Breakfast, as the saying goes, is the most important meal of the day. That rang true for Nebraskans on Aug. 27 as they gathered in Lincoln to learn about Civic Nebraska’s mission and statewide impact. From the savory food to the awesome venue to our generous guests, the first-ever Civic Nebraska Back To School Breakfast was an off-the-charts success.
More than 200 supporters, educators, and students gathered at The Graduate Lincoln Hotel for coffee, eggs, bacon, and – mainly – some early-morning civic engagement. Throughout the hour-long event, our Youth Civic Leadership, Civic Health, and Voting Rights programs were on full display.
“Civic Nebraska is working to cultivate a rich civic life for all in Nebraska,” Master of Ceremonies Bryan Seck said. “Whether it’s for youth in after-school programs, neighborhood residents at community builder workshops, or voters at the voting booth, Civic Nebraska continues to put democracy for all Nebraskans at the forefront of its work.”
The event also served as the premiere of a new video about the why of our work. Titled ALL RISE and produced by Lincoln filmmaker Gabriella Parsons, the video takes viewers on a journey into the individual lives we positively influence.
Breakfast-goers also heard from Shelan Haji and Ruba Basher, students from Lincoln Northeast High School featured in the video. The two were among an ELL class to attend a recent Civic Nebraska Capitol Experience Day along with Northeast instructor Trevin Wurm.
Shelan, a refugee from Iraq, and Ruba, from Sudan, both said the immersive experience in state government – one of Civic Nebraska’s flagship Civic Health programs – provided an important understanding of their new country’s institutions, as well as their roles and responsibilities as Nebraskans and Americans.
“On our Capitol Experience Day, we learned a lot,” Ruba said. “I learned about my rights as an American citizen. I studied a lot in my civics class, but I had a lot of questions I didn’t find the answers to until I went to the Capitol.”
Shelan said meeting Riko Bishop, a judge on the Nebraska Court of Appeals, during Capitol Experience Day was particularly profound. Bishop talked to students about her experience as an immigrant from Japan, and her journey to become a judge.
“When I was 15 in Iraq, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer. I would watch the news with my father and discuss how our government system could be better,” Shelan said. “And then after what happened to the Yazidi a few years later, I realized even more why I wanted to be a lawyer and help change things for the better for my community. Meeting Judge Bishop made me feel like this dream was possible.”
Omaid Zabih, who serves on Civic Nebraska’s board of directors, said stories like Ruba’s and Shelan’s are increasingly common. Noting Civic Nebraska’s growth since 2008 – when a group of undergraduates at the University of Nebraska formed an all-volunteer group called Nebraskans for Civic Reform – Zabih told the audience that Civic Nebraska’s impact obviously continues to grow.
That includes expanding extended-learning opportunities by adding three Community Learning Center sites this year in Lincoln, in addition to working on building more capacity throughout the state. Our neighborhood outreach teams both in Lincoln and Omaha are recruiting and training residents to be activated on issues that face their community, and our Team Voting Rights continues to seek new innovative voting policies as well as protecting our most basic right.
“These different acts of civic participation are at the core of what Civic Nebraska does well and the reason why we’re all here today,” Zabih said.
“I’d be lying to you if you had asked me as an undergraduate if this is where I thought Civic Nebraska would be after 11 years,” he said. “I feel so grateful that I have been on the sidelines since the inception of this organization and am so excited to see what lies ahead in the coming years.”
Couldn’t make it to the breakfast, but are still interested in contributing to our work? Here’s how.