Tag Archives: Youth in Agriculture

Kids today sometimes get the raw end of society. From time to time, I’ll read an article focusing on what’s wrong with them or overhear a conversation over coffee focusing on the problems with kids today.

Don’t be fooled — there’s still plenty of good out there!

I was recently privy to observing a group of teens band together and make a positive difference in the world by helping their neighbors because of the action of one. It is yet another testament proving there are great kids in the world. It just so happens these great kids come from my community in rural Kansas.

It all began when Makayla Schroeder, an 18-year-old high school senior, recognized a need and made the conscious decision to take action. She had been following reports of devastation in Nebraska so many are experiencing following the recent
floods. She wanted to pack a bag, jump in her truck and go help, but knew she had to be in school. She has less than a month until she graduates, and final exams are right around the corner.

Instead, what this young lady from central Kansas did opened the eyes of our small community and surrounding areas, left an imprint on her peers and spurred people to action.

Since she couldn’t pack her bags and go to Nebraska to help for an extended period of time, she decided to begin gathering items to assist flood victims here at home. She called her effort “Operation Feed the Critters.” She got her school advisers onboard, rallied her
friends in the local FFA chapter, made phone calls, used social media and made things happen.

It began as a post on her FFA chapter’s Facebook page letting the community know their ag shop was a collection point for Nebraska flood relief items. Her initial plan was to collect enough items to fill a pickup truck to deliver at a distribution point on a Saturday. However, a few days into “Operation Feed the Critters,” Makayla realized she would need a bigger truck.

Bags of dog food, bales of hay, milk replacer, work gloves, pallets of range cubes and other items started streaming in.

Area businesses, FFA chapters and others throughout south-central Kansas began collecting items from their staffs and communities and made trips to our small school to deliver their donations. Area stores even began offering discounts on items that were to be donated directly to the “Operation Feed the Critters” drive.

Soon, Makayla started making calls to secure a tractor-trailer.

After a week, she needed a second semi. So far, Makayla has helped send three truckloads of supplies to flood victims. All because of the initial action one Kansas teen.

Many people were involved in collecting items, loading the donations, spreading the word, and driving the semis. All of this happened because of one individual who saw an immediate need and wanted to make a difference by helping her neighbors.

Simply put, she acted.

The true beauty of it all was the ripple effect that took place when other teens jumped in to join their friend in serving others.

It’s amazing to see what the power of one person’s actions can do to make positive change. It’s even more amazing when those good things are done by kids these days.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is part of a new Lincoln-based ecosystem selected to join a global movement devoted to dramatically improving how students learn.

 The Lincoln STEM Ecosystem was announced April 3 as one of the latest to join the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice.

 STEM Learning Ecosystems build meaningful regional connections among educators, business and industry partners, and after-school and summer programs to prepare students for the opportunities and challenges of the future. Each ecosystem connects to counterparts from across the country and world, enabling the exchange of best practices, information and resource-sharing.

 Admittance into the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice is highly competitive, with just 85 total ecosystems across the globe. The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and College of Engineering are both represented within the Lincoln STEM Ecosystem.

 “Addressing the complex challenges society will face in the future will require the combined efforts of great minds from different backgrounds,” said Tiffany Heng-Moss, a founding member for the ecosystem. “Through partnerships with those within the Lincoln STEM Ecosystem, we can identify ways that we, as a community, can foster positive STEM interactions for youth in Lincoln and beyond.”

 Sally Wei, education and outreach coordinator in the College of Engineering, is also a founding member.

 Forming STEM ecosystems was listed as the No. 1 priority for STEM education in a December 2018 report by the Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy.

 “The ecosystems that we selected now have pulled together diverse partners who no longer accept the status quo in education; they want to see all students access high-quality STEM education that will prepare them for life and work in the next century,” said Jan Morrison, president and founding partner of TIES, the organization that operates the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice.

 James Blake, a K-12 science curriculum specialist for Lincoln Public Schools and co-director of the Lincoln STEM Ecosystem, said Lincoln is making great strides to offer recommended rich, meaningful STEM education and experiences to youth in the community.

 “As a recognized STEM Learning Ecosystem, we can tailor quality STEM learning opportunities to our specific needs in Lincoln while leveraging the experiences of similar alliances across the world,” Blake said.

 Joining Blake in directing and shaping the ecosystem is Bryan Seck, director of workforce development for the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development.

 Early plans for Lincoln are to host a formal kickoff, a “STEMixer.” This annual event will add partners and keep those interested in supporting and building a STEM ecosystem at the table. The group aims to make Lincoln a leader in STEM workforce competitiveness in Nebraska and the United States.

 In addition to Heng-Moss and Wei, founding members of the new Lincoln STEM Ecosystem include: Dan Hohensee, director, The Career Academy; Tiffany Mousel, community outreach specialist, Lincoln Electric System; Patricia Wonch Hill, interim director, methodology and evaluation research core facility, University of Nebraska; Anna Wishart, senator, Nebraska Legislature; Nola Derby-Bennett, Community Learning Centers director, Lincoln Public Schools; Jeff Cole, network lead, Beyond School Bells; Tracy Bohaboj, team leader, engineering, Duncan Aviation; Jessilyn Vraspir, continuous improvement, Lincoln Public Schools; and Reeves Cleve, principal architect, BVH Architecture.

 To learn more about the Lincoln STEM Ecosystem, visit http://lnkse.org or follow the group on Twitter at @lnkse.