During the spring of 2020 the 7th - 12th grade students from Diller-Odell participated in the Nebraska Community Foundation Youth Survey Project. Their input is valuable to the future direction of the community and region.
Some key findings include:
· 36% of the participants reported doing something positive for their community about once a month or more.
· 62% prefer living in a small town
· 42% somewhat or extremely likely to live in the area as an adult
· Their motivations to return are family ties and the quality of life which makes their hometown a good place to raise a family.
· Career opportunities elsewhere is the main reason the students would not live in the area
· 93% find no negative stigma to returning as an adult to one’s hometown
These young voices expressed that their future home must have good schools, a low crime rate and quality parks and outdoor recreation.
These results were shared with community stakeholders such as village boards, the school board, county commissioners and hospital boards. The voices of these future leaders are shaping the community now.
Diller Community Foundation members Beth Roelfs, Micki Krieger, Diane Wellsandt, and Tammy Weers along with Hometown Intern, Hayley Denner, and Nebraska Community Foundation Affiliated Fund Development Coordinator, Dena Beck, met with thirty-two Diller-Odell 7-12 grade students on April 16th, 2021. The purpose of this meeting was to reconnect with the high school students on the survey they took during the late winter of 2020 and ask more follow-up questions.
The first prompt was “Us in 2031”. This encouraged students to think about where they see themselves in the year 2031. There was interest expressed in living in a small community, attending college and starting a business. Five would come back to the area and wanted to pursue a career in the ag industry. Other careers varied from nurse to social worker to engineering. A few expressed interest in professions like interpersonal therapist, lawyer, and pediatric physical therapist.
Next, students were asked what they would like to have in their community. The three identified categories were Activities and community engagement; Parks, recreation, and beautification; and Restaurant, retail, and shopping.
ACTIVITIES AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Academic activities included local international field trips, summer camps, and motivational speakers.
Community activities/engagement suggestions included sports clubs for youth, hangout space and community dances for teens, as well as fundraising activities for youth..
PARKS, REC, & BEAUTIFICATION
The participants felt strongly about this category and pointed out the need/importance of planting trees and flowers/town garden and greenhouse. The renovation and maintenance of public and private buildings was a priority as well as town clean-up. The availability of housing was an issue of concern and upkeep of sidewalks and roads. Park renovation was also noted. Diller has included many of these targets it it’s current park improvement plan.
RESTAURANT, RETAIL, & SHOPPING
One student wrote, “Teach kids more about business management to keep them in the area and pull in more investors to build various businesses”.
Eleven of the students were interested in more diverse dining options in the area. Seven were concerned about job opportunities. Variety in shopping and entertainment options was also important to the participants.
It is a priority of the Diller Community Foundation Fund to routinely seek input from the young people in order to gain their perspectives and give them a voice in the direction the communities of Diller and Odell are moving.