by Amanda Fanger, Reporter and Farmer
Instill optimism. Connect them with careers of interest. Empower them to be citizens, not just occupants.
These were concepts covered during a recent webinar about how to get high school students to invest in their hometown, all concepts which the Webster Area Development Corporation is looking to introduce to the area.
The webinar, Three Great Ways to Invite Youth to Invest in Their Hometown, was put on by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, with tips from a couple of Nebraska college students.
“They talked about ‘Cursive Knowledge’ which is something I’ve never thought about before. It was kind of a neat concept,” said Melissa Fose, director of the Webster Area Development Corporation. “We have all this knowledge that we don’t use any more.”
For example, Fose says during the webinar she was reminded that to a student, everything revolves around school.
“There were just some really good reminders about how students think and how to use that,” Fose said.
The WADC is trying to engage community members in this process.
“One thing they said is if you think you’re too busy to get involved, then you’re perfect,” Fose said. She explained that those types of people are less likely to try to micromanage youth-driven projects.
Another tip Fose said they talked about during the session was not to discourage a student’s idea.
“Youth tend to dream big,” Fose said. “You’ve got to allow room for failure. Some of us learn best by failing.”
During the webinar, three major points were made.
1) Optimism in youth
Fose said the concept of instilling optimism in youth means talking positively about things that need to change.
“If you think there’s something that can be improved, do something about it; don’t just talk negatively,” she said. “It’s about thinking, ‘Okay, here’s the problem. Now, what can we do?’”
2) Connecting students
Fose says that a key to getting youth to stay or come back to their hometown is to begin while they’re still here. She said it’s important to introduce them to a career that is interesting to them.
A suggestion from the webinar is to have high school students tour Main Street businesses, which is something Fose says she’s looking forward to trying locally.
“It’s giving the kids an opportunity to see firsthand what (that career) is like,” she commented.
She added that many times students are directed towards the industrial side of companies.
“We don’t always promote the management or administrational jobs associated with most companies, ” she explained.
3) Empowering citizens
According to Fose, the third and final tip of the webinar was to allow students to become a citizen, not just an occupant of their hometown.
“Sometimes youth may not feel they’re allowed to be involved,” Fose explained. “We need to empower them to get involved here. We’re trying to get students to wonder and explore what happens inside city hall and in the county courthouse.”
Fose likes the idea of teaching entrepreneurship.
“Sometimes we don’t think of our Main Street businesses as entrepreneurs, but really, they are,” she said. “They fit that description because they’re taking risks in the business world. Unless our youth are exposed to the idea of running their own business, it won’t become an option to them.”
A recording of the webinar will be made available. There will also be a follow-up “breakfast call” May 8 at 7 a.m. Fose says the purpose of this is to continue the conversations that have been started.
Anyone interested in sitting in on this call or receiving a copy of the recording may contact Fose at 345-3159.