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Published:  December 18, 2021

The Empowerment Network is excited to announce John Jackson as the new Step-Up Omaha! Director. Jackson comes to the Empowerment Network from his position as an educator at Omaha North High, Omaha Public Schools District and associate professor with the University of Nebraska Omaha. Jackson will officially join the Empowerment Network team on Monday, December 20, 2021.

“We have been fortunate and blessed to work with John for a number of years in various capacities,” said Willie Barney, CEO and founder of the Empowerment Network. “His amazing work with students and his background in leadership and management will benefit all of our Step-Up interns, families and partners.”

Step-Up Omaha! recruits, trains, prepares and places Omaha youth and young adults ages 14 to 21, in mutually beneficial paid summer and year round jobs and work experience opportunities. Since 2008, the collective has connected 6,000 youth and young adults to career exploration, hands-on job training, internships, entrepreneurship, civic engagement and leadership.

In Omaha, Jackson is most widely and best known for his work to create, launch and grow the Black Student Leadership Council at North High. It is a highly successful and well recognized model that has the potential to be expanded to students across the city. Student leadership and youth voice are two of the most important components for Step-Up Omaha!

“The Empowerment Network Board of Directors could not be happier with the addition of John Jackson as Director of Step-Up Omaha! His previous professional experience and accomplishments give him the right perspective to keep Step-Up Omaha! moving forward,” said Timothy Christian, President of the Empowerment Network Board of Directors.

In addition to his recent work, John has led dynamic teams, implemented database and tracking systems, worked in the non-profit/social service sector, government, education and has experience with entrepreneurship. His ability to collaborate with many organizations and businesses will also benefit Step-Up Omaha!

“I count it as an honor and privilege to become a part of the Empowerment Network team as the new Director of Step-Up,” said Jackson. “Over the last several years I have had several opportunities to participate in and observe events and projects sponsored by the Empowerment Network. Now the time has come to be an active participant of the sustained work and efforts of this great organization and I am excited to contribute to the edification of our young people, our community and the cities we will serve.”

Jackson is dedicated to life-long learning and is preparing to continue work on his doctorate degree in education. His educational background includes a Bachelor’s Degree from Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis and a Masters of Education from Concordia University in St. Paul.

As a teacher and professor, Jackson has taught in Omaha and Minneapolis at the high school and collegiate levels. He also has a background in strategic planning, program and project management, policy and regulation. His experience with budget oversight, grant writing and evaluation will also benefit the organization and growth of the program.

“John’s unique skill set, passion and expertise will allow us to build on the current work and expand into additional areas. He has developed great relationships with businesses, community organizations and schools. He is an excellent fit for Step-Up Omaha and our expansion with Step-Up Council Bluffs,” added Barney. “In addition, his previous experiences working with family and community engagement are perfect for where we are headed.”

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David Pollock launches Code Black to bring people of color into tech

Published:  January 20, 2022

David Pollock is on a mission.  Driven by purpose and a clear vision to see his beloved community empowered, David is helping to bring African-Americans and people of color further into the tech industries.

To accomplish his goal, David has launched Code Black, a non-profit organization focused on fostering collaboration and sponsorship between Black and Latinx who are emerging and experienced professionals in technology.

He launched the organization in the midst of the pandemic which is a great example of his commitment to the cause.  He reached out to professionals in the industry and other leaders in the community to make sure he was creating something that would be of value to others.

Pollock did the work necessary to build a solid foundation.  After years of preparation, he stepped out in faith to make it a reality.

While others pulled back during the pandemic, he continued to push forward.  He is also a strong believer in collaboration and team work.  Others have joined in to support him with his mission.  It’s a beautiful thing to see, preparation meet opportunity.

David not only believes in the importance of education, he is leading by example in that area as well.  David obtained his master’s in Organizational Leadership from Bellevue University.

He is also able to speak the language of those he seeks to see empowered.  David’s tech experience and certifications consist of in IBM Cognitive Analytics (Chatbot), Grow with Google (app development), Drone software developer, Software: Airsim – Unreal Engine 4 – Watson Image Classification system, Languages: Java, C++ and Python.

Before starting Code Black, David worked 3 ½ years as a Fatherhood Coordinator and 4 ½ years as a college success advisor for students of color.  These experiences allowed him to gain additional insights on how he could better serve his own community.

After a successful career in coaching, mentoring and developing programs, David is now leading the way with others to create an organization where Black and Latinx in technology impact the very community that they live in.  His initial focus is the State of Nebraska.

Most importantly, David is a dedicated husband and father.  He and his wife are consistently engaged in work to improve their community and highly regarded in the areas of leadership development, career advancement, tech, diversity and inclusion and innovation.

David is available for community networking and for business collaboration.  You can reach David at 402-515-8865 or

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Shavonne Washington-Krauth inaugural Director of Culture & Inclusion at Children’s Hospital

Published:  January 19, 2022

Shavonne Washington-Krauth is the inaugural Culture and Inclusion Director for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

In mid-2018 Children’s Hospital & Medical Center began intensive conversations about their desire to do more focused and intentional work related to diversity and inclusion within the organization.

By July 2019, Children’s had hired its inaugural Culture and Inclusion Manager, Shavonne Washington-Krauth. Since that time, Children’s has been working to provide a more diverse and inclusive workplace experience for employees by focusing on programming, systems, and policy concepts.

They have also been working in the realm of creating a more inclusive experience for their patients and families. Due to the success and level of influence she was having in her role, Children’s promoted Shavonne to the Director of Culture and Inclusion one year after she joined the organization, and is now adding a new member to her team.

Children’s is proud of the progress made in the past 2 ½ years and looks forward to seeing how much more they will accomplish.

Ms. Washington-Krauth’s responsibilities include the creation and revision of systems, policies, opportunities, and environments in which everyone can not only work, but thrive at a more equitable rate without feeling excluded or marginalized.

She also leads the development and implementation of a culture, diversity, and inclusion strategic framework; supervision of six employee resource groups and serves as an advisor or subject matter expert on topics regarding the organization’s culture, diversity, and inclusion efforts.

Ms. Washington-Krauth holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, a master’s degree in health education, is a Prosci-certified Change Management Practitioner, and a trained Bridges Out of Poverty facilitator.  Washington-Krauth is also a graduate of the Empowerment Network and BCT Partners’ Redefine the Game Institute.

Shavonne is dedicated and committed to the success of her community.  She serves on the board of the Latino Center of the Midlands in South Omaha and Union for Contemporary Art in North Omaha.

She is a self-proclaimed “Air Force Brat” currently living in Omaha with her husband, two sons, two dogs, a fish, and three chickens.

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Redefine the Game celebrates graduation of 3 cohorts and launch of the 4th

In 2021, The Empowerment Network and BCT Partners completed the 3rd and started the 4th Cohort of the nationally recognized Redefine the Game Institute.

A graduation ceremony for the 2nd and 3rd cohorts was held in June of 2021. The 4th cohort held its first class in November 2021 and will finish in September 2022.

Launched in 2018, by the Empowerment Network, BCT Partners and WDB Resultants, Redefine the Game is a highly interactive, career advancement and leadership development program.

It brings together African-American professionals from all sectors and engages them in a year long development experience which helps them to prepare for the next phase of their career.

Participants have the opportunity to rediscover their passions, purpose and ground themselves by reviewing their core values. From there they complete an assessment which helps them to understand how they make decisions, ways to interact with others more effectively and provides insights on how to use their strengths to maximize individual and collective work.

Over the period of the program, the class walks through the ten game changing strategies identified in the best selling book, Black Faces in White Places, written by Dr. Randal Pinkett and Dr. Jeffrey Robinson.

Pinkett and Robinson co-facilitate Redefine the Game, along with Willie Barney of the Empowerment Network and WDB Resultants and Damita Byrd with BCT Partners. Barney and Byrd worked together to develop the vision for the the cohort program and partnered with Pinkett and Robinson to bring it to reality.

It has made a measurable impact after just three cohorts. Over 40 corporations, businesses and organizations have sent employees through the program.

“We had thought about creating a course based on our book, but didn’t get around to doing it,” said Pinkett. “Then, Willie and Damita came to us with the vision and made it happen in a very short amount of time. Now, corporations and organizations across the country are inquiring about RTG.”

Including this cohort, 125 Black professionals and community leaders in Omaha will have participated. Of those who have completed the course, 70% have been promoted on their job.

“They were already doing great work and now have earned advancement and leadership opportunities through their own abilities, relationship building and utilization of their unique skill set,” said Barney.

“Alumni tell us that RTG helps provide them with an edge and the insights they need to better navigate their environments successfully,” added Byrd.

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