Grand Island area high school sophomores gathered Thursday evening at the College Park auditorium for the Inspiration Rally, hosted by the Grand Island Area Economic Development Corporation (GIAEDC).
The event was for area students participating in the community’s first-ever Future Builders Challenge, a community partnership focused on fostering the entrepreneurial and business-minded skillsets in high school students.
The challenge identified 125 sophomores from seven area schools through its Gallup Builder Profile 10 assessment results. Participating schools are: Aurora High School, Centura High School, Grand Island Central Catholic, Grand Island Senior High, Heartland Lutheran, St. Paul High School, and Wood River Rural High School.
Guest speakers at Thursday’s event were Todd Johnson with Gallup; Mike Young, vice president of GIX Logistics; and Jeremy Jensen, financial advisor/founding partner of HELIX Wealth Advisors.
Two of the speakers were students who have aspirations to be entrepreneurs.
“I’m really excited that it is taking place here in Grand Island,” said Ashley Clegg, a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a former participant in the Lincoln Future Builders Challenge. She is a pre-med student and is studying entrepreneurial management.
Clegg said when she was invited to be a part of the Lincoln Future Builders in high school, “I really didn’t know what was going on.”
“But it was the first time I felt seen for who I was and what I was capable of achieving,” she said.
It was also the first time Clegg thought about being an entrepreneur.
“It was something that I could do,” she said.
Clegg said the Future Builders Challenge is a “brilliant idea to have going on.”
“It will create a ton of economic energy,” she said. “It is a great way to get these kids started down that path.”
The other student speaker was Aidan Chapman, a junior at Creighton Prep and a former Omaha Future Builders Challenge participant. He will soon be publishing his first book, “American Football,” about soccer in this country.
Chapman said he had done some work in the field of entrepreneurial ecosystems. He would like to pursue a career in entrepreneurship and environmental science.
“I think the lack of talent is one of the biggest problems in Nebraska and the rest of the Midwest,” he said.
Chapman said it is vital to find the talent potential at a young age and let young people know that their talent is “super important for Grand Island and the Midwest as a whole.”
Tara Nettifee from Grand Island Area Economic Development Corp. is the coordinator of the Grand Island Area Future Builders Challenge.
Nettifee said Clegg and Chapman are good examples and role models for what she wants to accomplish with the program.
“They have both taken that entrepreneur spirit to the next level as high school and college students,” she said.
Nettifee said the GIAEDC developed the idea for the Grand Island Area Future Builders Challenge. She wrote a grant application and received funding for the program from the Grow Grand Island group.
According to Dave Taylor of the GIAEDC, who recently spoke about the program as part of Grow Grand Island’s presentation before the Grand Island City Council, the Future Builders Challenge is a regional partnership that encourages growth in entrepreneurial and business-minded high school students.
“This is an opportunity for students to tap into their full potential and become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, innovators and builders,” Taylor said.
Nettifee said she hopes through the program to recognize those students who don’t often get recognized for their abilities.
“We have a lot of students who are good at athletics and the fine arts or who have GPAs,” she said. “But what about those students who have different talents and who are future builders who are going to start a new business within our communities and build our economy?”
In the seven area schools participating, there are approximately 1,100 students in 10th grade.
Prior to the Inspiration Rally Thursday, the first step was last month when the builder profile was given to all sophomores. On March 20, there will be a Builder Boot Camp, a full-day event to explore strengths and identify initiatives and gaps in the economy/community. On March 23, there will be a Builder Pitch Challenge where the students will work with community mentors and pitch business ideas focused on improving our community.
According to Nettifee, the Grand Island Area Future Builders Challenge is grounded in global Gallup research — the Builder Profile 10 (BP10), which is used as the assessment tool for the Future Builders Challenge.
She said that through the Gallup BP10, students learn about their propensity for innovation and entrepreneurship. The BP10 assessment identifies a person’s dominant builder talents, the role that fits them best, and gives action items for applying these talents.
“Understanding personal builder talents and roles will give students a deeper understanding of their skill set, as well as assist in collaborating with other like-minded students and professionals in the business world,” Nettifee said.
She said the program is off to a good start and has the support of Grand Island area businesses.
“They are invested in helping these high-schoolers develop their talents,” Nettifee said.
The ultimate goal or the program, she said, “is we want these students to stay and come back to Grand Island.”
“We want to keep them here and help grow our community,” Nettifee said. “We want them to know that they can make a home here.”