Extension outreach bridges community businesses and high school students

Extension outreach bridges community businesses and high school students

14 Dec 2017    By Katie Ballue

Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in Adolescent Development Maria De Guzman and Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Entrepreneurship Surin Kim are partnering with various private sector and community organizations in order to develop a youth-driven entrepreneurship program that encourages the growth of relationships between high school students and local business owners in rural areas of Nebraska.

Youth Entrepreneurship Clinics is an inquiry-based experiential learning model where high school students serve as experts and mentors to rural business owners, providing them with fresh perspectives by solving real-world problems in small town business. De Guzman and Kim are co-leaders on the project.

Whereas many programs provide youth the opportunity to learn about businesses and entrepreneurship by studying existing businesses, this program puts youth in the lead role – providing feedback to current business owners and offering perspectives that adults may not have. In addition, the program is intended to foster connection and a sense of meaningful contribution among youth, which de Guzman describes as “important developmental milestones and integral for the well-being for youth.”

The program is already months ahead of schedule thanks in part to great interest from high schools in several communities. Several CEHS graduate students are helping conduct research and evaluation and undergraduate students from the university’s Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program are hopping on board in order to serve as mentors to each group of high school students.

The first pilot program is taking place in Western Nebraska as part of the Sandhills Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Program. It involves five counties and has the support of local schools and business owners. It will be followed by a second pilot program in Hastings next year.

The ultimate goal is to teach rural Nebraska high school students an entrepreneurial mindset within place-based education through reverse mentoring. By flipping traditional job-shadowing on its head, the program is stimulating the development of innovative thinking and leadership skills and helping teenagers build a strong connection to their own rural communities. De Guzman and Kim envision this program paving the way for rural business growth in the future.

The clinics are funded by the Rural Futures Institute in order to “build self-sustaining entrepreneurial communities across Nebraska.” De Guzman and Kim stated that when the grant period is over, there will be a curriculum and a reproducible model in place so that training can begin and this evidence-based program can spread throughout the state.

De Guzman and Kim are part of an interdepartmental effort to see research and outreach extend far beyond the university and influence the economy and culture of Nebraska. Their partners include the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium and the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, both part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, the Center for Rural Affairs, Amazon.com, Inc., and Unicornable, LLC.

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Child, Youth and Family Studies