Youth have the capacity to be leaders and create a positive impact in their communities. That is the premise behind Community Studio. Jamie Horter and teacher and principal Derek Lahm co-created Community Studio as a project to take students out of the textbooks and into their local communities.

Students have one year to design and implement a project of their choice to benefit the Nebraska communities of either the Decatur or Lyons (which together form the consolidated school district students attend). Community Studio provides an alternative platform for creative engagement in the community, helping students conceive and realize their ideas.
Students learn the basics of place-based practice, understanding local government, concept development, fundraising, public speaking, and time and project management. By providing these necessary tools to turn their ideas into reality, students apply these skills within hands-on initiatives. These independent activities mimic the processes integral to effective civic action, preparing students for post-graduation citizen engagement.

While covering a vast array of concepts and processes surrounding local community development, Community Studio also also functions as an outlet of alternative learning for students who excel outside of textbook academia. For some, this means the discovery of new or underutilized skills.
Students reach beyond anything they have done before to stretch themselves and engage in their own place-based creative process.

Jamie Horter is currently designing curriculum that will provide resources for teachers, organizers, and administrators to start Community Studio at their schools. To stay informed, email

To read more about student works, visit