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Young entrepreneurs discover strengths at summer internship

Te’a Cushman, Northeast Rocket softball player and daughter of Rachelle Woodbury and Brent Cushman, wasn’t thinking about a career in business. Perhaps someday she’d go into law or medicine. So, when she took Gallup’s Builder Profile 10 (BP10) assessment in civics class, all she could think was, “Why would I ever need this?”

She discovered that she had a propensity for selling and the confidence and approachability that were hallmarks for successful entrepreneurs. Now, she’s spending part of her summer with 21 other students, developing their strengths, entrepreneurial skills, leadership and dedication to build a successful team and profitable t-shirt business.

The Lincoln students taking part in the Future Builders program at the Clifton Strengths Institute at UNL’s College of Business were chosen to participate after taking the BP10. In the assessment, each student showed the aptitude to become an entrepreneur, innovator and builder. This select group of 22 out of 3,200 students who were given the assessment were invited to participate in the intensive month-long Future Builders program.

“One of the main areas of focus for Prosper Lincoln is to connect the next generation to the innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities here in Lincoln,” said Rich Claussen, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ambassador for Prosper Lincoln. “This initiative helps do just that. And the support of our founding investors for this effort – their time talent and treasure – is what made it happen.”

Sam Hurt, son of Shannon and Jim Hurt, will be a sophomore at Southwest High School. He was on the winning pitch competition team that competed in April. The team proposed a program that would help those incarcerated to manage finances to reduce recidivism upon release. He believes the Future Builders program is extremely valuable to the students. “Everyone makes mistakes in business and these mistakes have the potential to ruin lives,” he said. “To learn these lessons in this way can help us prevent those mistakes and will allow us to create sustainable businesses.”

During the program, the students address goals identified in the Prosper Lincoln community agenda including building a vibrant culture of innovation. The students are guided by local entrepreneurs and business leaders to develop the skills necessary to create a successful t-shirt business.

Jada Skalak, daughter of Steve and Donna Skalak, will be a sophomore at Northstar next year. She’s part of the Future Builders social media team as well as inventory and operations. “I’ve particularly enjoyed using my strengths and the strengths of my team members to work well together.”

Ashley Clegg is one of the few Future Builders participants that is not a sophomore. The BP10 assessment was given to freshman as well as students of all ages taking business classes or in business clubs. Ashley, the daughter of Stephen and Barbara Clegg, was a senior at East when she took the assessment in a business class.

“I knew when I took the BP10 that it was very Gallup-style,” she said. “It pointed out a lot of things about myself that I didn’t know.”

Ashley, who will be a freshman at UNL’s Raikes School of Business majoring in marketing, believes the Future Builders program is important for Lincoln. “We’re creating a future of entrepreneurship for Lincoln, where we can be a hub of creativity and innovation. Supporting this program is one of the best ways to give back because it builds the economy in Lincoln.”

The Future Builders program in Lincoln is sponsored by Gallup, Nelnet, Spreetail, Bill Cintani, Lincoln Industries, The Jim and Penny Krieger Family Foundation, Prosper Lincoln, Don't Panic Labs, Ameritas, Lincoln Community Foundation, Select Lincoln | Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools, Assurity Life Insurance Company, The Strengths Lab, Accelerate Nebraska and the Clifton Strengths Institute at the College of Business.

Quotes From Our Supporters

Prosper Lincoln is one of the most exciting community engagement and community-building efforts happening in the country.  It’s a real model!

Dan Cramer, Co-founder, Grassroots Solutions, St. Paul, MN

Prosper Lincoln will not only benefit all of your kids and your community; it is also a model for similar efforts around the country, thanks to the leadership of LCF.

Richard Ober, President & CEO, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Founder Community Foundation Opportunity Network; Concord, NH

Communities across the US are searching for innovative initiatives to improve economic opportunity and mobility.  We can all learn from the amazing work of Prosper Lincoln!

Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, Foundation for the Carolinas

Prosper Lincoln is breaking new ground in economic revitalization without displacement.

Ellen Shepard, CEO, Allies, Chicago, IL

To see an entire community come together to ensure all Lincoln residents are successful is very inspirational.  Congratulations!

Nancy Van Milligen, President/CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

In my regional and national work in community development this is one of the most unique and exciting strategies for true change I have seen!

Del Gines, Senior Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Omaha, NE

Bringing together a multi-sector group of committed Lincoln residents will support prosperity for all.  Congratulations on this excellent collaboration.

Holly C. Sampson, President, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Duluth, MN

Diverse voices from across Lincoln came together so that current and future generations can thrive. This is no small feat, and it’s inspiring to see that collective vision inch closer to fruition. You can consider yourselves a model for other communities starting to embark on this work.

Megan Powers, International Program Officer, The McKnight Foundation Minneapolis, MN

There is no better example of the power of convening than Prosper Lincoln! Bringing together members of the community from all walks of life to enrich the City is inspiring.

Regine Webster, Vice President Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is creating a national model for building vibrant, equitable and resilient communities.  Systems thinking + the right resources!

Sandy Wiggins, Chair, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is an important approach to solving community problems. By bringing together local businesses, nonprofits, neighborhoods, government and faith organizations, they are bridging divides, building connections, and sparking opportunities in way that shows true community engagement.

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations

This is one of the most impressive community focus efforts I have seen. You are making considerable progress!

Cynthia Hardin Milligan, Trustee and former Chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI

Lincoln is one of a few cities across America where citizens and leaders from across different sectors have come together to tackle their community’s most complex challenges. Your ability to already show results and persevere is inspiring.

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, Washington, DC

Solving tough national problems like the opportunity gap begins locally, and Prosper Lincoln is leading the way.

Robert D. Putnam, Professor of Public Policy and author, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

There is nothing more powerful in securing a community’s long-term health than evolving a shared vision through community engagement. Congratulations!

Rip Rapson, President, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit, MI