoy over and over.
›› We tied the prosocial aspects of democracy to academic success by equipping young people with the tools to navigate our socially, emotionally, and political complex world. We integrated those tools into each student’s academic journey, resulting in well-rounded, responsible, empathetic youth who create meaningful change.
Youth civic leadership is imperative to democracy. That’s why we start early, empowering Nebraska youth to lead the positive progress they seek in their world, and normalizing civic engagement at an early age.
Civic Nebraska started as encore for Kent Day. It became a lot more. After 30 years in the classroom, our founding director of youth civic leadership – who retired March 1, 2023 – was my first full-time hire in 2012. Kent created, then built up our Youth Civic Leadership program, which now serves hundreds of students around Nebraska. Under Kent’s guidance, Civic Nebraska’s before- and after-school programs grew steadily, scored highly in student, teacher, and parent satisfaction, and encouraged students in our Community Learning Centers to become community leaders. We salute Kent for all that he’s done for Civic Nebraska and the families we serve. Kent’s kindness, creativity, and dedication continues to be felt – something we hope never ends. – Adam Morfeld
There is such power in 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.
This is a powerful responsibility, and the benefits are endless. Our school-based Community Learning Centers co-create the future with young people and show them how to shape a better world by getting involved. Students get to explore new ideas outside of the traditional classroom, and this is what a more modern and robust democracy is all about.
Our community is not just made up of the students we serve. Schools are hubs of thriving communities – families, neighbors, local businesses and nonprofits, and so many others. We are always looking to engage the community beyond students after school. Our CLCs host community cafes, convene family and culture nights, and lead our School Neighborhood Advisory Committees, among many other things.
Students were uniquely affected by the pandemic. We’re finding new, creative, and nimble ways to adapt and meet students where they are at. It’s challenging work, but so very satisfying.