Good Living Camp builds rural-urban relationships across Nebraska

Small Towns

Summer nights around a campfire under the stars, the taste of homemade pancakes in the morning, and the smell of pine trees along the trail while walking with new friends to the biggest zipline imaginable—the folks at Rabble Mill believe every young person deserves to experience these things, and more.

A 501c3 nonprofit, Rabble Mill’s mission is to work with youth across Nebraska in hopes of achieving the belonging, purpose, and upward mobility necessary for them to grow, achieve, and reinvest in their communities. That’s why they’ve hosted Good Living Camp since 2021. The Center for Rural Affairs is a proud sponsor.

This year, Rabble Mill and Nebraska 4-H are inviting high school students from every Nebraska city and small town to the five-day, overnight, outdoor leadership camp. Held this summer at the Nebraska State 4-H Camp in Halsey National Forest, the camp will bring together adventure, leadership, and cultural immersion to create incredible memories and form fulfilling relationships.
“Campers will be able to unplug, unwind, and create shared experiences with new friends from across Nebraska—from big cities to small towns,” said Andrew Norman, co-founder/co-executive director of Rabble Mill in Lincoln. “They’ll participate in outdoor activities like mountain boarding, extreme water slide, tanking, tubing, mud ball, archery, STEM learning, and even skateboarding—we installed a permanent mini ramp at camp.”

All Nebraska high school students are eligible and invited to attend Good Living Camp. Space is limited, but Andrew said no campers will be turned away due to lack of funds. And, through an environmental impact project with the National Forest Service, campers will get to reinvest in the local community.

Good Living Camp was inspired by a project done through an earlier incarnation of Rabble Mill. Hear Nebraska produced a statewide concert tour featuring diverse, all-Nebraska artists called the Good Living Tour, from 2014 to 2018. The Center for Rural Affairs was the first sponsor and an annual partner.

“One of the project's goals was to build relationships and awareness necessary to help bridge Nebraska's urban-rural divide,” Andrew said. “In 2021, we piloted Good Living Camp, which took 23 marginalized youth from seven Nebraska towns on the adventure of a lifetime––from state parks to skateparks.”
Nebraska 4-H contacted Rabble Mill interested in helping bring to the Nebraska State 4-H Camp some of the culturally relevant youth engagement components that were offered at Good Living Camp in its first year and at Rabble Mill’s Lincoln youth center, The Bay.

“We've since partnered with Nebraska 4-H to produce Good Living Camp at Nebraska State 4-H Camp,” said Andrew. “We aim to commit long term to bringing kids from every Nebraska nook and cranny together each year to build and connect Nebraska youth. After all, they're going to be running this state in 10 to 20 years. Let's make sure they have friends who don't look like them, whose towns offer different kinds of fun.”

Rabble Mill’s goal is to have 130 campers from all over Nebraska, both rural and urban, and potentially a few kids from Los Angeles as well.

“We're inviting and working to sponsor our entire class at the Bay High Focus Program in Lincoln, which is the second school only to Central High in diversity, as well as Omaha students through partners like Girls, Inc. and Latino Center of the Midlands,” said Andrew. “So, that's going to mean a lot of urban kids who may not have experienced the great outdoors.”
Andrew says it’s important for kids from rural areas to join this learning adventure as well.

“We really need your rural student leaders—especially those who might be more unconventional, who have aptitude, but might need an opportunity that will both appeal to and set them up for success,” he said.

Good Living Camp is important to Nebraska businesses as well, he said, because they need talent over the long term, and Nebraska needs government leaders who have a broad understanding of issues affecting the state.

“This camp serves both needs by creating relationships between, and both soft and hard skills for young people who may not have them modeled in their home, or may already be on a traditional path to leadership and community service,” Andrew said.

At 42, he employs 40 people who are all younger than he is, and Rabble Mill is always looking for employees who have a growth mindset and who work to raise the tide.

“You gain that perspective through meeting and learning from people who aren't like you,” he said. “It makes you well-rounded, and, thus, valuable to employers. More importantly, it makes you a person who other people want to be around.”

Rabble Mill is dedicated to making Good Living Camp an annual event and to offer more summer dates in the future.

“We aim next year to include elementary and middle school students, many of whom we work with through Rabble Mill's after-school programs,” said Andrew. “Ultimately, we hope to start building urban-rural relationships at a young age, and to foster them through annual trips to camp, and other events.”

To learn more about Good Living Camp, or to register, click here.

Photos were submitted and taken by Rabble Media, a program of Rabble Mill.