Nebraskans have strong social connections, weaker political engagement

by Clark Grell, Lincoln Journal Star

Gavin Harsch loves his hometown of McCook — so much so that two years after leaving to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he continues to organize a free drive-in movie night for the community each summer. Harsch was a high school senior when he started the drive-in movie night in 2013. It was his way of thanking McCook for his education and the opportunities. Now, he hopes to grow the event into a weekendlong celebration reminiscent of old-time community picnics and festivals. And after he graduates from UNL, Harsch said he will return to McCook to run the family farm. ÒThe connections I have made are too much to lose,Ó he said. Harsch is not like most people his age. He’s civic-minded, connected, dedicated and involved in his neighborhood, community and state. Harsch joined the Nebraska Civic Health Partnership at a news conference Thursday as it released its first-ever civic health index — measuring Nebraskans’ connectedness, involvement and participation in their towns and government. An outgrowth of the National Conference on Citizenship, the partnership is a collaborative effort of six Nebraska organizations: Nebraskans for Civic Reform, Nebraska Community Foundation, Nebraska Public Policy Center, UNO Service Learning Academy, UNL Center for Civic Engagement and Nebraska State Bar Foundation. The index shows clear strengths, but also clear needs, said Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform. Using data primarily collected from the 2012 and 2013 U.S. Census Bureau Population Surveys, the index found Nebraska ranks high among states for family and community connections (seventh), trust of neighbors (11th) and confidence in its school systems (fifth). ~1@BODYURL[id=114jbcurl1324]@