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Youth Leadership Academy in Phelps, Gosper Counties kicks off in February

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The Phelps County youth leadership academy in now in its 5th year and Gosper County will be kicking off their first youth leadership academy this month. It is a great time to celebrate youth leadership during Nebraska 4-H month!

What is Y.E.L.P.?

We have a leadership academy established for youth in Phelps County and now Gosper County youth that is called Youth Engaged in Leading People, or YELP for short. This academy started with a new group of students who are in high school at the first of the year. YELP is a yearlong leadership and community engagement class for selected sophomore students to participate in. YELP really came about as a partnership between the Holdrege Area Chamber of Commerce, the Phelps County Community Foundation, the Elwood Foundation and Nebraska Extension, along with the support of our community businesses and schools.

Tell us a little about the program and the goals for YELP.

The Youth Engaged in Leading Phelps program has three main goals:

• To equip students with personal leadership goals

• To introduce students to community leaders who practice selfless service

• To inspire and train students to conduct a service-learning project that they will complete during their high school years.

Students will attend a morning long class every month of the school year during 2018 where a portion of the lesson will be devoted: to

• To developing leadership skills.

• A community leader will come to every class and talk about various aspects of leadership development, their business in a rural community, or their commitment and service towards our community.

• Each participant will be planning and developing a service project based on the needs that they see in the community and matching that up with their personal strengths and interests to see where they can contribute.

o Students are encouraged to complete their projects before they graduate from high school. Our 2018 students are just starting the process of identifying community needs and personal interests. Our 2017 cohort selected and carried out a number of projects.

? One of our students created a community drive for personal care items that were then donated to the food bank.

? We had a number of students identify the need to better care for our elderly in the community.

• As a result, two students found the resources and planted flower pots at one of our care facilities.

• Another started a pen pal project between an elementary school class and residents of a care home to enhance the lives of both our youth and elderly called Pen Pal Praises.

• Another student matched high school youth with older citizens to provide needed holiday gifts.

? We had two students collect needed items for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.

? We have a student who is planning to conduct a youth golf tournament this summer. And other students who are actively working on their community engagement projects.

o One of our 2017 students has planted a pollinator garden. She is continuing the work on this garden by creating informational signs to place in the garden identifying the plants and the importance of pollinators.

o One really cool thing as there are several students from past groups whose projects are ongoing. We have a recurring project called Backpack Blessings to provide backpacks with food for youth who are food insecure over the weekend that our area churches have started supporting.

o Our YELP students are applying their leadership skills and are continuing to serve and engage in their communities even past their YELP class!

o

Are there sponsors involved?

• Yes - Businesses have agreed to sponsor a student to participate. In turn, the student will share what they are learning in YELP with the business and report back on their progress towards their service learning projects. Our current students will set up meetings this summer.

Who is all participating?

• There are 16 students from four high schools in Phelps and Gosper county.

• Youth did have to apply for this program through a written application.

• Selected on the basis of their leadership potential and commitment to their community.

What then is the overall goal of YELP?

Overall, the goal of the program is to help our young people engage in their communities and in the leadership of their communities and feel connected to their communities.

• Being connected to their communities is a part of positive youth development which is beneficial to the youth themselves.

• In addition, doing this will help to encourage youth to consider returning to their areas when they are ready to begin their careers and

• If they choose to start careers in other areas, to equip them with the lifelong skills, the leadership skills, to be successful in engaging in whatever community they select.

• Youth can also become advocates for their communities and may decide to be givers towards their communities even if they don’t live there. They know that their communities have been caring towards them and they can speak favorably towards their communities

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