Youth leadership opportunities

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nebraska and other rural states have seen a "brain drain" in recent years -- young people moving to other states to pursue careers or other opportunities. As this depletion occurs, we lose our most vital economic asset. It is a priority of mine to ensure the best and brightest stay right here in Nebraska.

As the issues facing our country evolve, so do the concerns of the younger generation of Nebraskans. They are concerned about governmental spending and the amount of debt they are going to inherit -- and rightfully so. By addressing their concerns and engaging them in the public policy process, we can forge a positive future for our state and our nation.

I am consistently impressed by the interest shown by the youth of our district to be part of the solution -- not only to the problems facing Nebraska but also the entire country. I want to do what I can to provide opportunities for Nebraska youth to reach their full potential.

To ensure students in Nebraska have a voice in how their government represents them, I formed my Youth Advisory Council. This group provides a forum to discuss the concerns of young Nebraskans, while also offering the opportunity for me to receive feedback and insight regarding how they perceive the federal government and their local communities.

The frank and open discussions we have during the regular meetings held throughout the year are extremely valuable to me and a benefit to the students.

The Youth Advisory Council is open to high school students who will be juniors or seniors in the fall and who are nominated by their teachers, principals, or guidance counselors. Nominations are due by May 8. For more information about the Youth Advisory Council, interested students should contact their guidance counselor or my Grand Island office at 308-384-3900.

For college-aged Nebraskans, I am proud to offer a limited number of internships each year in either my Washington D.C. office or one of my district offices. These internships provide invaluable work experience for students interested in public policy.

Interns have the opportunity to meet with me directly, as well as assist my staff on various levels -- from office duties to research to attending meetings with policymakers and constituents.

For more information on interning in one of my offices, college students can visit my Web site: under "Constituent Services."

The Congressional Award for America's Youth is the United States Congress' recognition of young Americans for their achievements in their communities. Interested participants may take part as early as age 13, and must be completed by age 24.

Participants earn Bronze, Silver and Gold Congressional Award Certificates and Bronze, Silver and Gold Congressional Award Medals. Students must set and achieve individual goals in four program areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.

Interested students can enroll or find more information through the Congressional Award website ( or by contacting my Grand Island office.

These are just a few ways young Nebraskans can strengthen their communities while at the same time enriching their own lives. I encourage students to check with their guidance counselors, local chambers of commerce, economic development councils, and other organizations and businesses for more ways to get involved.

I've seen the potential of young Nebraskans. By creating youth leadership opportunities, and encouraging Nebraskans to take an active role, we can strengthen our communities for generations to come and reverse the "brain drain" for good.

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