Over the past two years, students and teachers at Lincoln Northeast High School have made an encouraging discovery. That discovery, made possible through a partnership with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, is opening up promising possibilities for students.
The discovery? Students see that modern agriculture and natural resources fields offer great career options. And it’s not just a handful of possibilities — it’s hundreds of rewarding career choices.
Lincoln Public Schools’ partnership with CASNR is known as FEWSS, for Food, Energy, Water and Societal Systems. Through this CASNR outreach, classes at Lincoln Northeast incorporate information on those topics into the school’s curriculum and activities. As a result, teachers and students now appreciate that 21st-century agriculture “is so much more broad when you get into the food sciences, the biochemical studies, the engineering components,” said Ben Haney, an associate principal at Northeast.
During the school’s FEWSS Fridays, classes throughout Northeast discuss topics relating to food, energy, water and societal systems. Encouraged by the FEWSS initiative, the school’s skilled technical science students have visited the Lancaster Event Center to learn about career opportunities in ag-related machinery and mechanics. A school community garden has spurred student involvement. Each Tuesday during the academic year, Northeast teachers include FEWSS topics in their weekly planning session to discuss curriculum, classroom lessons and assessment data.
Through trips organized by Bailey Feit, the university’s CASNR/LPS focus program coordinator, Northeast students have visited East Campus to learn more about agricultural and natural resources topics.
“Our kids have been able to sit in on some college classes and experience them,” Haney said.
This summer, some Northeast students will pursue research projects with Husker professors in areas of interest.
As a result of these experiences, Haney said, the LPS-CASNR partnership “has created all these extra opportunities and really opened students’ eyes to all the post-high school possibilities out there in food, energy, water and societal systems.”
A slide Feit shows students lists a wide array of FEWSS-related careers, including animal scientist, diesel mechanic, lab technician, meteorologist, ag equipment designer, water quality specialist, market analyst, ag journalist, hydraulic engineer, purchasing manager and plant pathologist.
FEWSS-focused visits to the high school by Husker faculty are valuable to students, said Jennifer Lee, who graduated from Lincoln Northeast this spring. For the many Northeast students with an interest in agriculture and natural resources, she said, the faculty visits “are really important and enriching experiences that bring students closer to their career goals and help them formulate what they’re looking to do.”
Classroom slide shows and activities led by Husker faculty “are really exposing students to the possibilities” in a range of interesting careers, Lee said. “I know that younger classmen really get a lot out of it.”
Lee will attend the University of Nebraska–Lincoln this fall, and FEWSS-facilitated internships and extensive job shadowing have connected her with professionals and Husker faculty, including some she will work with during her undergraduate years. “I have made tons of connections through FEWSS and through these job shadows and internships,” said Lee, who will study biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and biochemistry in CASNR.
FEWSS, the latest in a decades-long history of collaboration between LPS and CASNR, includes outreach across the breadth of Northeast’s diverse student population. Feit is adviser to two Northeast student clubs that are part of the FEWSS partnership. One club, the Junior MANRRS Club, is part of the national MANRRS effort to provide opportunities to minority students in regard to agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. Lincoln Northeast has applied for national certification to make it the first officially recognized Jr. MANRRS chapter in Nebraska.
Northeast’s FEWSS-related clubs provide positive experiences for students, said Peyton Miller, who graduated from the high school this spring.
“Any time I see a student who goes to the clubs, I can see the excitement in their eyes,” she said. “For a lot of the students here, it really does spark an interest in a lot of different fields and a lot of different creative outlets.”
Miller contributed to FEWSS awareness through a special project: She painted a mural to celebrate the opportunities from the Northeast partnership with CASNR. Once she learned about the breadth of topics in FEWSS, she said, the program “really spoke to me in a lot of ways.”
“Kids who perhaps would not otherwise be college bound,” Lee said, “are seeing that they are investing in us, and they’re feeling welcomed and embraced, that people really do believe in them. We’re building a relationship with the university that is especially going to help our lower classmen.”
“To have UNL so involved through FEWSS in our school,” she said, “is really building a beautiful connection.”