It is truly never too early to get involved in your community, whether it be local, national, or even global.
This is the message that the Nebraska Civic Leadership Program (NCLP), a partnership between UNO, Omaha Public Schools and the Sherwood Foundation, has been promoting to Omaha-area high school students since 2010 through hands-on experiences with how government operates at all levels.
The program is led by Paul Landow, associate professor of political science at UNO.
Earlier this month, a group of 18 students from Omaha South High School, Omaha North High School, Omaha Central High School and Omaha Northwest High School, completed a five-month program led by NCLP, which culminated in a visit to Washington D.C.
“Many of our students would otherwise not have an opportunity to engage in civic life at any level; local, state, or federal, let alone travel to Washington D.C.,” explained Jeff Hunter a social studies teacher at Omaha Northwest High School.
Prior to visiting Washington D.C., each of the students began by participating in lectures held on the UNO campus led by faculty from UNO’s Department of Political Science. As part of the experience, students had the opportunity to spend the night in their own room in one of UNO’s housing units.
After their time at UNO, the students traveled to Omaha’s City Hall where they had the chance to sit in on a City Council meeting, meet with council members in order to see how local government operates and visit with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.
“This program is such a great fit with the mission of both UNO and our own department to promote civic knowledge and efficacy,” explained Jody Neathery-Castro, chair of UNO’s Department of Political Science. “There is no substitute for real experiences to understand your world, and these students are getting so many crucial ‘out of the classroom’ benefits. We hope this experience helps students discover their own interests and voices and we fully expect that we are growing the next generation of Nebraska’s leaders.”
While in Washington D.C., the students had the opportunity to visit several of the Smithsonian museums, the Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Capitol, where they had a chance to visit with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. The visit also consisted of a “Careers Dinner,” where each of the students got to meet with 10 different government employees who worked for areas including the Department of Defense, Library Congress and Department of State.
Earlier in the year, the students first explored state government with a visit to the Nebraska State Capitol in February. While there, students had the opportunity to meet with state lobbyists and sit in on a session of the legislature. They were each also able to meet their state senator and speak with the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court Michael Heavican.
Then, in March, the students had the opportunity to learn more about the federal government’s executive branch by traveling to Independence, Missouri, with students from a “Presidency” course taught at UNO. There the students toured the Truman Presidential Library and participated in a White House Decision Center simulation, which gives a first-hand experience on how the executive branch works.
In all, the program provides a unique experience to the students who will become their city, state and nation’s future leaders.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.