When leaders from across the nation conduct sites visits in Omaha, they are pleasantly surprised and in some cases overwhelmed by the number of community-based organizations working to prepare youth for success. While there is not enough space to highlight all of them here, these are some of the organizations making a positive impact in North Omaha:
The Urban League of Nebraska under the leadership of former police chief, Thomas Warren, Jr., has blossomed over the past five years. The League serves hundreds of middle school, high school and college age young men and women primarily in the areas of education and employment. The team prepares participants through programs, including The Whitney Young Academy, Urban League Youth Empowerment Series, Urban League University and more.
Banister’s Leadership Academy has burst onto the scene the past four years, reaching hundreds of children of all ages through their groundbreaking leadership development programs. Founder and Executive Director, Akile Banister, launched the organization with his wife after the tragic loss of family members to gun violence. The organization hosts Leadership sessions at the Malcolm X Foundation and schools throughout the metro area. Their facilitators and presenters are some of the strongest in the city.
College Possible, led by Arvin Frazier, is a highly productive organization focused on preparing high school students for success at four year colleges and universities. Part of a national network, the local organization was originally launched at South High, but has expanded to Northwest, North and Benson.
More than Just a Village (MTJAVA) is another up and coming organization producing outstanding results. MTJAVA boasts a 100% graduation rate and 100% college acceptance rate. Launched by founder, Antonio Moore, the program is available at South, North, Northwest and Benson. MTJAVA is best known for making leadership and service opportunities available to its participants, including trips to New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.
Avenue Scholars, originally launched as the Bright Futures Foundation, also connects hundreds of youth every year to college prep, scholarships and enrichment opportunities. For six years, the organization intentionally focused on kids of high potential, but are on the bubble with a grade point lower than 2.5. With their support hundreds have successfully entered college and graduated with degrees.
The Empowerment Network is a collaborative focused on transforming Omaha into a great city, thriving and prosperous, in every zip code and neighborhood. The organization has served as a catalyst for comprehensive community development and measurable positive change. The Network works with residents and organizations to facilitate and drive collective works in the areas of employment, entrepreneurship, education, housing, violence prevention, health and healthy families, arts and culture, and mobilizing faith communities.
One of the most widely known initiatives of the Empowerment Network is Omaha 360, a comprehensive violence intervention and prevention strategy. 360 is recognized by the Department of Justice and national experts as a best practice model incorporating prevention, intervention, enforcement, reentry and support services.
Other large scale initiatives of the Empowerment Network include the North Omaha Cradle to Career Collaborative, Omaha African-American Male Achievement Collaborative, North Omaha Village Zone Revitalization Plan, Step-Up Omaha! jobs program, and Revive! Business Network in partnership with Revive! Magazine. The Network also presents and hosts well attended annual events, including the MLK Week Red Carpet Premieres, Empowerment Conference and Luncheon, African-American Leadership Conference, State of North Omaha Summit and Christmas in the Village at 24th and Lake.
A number of important organizations are helping ex-offenders (returning citizens) as they reenter society. For job training and employment support, Goodwill Industries and Metropolitan Community College offer specific assistance with funds provided by the State of Nebraska. Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership, Black Men United, Compassion in Action, ReConnect to Success and other programs also offer assistance with employment and other wraparound services.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of organizations and groups, large and small, serving youth and families in North Omaha. The opportunities for youth and adults are unprecedented.