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The Agurban

#695 – Gage County Youth See Themselves Living Back Home in the Future

Jul 17, 2018

Where do your young people want to be in 10 years? Ask them! Sometime the youth in a community are overlooked when it comes to what plans should be made for the future. But who better to ask than those who will be that future? We love the approach that Gage County, Nebraska took when updating their comprehensive plan.

Gage County Youth See Themselves Living Back Home in the Future

More than half of teenagers surveyed in Gage County, Nebraska, picture themselves living back home sometime in the future, according to a survey completed by the Heartland Center as part of a USDA-funded project.  The survey’s results were shared at a series of regional town hall meetings held throughout the county.

Community leaders from Gage County were invited to hear reports on how area high school students rated their communities on quality of life and economic opportunity. Student-constructed 3-D models of the youngsters’ vision for their communities in 10 years were also displayed.

Those visioning sessions were organized around how the teens, working together, answered three questions:

  • What do you like about your community?
  • What do you dislike about your community?
  • What would you like to see in your community 10 years from now?

Earlier this year, 859 middle school and high school students in the county answered an on-line survey that asked them to reflect on quality of life factors in their communities and to project economic opportunities for young people in the next several years.

Surprisingly, perhaps, 55% of the students said they could picture themselves living in the area in the future, after graduating high school or college, getting career experience or starting a family. The teens also had a lot of ideas about how to make their communities better places to live, yet only 15% said any adult had ever asked for their input.

The entire process will complement an update of the county’s comprehensive plan.

The youth focus groups were conducted with high school students to document youth priorities for their communities. The focus groups also solicited youth perspectives about their community’s future and how teenagers want to engage with adults to create opportunities for young people to stay or return in the future to contribute to community vitality.

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