McCook Community College students (from left) Caleb Suda, Denae Simpson and Charlie Ann Carter, the latter from Imperial, lead a discussion with students at McCook High School that has led to a student-generated civic-action project. The three MCC students are the first of a newly formed Nelson Fellows program. Courtesy photo)

First group of Nelson Fellows at MCC includes Imperial student

    Three McCook Community College students are attending classes on full scholarships this fall as part of the newly formed Nelson Fellows program, initiated by McCook native Benjamin Nelson, former governor and U.S. Senator.
    Sophomores Charlie Ann Carter, Imperial; Denae Simpson, Omaha; and Caleb Suda, McCook, are this year’s Nelson Fellows. All three took a leadership class last fall at MCC, applied to be Nelson Fellows and were selected following an interview process.
    Their scholarships are being funded by the Nebraska Community Foundation.
    In exchange for receiving full tuition and fees for 30 credits this year, the Nelson Fellows will be developing and delivering leadership lessons based on prominent McCook governmental leaders. It includes working with a high school class to develop a civic action project, meeting each week with 20 juniors at McCook High School enrolled in an advanced American history class.
    The MCC students helped the high school students assess the current reality of the community and determine assets and liabilities and come up with a plan of immediate action for something that is needed and something the class can achieve. The project is designed to bridge the gap between where McCook is now and the desired future.
    MHS students adopted an area cleanup around Weiland Field as their project.
    As established each year, MCC’s Nelson Fellows will work with the organization, Nebraskans for Civic Reform, to provide “unique and substantial service and experiential learning opportunities for high school class rooms.”
    The goal of the Civic Action Project is to engage community leaders with youth while engaging youth in the community through issue identification, problem-solving and discussions aimed at creating more civically-minded citizens, more connected to their community.
    In addition to learning about Nelson’s contributions to Nebraska and the nation, the MCC students will study the contributions of other prominent politicians from McCook including George Norris, Ralph Brooks and Frank Morrison.
    “We think this is a great opportunity for our students to learn about and teach others in our area about the strong political heritage in McCook,” said MCC Vice President Andy Long.
    Long taught Carter, Simpson and Suda last fall in his vice president leadership class, and said the chance to further leadership opportunities for college students lines up well with the objectives of the Nelson Fellows objectives.  
    Long has been teaching the leadership class since his arrival on campus in 2012. The class is made up of high school students with a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher, an ACT score of 25 or higher or significant leadership experience to be considered for the program.
    They develop skills through readings and discussions, and also meet southwest Nebraska leaders. The college also provides an all-expense paid trip for the students over spring break.

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