By Chantelle Simon
When I was a senior in high school, I applied for and received a Nex-Generation scholarship to help offset my college expenses. Jacque Beckman, executive director of Nex-Generation (my now boss), asked me if I wanted to return home after college and be a part of the community I grew up in. I gave a vague answer about how I was excited to see where life would take me. After graduating from Kansas State University in 2018, I moved overseas to Manila in the Philippines to work for a campus ministry for two years, a life-changing experience I’ll never forget.
However, when I came home in November 2020, I had no idea what to do next. Then, I learned about an opportunity to serve youth in my region at Nex-Generation, and that role sounded like the perfect fit. Today, I am the donor engagement and program support specialist for Nex-Generation, a job which has not only kept me in my hometown, but has infused me with excitement for my future. Life has taken me to some incredible places thus far, but I still made it back home, and for that I am thankful.
A Catalytic Shift
Northwest and north-central Kansas have experienced decades-long out-migration of youth. We at Nex-Generation want to create a catalytic shift in the culture of our rural communities, where regionally we are working together to attract and retain youth. If we can play a part in providing students with unique opportunities that will eventually lead them back home and help rural communities thrive, we have done our job.
In July, it will be one year since I started working for Nex-Generation. We don’t award scholarships anymore, but we have plenty of other dynamic and unique programs that impact students throughout the 28-county region that we serve. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 2013, Nex-Generation’s mission is to educate northwest and north-central Kansas students about local career opportunities by providing and supporting programs in four pillars: career development, internships, entrepreneurship, and Young AmeriTowne®. Through these efforts, we hope to foster a positive sense of community and encourage youth to remain or return home to prosper.
Nex-Gen’s Pillar Programs
Under our career development pillar, we have four programs. The first is our Career Fair and Expo. Due to COVID, this year we made our career fair an online option for our participating schools (hopefully in the future we can return to face-to-face activities!). Last November, we held CampBiz, CampMed, and CampTech for high school students. Each camp focused on business, medical or technical fields. We had various speakers from each career field give a presentation via Zoom to the students, and over 1,700 students participated in the camps. In January, we held Career EXPLORation, a day-long career fair for junior high students from 15 different school districts.
We also host résumé writing and interview skills workshops. This allows interested students to prepare for their future and gain tangible new skills. In addition to our career fairs and workshops, we are in the process of developing a Life$kills program for high school juniors that will provide life lessons in budgeting, planning and paying for monthly expenses (utilities, bills, rent, groceries, etc.). The program will allow the students to “role play” these real-life activities.
Our Student Internship Program is one of our most well participated-in programs. The program pairs area college and high school students with local businesses for paid summer internships. Students are given hands-on projects that nurture skill development, work ethic and team effectiveness, while showcasing a vast array of careers. Students receive professional mentorship and attend leadership workshops, and learn to invest in their own communities. Rural youth are experiencing business firsthand at an early age (16+) and directing their own career paths. Our goal for summer 2022 is to have 150 businesses apply to host interns; we are on track to reach that goal, with more than 130 positions already filled.
If your business would like to learn how to participate, or if you have a student who’d be a good fit for this program, check out our internship page!
With the growing interest in entrepreneurship programs in schools, we provide workshops and a curriculum to help support entrepreneurial education. Through a license with the Young Americans Center for Financial Education in Denver, we have recently launched YouthBiz® , a curriculum that is available to schools and economic development organizations in the area. Learn how you can bring this curriculum to your classroom!
Young AmeriTowne of Kansas
Nex-Generation’s goal is to take students from the classroom to a career, and AmeriTowne allows each Towne “citizen” to explore this concept in a safe and effective way. Young AmeriTowne is also a licensed program through the Young Americans Center in Denver. Learn more about how your students can participate!
To learn more about connecting your students or children to programs through Nex-Generation, visit our website at https://www.nex-generation.org/. If you have any questions, please contact me, Chantelle Simon, at email@example.com. I would love to tell you more about what we do!