HAY SPRINGS –While most middle and high school students in Hay Springs say they plan to attend college or trade school after graduation, many also picture themselves living in the area in the future. Their reasons, as indicated in a recent survey, were quality of life considerations, such as a good place to raise a family, quality schools and career opportunities.
The survey was conducted as part of a northwestern Nebraska rural prosperity project funded in part by USDA Rural Development. Among Hay Springs students, a total of 73 or 92% of students in grades 7 through 12 participated. The survey was sponsored by the Heartland Center for Leadership Development in collaboration Nebraska Extension.
Mark Hagge, Hay Springs Public Schools principal, said the survey results demonstrate that students appreciate their part of the state and would consider staying or returning under the right circumstances. “These young people are pleased with the quality of life here, and many of them would consider living here in the future, especially if they could make a decent living.”
Further, he said, some of them own a business now and the vast majority would like to own a business in the future. Many of them also said they would be interested in learning more about entrepreneurship through a class with hands-on experience.
Jenny Nixon, a Rural Prosperity Nebraska educator from Harrison, said the results “may be an opportunity for internships in each of our communities” in Sioux, Dawes and Sheridan Counties. Deb Cottier, executive director of Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation, said young adults may also be interested in internships or apprenticeships, especially under the tutelage of a business owner who is looking toward retirement.
The surveys indicated interest in a wide spectrum of career opportunities, said Craig Schroeder, a project team member who has conducted similar surveys nationwide with more than 40,000 secondary school students. Schroeder, who is president of the Heartland Center board of directors, said a larger percentage of students in northwest Nebraska pictured themselves living in or near their hometowns than is typical in similar communities.
Hagge said he hopes that other public schools in the northwest corner of the Panhandle will take advantage of the opportunity to survey their secondary students, so that a comprehensive picture of student attitudes throughout the region can be ascertained.