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K.C. Belitz

Today’s column gives you an example of how to use philanthropy to do community-building and a call to action for you.

Many of us are aware that Nebraska has far more jobs than we have people to fill them. In fact, tens of thousands of jobs sit open today in our state. That constitutes an obvious and critical community development opportunity and challenge.

Nebraska Community Foundation, through local affiliated funds like those in Platte, Butler, Boone and Colfax counties, is beginning a new effort to use charitable dollars to address a bit of this huge opportunity. NCF is encouraging those local funds to connect with young people who have gone off to college by involving the students in hometown summer internships.

The NCF board of directors will partner with affiliated funds to offer college students a paid internship to serve their hometown communities during their summer break. Specifically, the board will offer challenge grants of $1,500 to $3,000 to be matched on a one-to-one basis with local funding by these community-based affiliated funds.

The local Fund Advisory Committee members will identify and recruit local college students who might be interested in a hometown internship. So, that leads us to our call to action. The hope is that the upcoming holiday break will be an opportunity talk to students who could become hometown interns. Perhaps you know a student who should be welcomed home through an opportunity like this. If so, you are in a great position to help, and now is the time to introduce that name to someone on the local committee!

As you consider students who might be a fit, it is good to understand the work the student will be doing. It will have to be charitable in nature; they will not be interning for for-profit entities. Here are some ideas: working with early childhood education, partnering with the local library or school for STEM programming development, documenting local history, mapping arts assets, creating a “shopping local” campaign, tourism activities, creating a “community assets analysis,” or helping with community event planning. Really, it can be anything charitable, educational or civic that you or your hometown intern can imagine!

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A hometown intern will be a current undergraduate college student who lives at home for the summer. They will work part-time for the summer. A member of the Fund Advisory Committee will serve as a champion and direct supervisor for them. The Fund Advisory Committee will create opportunities for the intern to identify and discover community assets and share this information with community members to mobilize, connect and add value to these community assets.

Involving your hometown intern with these types of projects can create deeper connections between your community and our young people who are attending college. And, bottom line, we hope those deeper connections will increase the odds that these students become full-time residents of your hometown someday.

We all know someone and we all have a responsibility to help build a better future for our hometown. Put those two things together and we have your call to action: contact at least one college student when they are at home for this holiday season and/or someone from your local NCF affiliate, and put those folks together for a conversation about bringing an outstanding young person home for the summer.

NCF is ready to put philanthropic dollars to work in our hometowns. Let’s make the connections to put those dollars to work in our region. And in the big picture, let’s use this philanthropic tool to all do our little part to take a bite out of today’s Nebraska workforce opportunity.

K.C. Belitz is the chief operating officer of the Nebraska Community Foundation.

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