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Nebraska Opportunity Grants 'help students help themselves.'
So says 27-year-old Nathaniel Natale, a student at Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff. Natale is a political science major at WNCC and received a need-based scholarship from the Nebraska Opportunity Grant program, one of the educational beneficiaries of the Nebraska Lottery.
Formerly an engineer in the U.S. Air Force, Natale says the Opportunity Grant money is a crucial supplement to the Montgomery GI Bill. "I'm using the Montgomery GI Bill for my primary school [costs] ... so any extra money is definitely helpful to take some of the weight off of other obligations and bills that have to be paid."
Administered by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, the Nebraska Opportunity Grant program offers need-based scholarships to students in the University of Nebraska system, Nebraska State College system, and Community College system. Numerous private career schools also participate in the program, which receives a combination of federal funds, state general fund dollars and Nebraska Lottery proceeds. In the 2011-2012 school year, 14,239 Nebraska students recieved a total of $14,678,211 through the Opportunity Grant program.
Hummel Park Nature Center and ZNETH II
The new Hummel Park Nature Center is a multipurpose, four-season building which will be programmed for nature education, recreation and retreat activities. The building includes a safe room for severe weather protection, a geothermal heat pump, natural day lighting and a landscape featuring rain gardens.
The two new buildings and on-site caretaker's house were constructed using $1,000,000 from Omaha's Capital Improvement Program, a $50,000 contribution from the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and a $350,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
The Zero Net Energy Test House II (ZNETH II) caretaker's house is a successful public/private partnership between the city of Omaha and researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Peter Kiewit Institute. All three groups contributed in-kind services toward designing the ZNETH II with the goal of providing optimal energy efficiency with minimal additional construction costs. Energy-saving components include high-efficiency doors and windows, R-50 attic insulation, double wall framing, geothermal heat pump and rain barrels. Whole-house energy monitoring and control systems will collect energy data for use in future projects.
Nebraska Prairie Partners
The Nebraska Prairie Partners, a partnership between Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (RMBO) and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, has been successful at conserving grassland and cropland birds in western Nebraska for 10 years. With support from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the program has focused on conservation-based outreach and education in schools and with private landowners. Since 2002, the Trust has funded 21 projects totaling $1.6 million to RMBO and its partners, targeting Tier 1 at-risk bird species, identified in Nebraska's Natural Legacy Project. Additionally, matching funds exceeding $500,000 from over 10 partners have supported conservation efforts.
Trust funds have supported habitat-based conservation throughout the panhandle. RMBO has:
- Developed an innovative Mountain Plover nest-marking program, protecting 663 nests on 200,000 acres of private lands involving 78 landowners;
- Built 25 nest platforms for Ferruginous Hawks;
- Installed 1,500 stock tank ladders to prevent wildlife drowning;
- Held bi-annual landowner workshops;
- Educated 4,500 students and adults at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center Bird Banding Station;
- Conducted fall and spring school programs that reach 3,200 students annually; and Distributed 9,000 Pocket Guides to Birds of Nebraska.