Youth Leadership Kearney is an organization created to identify, educate and nurture potential, emerging and existing leaders that are committed to improving the quality of life in Kearney and the surrounding communities.

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Through our program, Leadership Kearney creates connections with the Kearney community as well as with like minded individuals that are looking to contribute to the progressive mindset of our community. 

Learn more:              Program Benefits              |              Program History              |              Program Details



Students get a chance to develop their leadership skills and find ways that they can help our community grow. YLK allows them to build connections with like minded individuals. By investing in our youth they in return will help us form a better future for Kearney.



In 1994, Youth Leadership Kearney was created to mirror the Leadership Kearney program that started in 1991.  Recognizing that there was a need to inspire and train the next generation of youth leaders in Kearney, a task force was created by Leadership Kearney Class #2 graduates, Tim Hughbanks, Julie Rawlings Hoppe, Jim Ganz, Jr. and Randy Tonniges.  The mission of the Youth Leadership Kearney program is to help develop the hidden potential in our high school students in regard to their leadership qualities and to instill in them the importance of community trusteeship, all in an effort to prepare them for the leadership opportunities ahead of them in their later lives.  Participants are provided with tours, roundtable discussions and speakers during their leadership sessions. 




There will be one session per month, program dates are typically the second Wednesday of the month August - April.  These session days will run like a typical school day 7:45-8:00 AM through 2:30-3:00 PM, with the exception of State Government Day. Attendance is required at all sessions and the opening retreat. Every effort will be made to avoid conflicts with other school functions. Teacher, coaches, and the administrations are aware of program requirements and your absence from school during the program will be allowed. One excused absence from the program may be allowed under certain pre-arranged circumstances.

Participation is a privilege, and attendance is your responsibility. 


Youth selected for the Youth Leadership Kearney class have an opportunity to meet each other for the first time, become familiar with the program and network.


Parents/ Guardians are requested to attend a portion of this day for an informational session.


Explore the working world in Kearney by learning more about the major industries and businesses in the area. This day gives student a chance to hear from local entrepreneurs.


Agriculture is an important part of Nebraska's local economy. One Ag, Energy, & Environment day students will learn about the energy needs of our community as well as how the agricultural industry impacts Kearney.


This is your chance to get a real glimpse of  how the city and county run. Participants get to meet with elected officials to learn about our local governmental entities and facilities that make Kearney a great place to live, work, and play. 


YLK class members learn about the different educational systems in our area from public to private, elementary to high school, as well as post secondary opportunities. They get a chance to see different options they have available to them locally.


Health & Human services day lets students explore our local healthcare facilities and learn about the various human services agencies we have in the Kearney Community. They'll get hands on experience that will let them dive deeper into the healthcare industry.


Ready, set, create! On Art, Culture & Recreation day youth tour the community and learn about all of the amazing cultural opportunities and recreational facilities that Kearney has to offer. Participants also get to hear from local artists and program leaders, so they can find more ways they can get involved in the community.


This fun filled day allows students to travel to Lincoln to observe the Nebraska Unicameral, visit with state senators, and state department directors. They get a chance to explore more about how our unique state government works.



YLK students will complete four hours of community service or a class project before the conclusion of the program. Youth will share their experiences as well as hear from volunteer organizations in the community. Parents/Guardians and Sponsors are invited to the YLK graduation luncheon upon completion of the program.



Program Funding Participation in Youth Leadership Kearney has no cost to the individual participants. However, selected youth participants will be responsible for contacting and securing sponsorships for themselves prior to the opening retreat.


Sponsorships are $250 per youth participant. Selected youth are responsible for reporting their progress in the program to their sponsor throughout the year.



​The purpose of the YLK selection process is to choose a class of individuals to represent the Kearney area. Members of the class will have the opportunity to become educated on various issues, exchange ideas and enhance their leadership skills.

Applicants must:

  • Enrollment as a student in the Kearney School District or home schooled in the Kearney area.

  • Applications must be submitted during the spring of sophomore year for participation as juniors.

  • Students selected must commit to full participation in the program.

  • Participants must have a desire to develop and utilize leadership skills.

Participants are chosen by a selection committee made up of Leadership Kearney Board of Directors who review all applications in confidence. Youth applicant names are not identified to the selection committee and the entire process is anonymous with no personal information that might identify the candidate is revealed. Application questions are assigned a point value, and selection is based on the total points an applicant receives. Chosen candidates will participate in their junior year of high school.

Once new members are selected and confirmed, all applicants are notified as to whether or not their application was successful. Notification letters are sent out no later than July 1st.



A $1,200 scholarship will be awarded to up to four Youth Leadership Kearney graduates, pursuing post-secondary educations at an accredited two-year or four-year institution. Preference will be given to applicants choosing to attend an institution in Kearney.

Students must carry a minimum 3.0 GPA and must be a graduating senior level student attending a Kearney high school and residing in Kearney proper.

Scholarship monies will be paid directly to recipient's collegiate institution first semester after verification of current enrollment. This scholarship is a one-time award.


Please fill out and print the Application Form and submit with the required attachments. 


PO Box 692, Kearney, NE 68848