Bruning-Davenport, Deshler, Meridian, Thayer-Central and home-schooled students completed a successful year in the Thayer County ESI/Community Connections project. ESI stands for “EntreprenuerShip Investigation”, a new 4-H project developed by 4-H and the State Department of Education.
Local students attended day-long workshops each month throughout the school year to learn and enhance business skills. Each student created a product or service they can provide as a business effort. Those entrepreneurial efforts were highlighted at the February Product Fair.
Students understand the values held in our small rural communities and learned how the local community could help support new and small businesses. They also discussed products and services they would like to see provided in their communities.
Research shows that 66% of Nebraska students, after higher education, want to return and live in their local communities. Several ESI students follow that trend by wanting to return to Thayer County or nearby region.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, among those aged 18–29 in Nebraska, over two-thirds (69%) wanted to start a business and another three percent already had started a business.
The Thayer County ESI project is a collaborative effort between the four schools, Thayer County Economic Development Alliance and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Local teachers were Arlis Hohl, Deb Craig and Phyllis Schoenholz. Extension Specialist Dr. Diane Vigna and UN-L Consultant Nancy Eberle were also monthly instructors.
Adult entrepreneurs who served as mentors to the students include Becky Bartels - Blue Skies Photography, Daykin; Connie O’Hanlon - Tattered And Torn Primitives, Hebron; Bob Reinke - MBR, Hebron; and Michael Burger - Victory Too of Deshler.
Locally, partial funding was provided by Thayer County Economic Development Alliance. In addition to Thayer County, Butler and Seward Counties joined in this pilot project. Additional funding was provided by a grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development administered by the Nebraska Rural Development Commission.