Lincoln’s businesses, schools and nonprofits come together to support future entrepreneurs
For the second year in a row, a collaboration among Lincoln businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations has launched the Future Builders Challenge. The challenge kicked off with an inspiration rally on March 5 at The Career Academy, attended by community leaders, students and their families. “You are part of a very special group of people,”…
For the second year in a row, a collaboration among Lincoln businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations has launched the Future Builders Challenge. The challenge kicked off with an inspiration rally on March 5 at The Career Academy, attended by community leaders, students and their families.
“You are part of a very special group of people,” said Rich Claussen, Ambassador for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Prosper Lincoln. “There’s incredible student talent in this room. Tonight is the beginning of a really great journey.”
The program uses the Gallup Builder Profile 10 assessment to identify high school students with entrepreneurial aptitude. 2,000 assessments were made available to Lincoln high schools, and the top 20% were invited to the inspiration rally.
“The Builder assessment confirms the inherent talents that you have to build something,” Claussen told the students. “It could be a community, a business, an idea or a philanthropic venture. Most importantly, it’s about building a better life for yourself.”
A key program partner is the Clifton Strengths Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Donde Plowman, UNL Executive Vice-Chancellor, told the students they have a tremendous opportunity to develop their leadership potential.
“What’s so exciting to me is that the program is aimed at preparing the future leaders of this state, and you’re sitting in this room,” she said. “You’re going to learn really specifically what your strengths are. I couldn’t be more excited, and I look forward to what you’re going to do in this program.”
Two students who were part of last year’s program shared their experiences. Ashley Clegg is currently marketing management major at UNL, and Derek Branch is a student at Lincoln Southeast High School. Both felt uncertainty at the beginning.
“I was confused what this was all about when I sat here last year,” Clegg said. “After hearing about it, I got really excited.”
Branch gave credit to the adults guiding the program as mentors and coaches.
“I learned so much about myself and my strengths, and how to apply your strengths to what you want to do in your life,” he said. “There are so many people invested in you and what you can be.”
Several Lincoln companies and organizations have signed on as sponsors. Among them is e-commerce company Spreetail.
“One of the really cool things about something like this is that you’re building a bunch of tools,” said Jake Schmitt, Head of Technology at Spreetail. “At some point, you’ll find something you’re extremely passionate about. When you find that passion, you’ll be so thankful you spent time building that toolbox.”
The next step in the program is a boot camp on March 30, followed by an all-day event on April 1 where teams are formed and pitches developed. It’s not uncommon for teams to consist of students from different high schools who may not know each other.
“You’ll be working all day with your team from different high schools with different talents,” said Samantha Kennelly, Assistant Director of the Clifton Strengths Institute. “We’ll be challenging you to put an idea into action. You’ll work with mentors and coaches, people who believe in developing young people.”
The final aspect of the program is an intensive, week-long internship program at the UNL College of Business during June, where a select group of students will continue developing their ideas. Taylor Lofdahl, Program Coordinator with the Clifton Strengths Institute, remembers last year’s group of interns.
“I started right before last year’s camp, and to see these students take the opportunity and run with it was astonishing to me,” she said. “They just crushed it.”
Claussen sees the Future Builders Challenge as a community-wide effort.
“The Future Builders Challenge started and continues to grow in Lincoln because of the interest of students, educators and the most generous support of our funders, coaches and community leaders,” he said. “I think our city understands that the next economy will be driven by entrepreneurial talent. As a community, we want to do everything we can to discover, recruit, develop and retain that talent.”
“That begins with our Future Builders” he added.
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.
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