Youth Arise is a youth civic engagement program designed for middle-school students. The goal of the program is to increase youth's understanding of civic engagement, social entrepreneurship, and leadership and to help youth learn how to become involved in their community. The program aims to engage socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and underserved youth. Each camp recruits a cohort of 20 youth in grades 7th and 8th. Using a 5-day summer camp model and evidence-based curricula, Youth Arise offers experiential learning opportunities including field trips to the Nebraska State Capitol, meetings with legislators and community leaders, and tour of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln campuses. Additional program activities include online gaming, documentary film and discussion, and individual/group projects.

The Youth Arise program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture | National Institute of Food and Agriculture Child, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Sustainable Community Projects No. 2019-41520-29983 and developed and implemented by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension 4-H Youth Development.

Summer Camp

Youth Arise features a 5-day summer camp program hosted Monday-Friday. Each day has a 4-hour session starting at 9 AM and running until 1 PM.

Day One: Who are Good Citizens?

Understand the importance of being a good citizen.

iCivics Game: "Activate"

Day Two: What Issues do We Have?

Discuss and explore community issues.

iCivics Game: "Counties Work"

Day Three: Who represents me?

Learn and meet virtually with community leaders.

iCivics Game: "Cast Your Vote" or "Do I have a Right?"

Day Four: How do we advocate?

Learn and discuss creative and effective strategies.

Develop an advocacy project.

Day Five: Day at the Capitol

Field trip to Nebraska state Capitol and University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus tour.

Meet with lawmakers.




Play and learn via online games. Laptops available for check-out.


Hands-on Experience

Meet with lawmakers and community leaders


No Cost

All activities and field trips are offered free of charge


Underserved Youth

Target 7th-8th grade students from diverse backgrounds as a priority


Evidence Model

Use evidence-based curricula iCivics and Learn LaundPad


Distance Learning

Online delivery platforms will be adapted in the future

Program Report

The Nebraska CYFAR program titled Youth Arise is an engaging and innovative learning program using evidence-based curricula with gamification, online simulations, and design thinking such as iCivics and YPAR (Youth-led Participatory Action Research) and incorporating experiential learning opportunities such as traveling (or a virtual visit) to the State Capitol and meeting with legislators. Adapting for use in a summer camp and an afterschool program, Youth Arise offers civics, entrepreneurship, and leadership education to at-risk youth in two of the highest-poverty communities with large racial and ethnic minority populations in Nebraska (i.e., Douglas and Scotts Bluff counties). The program aims to promote youths’ civic knowledge, skills, attitude, and behavioral engagement, and increase community capacity to sustain this program. Year 1 of this project (2019-20) primarily focused on planning and building community partnerships. Year 2 (2020-21) involved developing and pilot testing the curriculum. Using afterschool and summer camp models, 4 programs were delivered virtually. A total of 33 middle school students participated at our focal site; 9 students were African American, 2 were Hispanic or Latino, and the remaining 22 were non-Hispanic White. We are currently offering two in-person summer camps in July 2021.The funding for this project is through the NIFA CYFAR program.


This new project has been partnering and collaborating with local middle schools, community organizations, and Nebraska 4-H and Extension to sustain the program. Key components of the curricula are available online at no cost. Promoting our program and recruiting potential educators, we also plan to make our curriculum and teacher resources (e.g., slides, activities, and scripts) accessible and sharable with potential educators, using cloud storage sites (e.g., Box, OneDrive, Google Classroom). Video recordings of the virtual program are resources that are available for use in future trainings. Our plans include provision of technical support and assistance to partnering organizations (e.g., Beyond School Bells, Civic Nebraska), with the ultimate goal of integrating Youth Arise into Nebraska 4-H or school programming.


This project uses a mixed-methods longitudinal panel design to measure program outcomes at baseline and follow-up assessments. Focus group interviews will be conducted at the end of Year 2. Data are currently collected from sites and will show the increased civic knowledge and skills, attitude, and behavioral engagement of the youth participants.

  • screenshot of participants of virtual Youth Arise camp
  • screenshot of participants of virtual Youth Arise camp

School Teacher

"I am impressed to see that middle school students have many issues that they care about, and they want to make a change in their community."