Bellevue teens ready themselves, community for disasters

Bellevue, Neb.  – This school year, students in Bellevue East and Bellevue West high schools will gain disaster preparedness skills, learn how to respond to local emergencies, explore careers, and help others in their community.

Teachers Jen Carda of Bellevue East and Cindy Skarda of Bellevue West are coordinating with Nebraska Extension, Nebraska 4-H, and the Nebraska Citizen Corps program to implement the My Youth Preparedness Initiative Nebraska program, a program designed for teens. The program is being delivered in introductory health science classes.

“Everyone can play a part in preparing for disasters and emergencies, especially teens,” said Ashley Mueller, Nebraska Extension’s Disaster Education Coordinator. “They bring unique perspectives and experiences when it comes to preparedness, and tapping into these can be very valuable for their families and communities.”

Through a blend of classroom instruction and hands-on experiences, MyPI Nebraska provides students with opportunities to learn from certified instructors and local experts, like fire professionals, law enforcement, emergency managers, and nurses.

For the core curriculum, students complete the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, which is focused on disaster preparedness, fire safety and utility control, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, and terrorism. The CERT training was developed by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Through curriculum add-ons, students earn CPR and AED certification. They also gain awareness about HAM radio, NOAA weather radio, smoke alarm maintenance, social media in emergency preparedness and response, and careers in public safety.   

The capstone project is geared towards teens’ community involvement. Students complete a community service project called PREP+6. Each student teaches his or her own family about what to put into a disaster kit and helps them develop a family communication plan. Then each student helps six other households—family, friends, or neighbors—put together their plans. The service project allows for significant enhancement in individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience, and among teen participants, it strengthens leadership, communication skills, teamwork, decision making, self-esteem, civic responsibility, and empowerment, along with family communication and cohesion.

By the time the end of the school year comes around, nearly 230 students in Bellevue will have participated in MyPI Nebraska. Program graduates will be valuable local resources. “By engaging teens in preparedness through MyPI, we have an opportunity to empower them to give back to their community,” said Mueller.

MyPI Nebraska was started in 2017. It is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, which is a partnership of sixteen states delivering the program. Thirteen additional states or territories will begin delivering the program in 2019.

For more information on MyPI Nebraska, how to sponsor student experiences, or ways to get involved, visit or contact Ashley Mueller at 402-727-2775 or