Nebraska’s leaders recognize the state needs more people – particularly young adults with college degrees – if it’s to continue its near-record pace of growth into the future.
But, with all due respect to these officials, far too many let unimportant things, like politics, interfere with rolling out the welcome mat.
Instead, we encourage them to follow the lead of Lincoln Public Schools’ Scholar Equity Cadre, a group of students who strive to ensure the voices of historically underrepresented populations are heard throughout Nebraska’s second-largest school district.
Three years into its existence, the equity cadre is ensuring students who otherwise might have slipped off the radar screen have a seat at the table and an open line of direct communication with district leadership.
This trailblazing coalition of students of color, the brainchild of Pete Ferguson, takes advantage of those opportunities to create the change it hopes to see in the school district and community at large.
A North Star student who moved from Syria to the U.S. helped craft a learning module for LPS officials and facilitate a town hall with the superintendent. Lincoln High students led the response after a controversy involving a Trump flag during a football game. A Southeast graduate provided a voice for students of color before the school board last year following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
Such efforts go beyond the classroom and show the impact of what LPS Superintendent Steve Joel said opens up the ability “for scholar voices to really talk.” These students share their perspective and lived experiences with others from different backgrounds in hopes of improving outcomes for all.
Concepts of giving voice to those who are otherwise voiceless and using education as a key to increasing understanding are instrumental to the kind of progress Nebraska wants – and needs – to make going forward.
The lessons here echo even more loudly in view of the tumult caused by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln plans to increase equity and close achievement gaps for students of color.
Our state’s edgy, cheeky tourism motto – “Honestly, it’s not for everyone” – rings hollow when the Good Life isn’t as accessible for people of diverse backgrounds. In fact, it becomes more of a taunt to those individuals than an endorsement of the unexpected gems Nebraska has to offer.
But perceived shortcomings about the state’s willingness to welcome others reflect poorly on all Nebraskans.
That’s why the state’s officials, both elected and not, should take note of the equity cadre and model efforts at recruitment and inclusion off of the successes of Lincoln’s young, diverse cohort of leaders.