Rural Community Engagement & Leadership Program

Teaching & Engagement, 2014


 

 

Summary

The goal of this project was to develop a course where undergraduate students would engage in facilitating a service learning project in rural communities within 60 miles of Lincoln. A partnership between Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Civic Nebraska (formerly Nebraskans for Civic Reform) was created to support the project.

Undergraduate students engaged with rural middle and high school students to identify issues in the students’ community, leading to the creation of a service learning project to address those pre-identified issues. This project built the leadership capacity of rural middle and high school students and increased their ability to positively impact their respective communities while also filling a community need.

Impacts

One of the major outcomes of this project was the impact ALEC 496 had on Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication (ALEC) academic programs.  The creation and refinement ALEC 496 led to formally adopting the course, now titled ALEC 422-Facilitation & Program Planning, in several academic programs. The process for approving a course starts with the faculty in ALEC, then the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.  At these levels, the course received significant support and was ultimately recommended for approval. The course was approved by the university in April of 2016. The support and approval provide evidence that this course is meeting a need for students at UNL. The course is now a requirement for the Agricultural Education – Leadership Option major, and is included as an option for students in both the Leadership & Communication and the Leadership & Entrepreneurship minors.

During the two-year project, 21 undergraduate students worked with 142 middle and high school students in 12 classrooms to identify issues in the students’ community, leading to creation of service learning projects that addressed those pre-identified issues.

Several promising opportunities have been identified for future work. First, a second RFI award was earned for Research & Engagement. The purpose of this collaborative research study is to develop a psychometrically sound measure of youth leadership (including its developmental aspect) and examine its relationship to community outcomes, such as retention, civic engagement, entrepreneurial activity, and community attachment.

Additionally, this project led to the expansion of the Rural Community Action Project (RCAP), and a continued commitment from all the partners to find a path to ensure the RCAP program is sustainable.

 

Project Team

 

Partners

  • Civic Nebraska (formerly Nebraskans for Civic Reform)
  • Conestoga Jr/Sr High School
  • Johnson-Brock Middle School
  • Johnson County Central High School
  • Nebraska City High School
  • Norris High School
  • Raymond Central School
  • Weeping Water Middle School

 

Publications

 

Presentations

  • International Leadership Association Global Conference
    Building a Theory of Positive Youth Leadership Identity
    October, 2017 | Brussels, Belgium
  • RFI Rural Regional Forum
    RCAP: Rural Community Action Project
    September 27, 2016 | North Platte, NE
  • Rural Futures Institute National Conference
    Serving Tecumseh: Restroom Renovations
    October 21-23, 2015 | Lincoln, NE
  • Rural Futures Institute National Conference
    Giving Brock a Voice
    October 21-23, 2015 | Lincoln, NE
  • Rural Futures Institute National Conference
    Celebrating Brock: A Town Forgotten
    October 21-23, 2015 | Lincoln, NE
  • Rural Futures Institute National Conference
    Rural Civic Action Program: Nebraska City
    October 21-23, 2015 | Lincoln, NE

 

Media Coverage

Civic Nebraska Blog
IANR Growing Nebraska Magazine, news article, page 30, 2015

 

Contact: L.J. McElravy, lj.mcelravy@unl.edu