Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Working With Students Is Best Plan For Rejuvenating Dorchester

We've heard it for years, for decades.  Dorchester has lost too many businesses, too many
young people.

Of course, Dorchester isn't the only community in Nebraska experiencing so-called "out-migration" and the loss of businesses over the decades.  An overwhelming majority of Nebraska's 570 communities have experienced the same thing to a lesser or greater degree, depending on their location.

Fortunately, the situation for many communities has begun to turn around.  And it's happening because leaders and educators in Nebraska's rural communities are focusing on the next generation.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extension, research shows that if by age 10 or 11 a child has had a positive experience in his/her community, that child is more likely to stay or return to his/her hometown.  This is further proof why young people -- not just high schoolers and middle schoolers, but also grade schoolers -- must be encouraged to be a part of community's affairs and future planning.

It's time to get serious; it's time to think outside the box.

We're not sure how many Dorchester teachers or school officials read this blog.  But for those who do, we'd like to point out the success experienced in Ord, Neb. and Valley County.  

About 10 years ago, when Ord started recognizing lasting effects of population loss from the 1990s, leaders got together and agreed that one of the best ways to revitalize the county would be to connect students to the local business community early on.  With a focus on entrepreneurship and a commitment to its youth, one of the most successful ways Valley County illustrates this economic revival is through the annual Entrepreneurship Investigation (ESI) Camp.  With curriculum developed by UNL and Nebraska 4-H, ESI Camp hosts 20-25 students from Valley County and surrounding communities. 

Don't think it can work? Valley County was the only rural Nebraska county that had experienced growth in the 25 and under population, according to the 2010 census.

An entrepreneurship camp for grade schoolers. What a great idea -- and one way Dorchester could rejuvenate its own business district.  After all, kids come up with some of the most creative ideas.  Their optimism and energy run circles around most adults over 30.

Watch how Valley County has rallied to engage its students by clicking here.

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