Success Stories From United Way Partner Agencies
Boys & Girls Clubs of Lincoln/Lancaster County
After School Program
Although our new dinner program has been in action for less than two weeks (first meal served on January 17th, 2012), I would like to share its story with you. This program became a reality at the Boys & Girls Club because of the mutual dedication to the kids we serve and strong partnerships between the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lincoln/Lancaster County, Lincoln Public Schools, and The Lincoln Community Learning Centers. Because of this, more than 100 club members enjoy a free, delicious, and nutritious dinner Monday–Friday from 5:00–5:30pm. With 72 percent of our Boys & Girls Club members classified as free and/or reduced lunch recipients, this program can fill an extremely important and vital role for club members and their families. Unfortunately, before our dinner program’s inception, many of our youth were going without that important nourishment.
This program is designed to benefit low-income families who may not be able to afford the healthiest meals for their children. Since our program is being run in conjunction with Lincoln Public Schools, the dinners are regulated by the USDA and on a state level. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are offered to all children during every meal. When a child is served and consumes a healthy meal, there is an increase in positive behaviors such as alertness, being on task, weight management, increased levels of energy, and overall physical and mental health.
CEDARS Youth Services
CEDARS Community Learning Centers (CLC) Program
When Kayla, Korissa and Kevin first enrolled during the 2013-2014 school year, they had just moved to Lincoln from Memphis, Tennessee to escape gang violence that was responsible for killing many of their relatives. Upon first moving to Lincoln with their mother, Kim, and one older sibling, they lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with all four children sleeping on a single air mattress in the living room. It was not an ideal situation, but they were willing to sacrifice comforts for the safety of living in Lincoln.
They became involved in CEDARS Community Learning Centers (CLC) programs at Clinton Elementary School which allowed them to quickly make new friends and build positive relationships with adults to help ease the transition. Having a safe place for the children after school also allowed Kim to work and support her family. Kim took the first job she could get in Lincoln, which entailed grueling physical labor, and put in long days to make ends meet.
After nearly two years of hard work, Kim was able to move her family into a large trailer home. The children were ecstatic to finally have space of their own and be living in a “big house.” Kim was making enough money that by the summer of 2015 she had nearly attained self-sufficiency and was about to come off of government assistance. In August, however, Kim suffered an unexpected medical condition that required emergency surgery and a long recovery process. Because she was unable to work, she lost her manual labor job and much of her government assistance, including the childcare subsidy. With the children attending an all-day CLC Summer Program at the time, Kim made every effort to pay childcare tuition on her own, but with extensive medical expenses and mounting bills, she soon fell behind.
Through United Way funding, CEDARS was able to offer tuition assistance to the family in order to maintain consistency and stability for all three children with no disruption to their summer care. They are able to receive a snack every day, assistance with homework and are given extra learning opportunities that Kim would not otherwise be able to afford. The entire family often expresses how thankful they are to be able to continue to be a part of Cedars CLC programs and the support it has offered them in times of hardship.
CEDARS Youth Services
CEDARS Community Learning Centers (CLC) Program
Max, a kindergarten student in the CLC after-school program, had struggled behaviorally throughout most of the first semester of school. By November, his negative attention-seeking behaviors and noncompliance had become enough of a disruption that the CLC program manager and behavior consultant met with his grandmother (his adoptive guardian) and created an individualized behavior support plan to offer positive reinforcement and track his progress.
The plan was met with initial success, as Max demonstrated improved behaviors in the first week of plan implementation; however, he quickly returned to prior challenging behaviors. In December, he was only successful in the program six percent of the time. The vast majority of his attendance at CLC was spent outside of his group, due to his inability for effective group participation and his highly oppositional and disruptive behaviors. The behavior consultant, program manager, and direct care staff continued to have almost daily contact and communication with Max’s grandmother to address the ongoing concerns. The behavior consultant met with his grandmother again individually to provide recommendations and referrals for outside assessments and evaluations to consider possible diagnosis and treatment. The CLC program provided support to the family as they followed through with these recommendations and sought an appropriate diagnosis for Max.
Max was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). He was prescribed psychotropic medication to assist him in the management of his impulsivity, and further clinical recommendations were provided to the family. The CLC program adapted Max’s after-school behavior plan to allow for more constant reinforcement and feedback. His CLC schedule was adjusted in order to accommodate one-on-one breaks for Max throughout the afternoon. Support staff were trained to provide additional support to Max throughout CLC programming.
Following these changes, Max has shown gradual, yet consistent and ongoing progress. In the last month, there has only been one day where his behaviors prevented him from participating in a group setting, a drastic improvement from the previous month. He has established positive relationships with several staff in the program, has significantly decreased his noncompliance and inappropriate outbursts, and has had the vast majority of successful days in the past several weeks. His grandmother reports that Max’s progress has carried over into the home, and she feels remarkably less stressed as a result. She has continued to be highly engaged with the CLC program and reports being hopeful that Max will now be able to successfully participate in all-day programming during the CLC summer program. Max’s kindergarten teacher also reports that he has made great improvement with behaviors in the classroom during the school day as well.
CEDARS Youth Services
CEDARS Early Childhood Development Centers program
Lana came to CEDARS looking for help. She had recently been named guardian of her two grandchildren, a two-year-old that had suffered the effects of her mother’s substance abuse in utero, and a four-year-old. Lana was struggling to make ends meet, even though she was working both a full-time and a part-time job. Caring for her daughter and her two grandchildren had strained her budget past the breaking point, but she took her responsibility as her grandchildren’s guardian very seriously. She wanted what was best for them, knowing that this was an important investment in their future. She determined that she would work hard to break the cycle of addiction that had driven her daughter to rehab multiple times and her into this unexpected primary caregiver role.
When Lana met with the program manager of CEDARS, Carol Yoakum ECDC, she explained that although the financial strain was relentless, she was not eligible for state assistance because her income exceeded state income guidelines. Choosing a more affordable, lower-quality child care program was not an option for Lana. The only other option available was to make the children wards of the state, and to Lana, this was unthinkable. The other pressing factor was that she needed child care services at the beginning of the following week, although paying for care seemed impossible. The program manager worked with Lana to complete the scholarship application, and she qualified for tuition assistance.
Because of United Way-supported scholarships, the program manager was able to waive the enrollment fee and offer Lana’s grandchildren a week of respite care at no cost. Lana was also offered a scholarship for the next several months, allowing her grandchildren to attend the center at half-price. Lana was extremely grateful, and the children have flourished in CEDARS’ nurturing learning environment. The four-year-old will attend kindergarten next fall, already knowing her numbers and the alphabet and having established a love of books. The youngest has received additional support through the behavioral therapeutic consultant, allowing her to be successful in her toddler classroom. With this scholarship, Lana is able to continue working and provide for her family.
Impact Reading Center
This year the Impact Reading Center has served dozens of low-income students who are below grade level in reading in our intensive after-school program at Elliott Elementary School. One of these students is second-grader Michaela. Michaela started the year one full grade level behind in reading. Michaela worked one-on-one with six volunteers every week and she is on track to finish the year on grade level. She looked forward to working with her tutors and really enjoyed the one-on-one time she spent every day with them. If another student was absent, she eagerly substituted with a volunteer because she enjoyed the individual attention so much. Michaela’s attitude toward reading also improved as her competence grew, and she frequently asked to take books home to read with her siblings. Michaela and her mother have asked that she be in the program again.
Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties
Ethan, who enrolled in Head Start at age three, has experienced many emotional challenges. When he was only six months old, his mother was incarcerated, leaving him in the primary care of his aunt and his grandmother. Without a stable parental figure and confusion regarding the absence of his mother, Ethan began to exhibit concerning aggressive behaviors in the classroom and at home. After unsuccessfully attempting traditional methods for addressing Ethan’s behavioral issues, our staff sought the help of child & behavior and family consultants from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, with whom the program contracts for provision of behavioral health consultation services, in order to develop a plan to help Ethan and his guardians overcome the emotional distress he was experiencing. In response to this consultation, Ethan’s teachers adapted their methods for working with him. One of the creative ways they motivated Ethan to be on his best behavior was through creating a “Super Friend Cape”—a special cape that could be worn by children who help others and use their manners. With a desire to proudly sport the Super Friend Cape, Ethan’s behavior began to change dramatically. He went above and beyond to use his manners, and to help out his friends whenever possible. The cape made Ethan feel happy and proud—feelings that were also shared by Ethan’s teachers.
Additionally, Ethan’s teachers worked together to find things that Ethan enjoyed doing in the classroom such as working with play dough, musical activities, and writing. They also spent one-on-one time with him as often as possible, paid closer attention to praising him when appropriate, coached him how to communicate frustration without physical aggression, and taught him how to exhibit respectful behaviors toward his peers, guardians, and teachers.
Little by little, Ethan’s teachers began to see positive changes in Ethan’s behavior while in the classroom. Ethan’s guardians have noted that these positive changes have carried through at home as well, and they have thanked our staff for the positive impact they have made on Ethan. With the help of our staff, Ethan continues to move closer to being ready to attend kindergarten in the fall.
Early Head Start
Eighteen years after having the last of her children, Shirley gave birth to her sixth child. A little unsure of her ability and capacity to raise a child so late in life, Shirley applied to our Early Head Start program. She and her son, Matthew, were accepted into the program when Matthew was two years old.
Shirley was very excited about her first home visit. She explained to her assigned family educator that it had been so long since she had raised a toddler that she wanted to learn as much as she could to “do everything right.” Shirley and Matthew met with their family educator and began to set up various developmental achievement goals. One of these goals was to help Matthew recognize and identify colors. Their family educator facilitated various lessons with Matthew and Shirley during home visits, and left follow-up activities for Shirley to practice with her son between visits.
Encouraged by her family educator, Shirley set a goal to do everything she could to help her child learn colors. She completed the follow-up activities provided by her family educator and took the initiative to make her own color flash cards to use to practice with Matthew. Shirley was so excited to show her family educator the progress that Matthew had made. After months of practice and constant support from his mother, Matthew was soon able to name all colors presented on the flash cards.
Shirley and Matthew’s story demonstrates that the Early Head Start program is not only about child development, but also about making each parent/guardian feel empowered to become their child’s first teacher—an outcome the program values above all others.
El Centro de las Americas
Adelante Educational Program
Carmen came to the United States when she was 15 years old and though she attended school for almost two years, she dropped out when she was in the 11th grade in order to work full-time. Not long afterward, Carmen ended up married and soon found herself with two kids. With the arrival of two children, Carmen and her husband found their financial situation to be dire. Carmen looked for a decent job for over a year but found it difficult to find anything other than a minimum-wage job because she lacked the basic high-school diploma. Carmen heard through a friend that El Centro de las Americas offers GED classes, so she decided participate in the classes.
She worked very hard and in three months she got her GED. Soon after receiving her diploma, Carmen found a better job at a higher wage and is currently working. When she got her job, she called her GED teacher at El Centro to tell her that because she has her GED diploma she got a job.
Carmen now dreams of enrolling at Southeast Community College for a technical degree. She is very grateful to El Centro for giving her the opportunity to obtain her GED and for motivating her to continue her education. She now realizes that anything is possible. Carmen also believes that when her kids grow up and see her graduation picture they will be very proud of her and will also be motivated to study hard.
El Centro de las Americas
Adelante Educational Program
Alejandro was spiraling down the wrong path. Being an eighth grader at Park Middle School, he had made some bad choices that lead him to participate in gang activity. Academically, his grades were suffering and he wasn’t getting his school work completed. It was time to make a change before his activity catapulted him to serious implications.
Alejandro became a youth participant in the Adelante Educational program at El Centro de las Américas. He joined peer group sessions and received the guidance and mentoring he needed to make positive changes in his life. He is now completing all of his homework and his grades are finally up. The “friends” he used to have in his gang have now been replaced with healthy new friendships and he has even invited old friends to participate in the program so they can have the same opportunity to change.
In the past five months, Alejandro has grown substantially and has become a great asset to the Adelante Educational program. He now loves being involved with community service and helping in the Lincoln community. Alejandro’s path is now going in the right direction to a successful future.
Family Service Association of Lincoln
Community Learning Centers
Many families take for granted that the hours their children spend outside of school will be filled with enrichment and learning: photography or homework help, soccer or robotics, dance or debate—just about anything that can build skills and fire imaginations. But for Lincoln’s poor, including families from Holmes, Huntington, Prescott, Riley, Saratoga and West Lincoln elementary schools, such opportunities are often out of reach for their children. Every day, there are children in Lincoln who have no place to go after school. The hours between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. are deemed “The Danger Zone” by law enforcement officers. Research continues to support that these are the hours most risky for unsupervised youth.
At Family Service, our philosophy is that all children should have the opportunity to participate in enriching learning opportunities. Family Service has joined in partnership with Lincoln Community Learning Centers and Lincoln Public Schools to give all students the opportunity to participate in free enrichment and academic clubs after school, and participate in before- and after-school programs at a 70 percent reduced fee. Investing staff time and resources opened the doors to before- and after-school programs and clubs to more than 878 children in 2011.
The Family Service Community Learning Centers have been giving students opportunities to imagine possibilities, discover untapped personal talents, and have positive academic interactions. Program parents say that The Community Learning Centers have sparked a passion in their children that wasn’t there before.
Students who participate in our programs are given a fighting chance at a strong education, an enriching childhood, and a successful life. Students who participate in our programs have access to academic support, enriching activities, and health and fitness opportunities. Our before- and after-school programs have been proven to increase school attendance and increase positive behaviors.
Family Service Association of Lincoln
Early Childhood Center
No parent can keep a job if they do not have quality child care for their child. Working parents need to know their child care is a safe environment and is preparing their child for school, in order to be productive on the job. In the state of Nebraska quality child care costs $6,834 and annual tuition to attend a four year college costs $6,590. In fact, the availability of affordable quality child care is a primary reason that parents quit their job and/or fall back onto public assistance. In difficult economic times parents are being forced to compromise the educational needs of their child to make financial ends meet.
The grant process was established in 1998 at Family Service to individualize how we provide financial assistance to families. The grant application incorporates important financial aspects of a family and, most importantly, a narrative to capture the day-to-day circumstance being experienced by the family. The grant application answers provided by the family receive points, with the highest points based on the family’s narrative. The points accumulate and the total points determine the weekly fee the parent will be responsible to pay for each week. The accumulated points could provide as much as a 40 percent fee discount for a family.
During 2011, Family Service provided financial assistance to 87 children to participate in our Early Childhood Center, totaling more than $200,000.00. Ashanti is the youngest child from a family of five and joined the preschool program at the Early Childhood Center last year. When Ashanti joined the program, her mother had just found a job. Ashanti’s mother knew it would be difficult to return to work knowing that her aid from the State of Nebraska would be significantly reduced, and yet she and her family were committed to moving forward in joining the work force. The mother’s past experiences with Family Service with her older children let her to contact the Early Childhood Center (EC) and explain her situation to the EC Director. The director was able to work with the State of Nebraska and help the mother complete a Family Service grant application, which resulted in an affordable fee for Ashanti’s family.
Ashanti’s mother has been employed as a medical technician since the first day Ashanti entered the EC preschool program. Ashanti has also benefited from the other opportunities provided the Early Childhood Center; such as receiving toys from Toys for Tots, socks, underwear, clothing, and parent education for her mother. Ashanti has achieved important developmental milestones. She is looking forward to going to kindergarten next fall and the Early Childhood Center teachers have already begun working with her mother to ensure a smooth transition.
Guidance to Success Youth Club
Elijah is in the fourth grade and attends Everett Elementary School. He currently splits his time residing with both his mother (who lives in a rough area of Lincoln) and his grandmother. His father is no longer involved in his life and on a daily basis, Elijah witnesses drug activity, violence, and gang activity. Most recently, a person was shot at the apartment complex where Elijah resides.
When Elijah began attending Guidance to Success programming, he was struggling with life. He was getting expelled from school, his grades ranged from 1’s – 2’s and he would spend the majority of his school day at the Behavioral School. Unfortunately, Elijah was dealing with emotional and mental issues, misplaced anger, and no sense of physical or mental stability. When he wasn’t attending Behavioral School, he was on the streets getting in trouble, running with the wrong crowd of peers and heading toward prison.
Since being involved with Guidance to Success, Elijah has made leaps and bounds of progress in both school and his personal life. He is no longer getting expelled from school and his grades are up to 3’s and 4’s. He went from spending his day at the Behavioral School to spending the entire day at his regular elementary school. He no longer has misplaced anger and is continuing to strengthen his emotional regulation skills. Gone are the days of running the streets, as he now has a healthier peer group to hang out with outside of school and the pipeline to prison is replaced with the pipeline to college. Elijah is a poster child to overcoming the odds and continuing to fight for a better life.
Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters
Little Brother (LB) Lalo is the youngest of three sons. His mom died when he was just five years old, leaving dad to raise all three brothers on his own. Several years ago, Lalo’s dad entered the boys into the Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program where Lalo was matched with Big Brother (BB), Oscar.
Oscar was a college student and shared a great love of sports like Lalo. During the first few years of being matched, Oscar and Lalo built a friendship based on their mutual interests and their love of sports. When Lalo entered high school he was heavily involved in sports until an unfortunate accident broke his back. He was disheartened, but BB Oscar gave him an action plan of focusing on schoolwork and spent several days a week getting together to work on homework and even lent his extra laptop to Lalo.
Lalo wants to play sports in college, and the last few years have set him up for success. His school work is solid, his back is healed, his relationship with his BB will last long after he graduates from high school and he has built a long list of supporters through his church and school that are helping and encouraging him toward his goals.
Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters
When we met Little Brother David, he was a quiet first-grader living with his grandmother and sister. His grandmother was in the process of adopting him and his sister, and he was a new student at a new school and adjusting to life in a new home. David faced many challenges which included a learning disability and acting out in school. He needed the kind of support that can only come from one-on-one attention. In 2007, Little Brother David was matched with Big Brother Nate. Each week, David and Nate spent time together at school in Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters’ site-based mentoring program. After being matched for a year, Nate and David wanted to do even more together in the community so they transitioned into the community-based mentoring program. Now they meet outside of school on evenings and weekends.
Little Brother David is thrilled to have Nate as his Big Brother. According to David, Nate helps him with his school work and makes it fun. He helps to cheer him up when he is mad or sad. “My Big Brother and I have a great, spectacular, awesome, amazing relationship. He is the best Big Brother there is! I know he will always be there for me, he is my true Big Brother,” said David.
Today, Little Brother David is an outgoing student at Park Middle School. He likes spending time with his friends, loves school, and enjoys talking to his Big Brother. According to David’s teachers and grandmother, he has made tremendous achievements since being paired with Nate. He has improved in school, in his relationships with others, and in his self-confidence.
“Over the years people change and come and go,” said David’s grandmother. “But David knows no matter what, Nate will always be there for him. I am very appreciative for how Nate cares for David. He has helped him with school work and has supported him in his activities and religious commitments.”
“I have the best Big Brother,” said Little Brother David. “He is not only kind to me but to everyone. He talks to me about the importance of always forgiving people and that’s what he does with everyone. He helps people out with their problems and helps me with my problems too. He understands me and gives me good advice.”
The HUB-Central Access Point for Young Adults
Lincoln Education Outreach (LEO)
“Mia” is a 17-year-old young lady who came to the HUB requesting assistance with obtaining her GED. At the time, Mia was a state ward and was on house arrest. She stated she had a difficult time in the public school system and didn’t feel like she belonged. She began getting in trouble in school and said “I had a real bad attitude toward everyone. School just wasn’t for me but I knew I had to do something. Then I found the HUB and they treated me different. They treated me like I was an adult. They allowed me to be independent but still gave me support.” Mia began taking GED classes with LEO at the HUB while attending other life skills groups. She passed all five tests within eight months. During those eight months, there was a period of time where Mia got a little off track. LEO staff stayed in contact with her to motivate her to continue. LEO staff took Mia to visit Southeast Community College (SCC) and EducationQuest to help inspire her to continue moving forward. Once Mia was able to refocus, she finished the last of her tests with ease. Since completing her GED, Mia has enrolled at SCC to take business classes. She is also employed through AmeriCorps. She is doing volunteer work in the community, including facilitating an employment readiness group at Bryan Community High School.
The HUB-Central Access Point for Young Adults
Youth and Community Together (YouthACT)
“Candace” is an 18-year-old single mother with a six-month-old baby. She attends Lincoln High School, but finds it increasingly difficult to make school a priority when she is living on a friend’s couch and has no place to cook or do her laundry. Candace maintains decent grades in school, but fears that in order to continue to provide for her daughter she will need to drop out of school in order to get a full-time job. If she drops out, however, she will lose the daycare at the school that she loves, and the only one her daughter has ever attended. YouthACT staff met with Candace and helped her fill out the application for housing. They went with her when she looked for apartments, and were there when the housing inspection took place. They helped her move what little belongings she had to her new apartment, and collected donations for clothing for her daughter. Then they got busy. They worked with Candace to develop a budget. They worked with her on time management and, most importantly, they introduced her to other student parents who were in similar situations. They helped her build a support network. Candace is in her senior year at Lincoln High and is on track to graduate on time. She maintains her apartment and her budget and feels like she is doing everything she can to provide a good start for her baby. She continues to meet weekly with YouthACT staff to touch base, problem solve, and catch up on all of the successes in her life.
After-School Mentoring Program
Often at Lighthouse, the adolescents we serve have many issues in their lives. Unfortunately, this is the case for Savannah, a sophomore student who attends Lighthouse. Savannah started attending Lighthouse in middle school with her oldest brother who is now an adult and incarcerated. Although she expressed that she did not want to continue down the same path as her brother, her misbehavior at Lighthouse and school did not show that. She was constantly misbehaving and disrespectfully treating teachers, Lighthouse staff, and peers. Savannah was getting kicked out of classes and, even worse, failing them. She was bullying her peers, getting into fights, and her untreated ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) was aiding with worsening her behavior. The only attention she was used to getting was negative. Although she was being asked to leave at Lighthouse for misbehavior and disrespect, she still attended daily. Lighthouse provided her a safe place with healthy boundaries, high expectations, caring staff members, and activities that challenged her. As Savannah’s relationships with staff strengthened, she listened and followed directions, ultimately being asked to leave less and less and able to be more involved. At the beginning of the school year, a staff member sat down and set goals with her for the year. The goals focused on good grades, attending school, not tardy/truant, and not getting into fights. Her reward for reaching the goal was to have a special lunch brought to her at school from the staff member. Her goals for last semester were above a C. Savannah’s attitude and life has changed because of her involvement and attendance at Lighthouse. She is a now a leader for her peers at school and Lighthouse and has made better decisions due to the positive adults and structure in her life. Occasionally she stumbles with always behaving appropriately but has learned new skills that better prepare her for relationships and conflict in her adolescent and adult years.
After-School Mentoring Program
Andy was going to be a freshman at Lincoln High School in the fall. He was disconnected from everything, disrespectful to everyone (including family members), and failed almost every class the previous school year. The more Andy was pushed towards his goals, the more he resisted and pushed away. When Lighthouse staff learned about Andy’s personal experiences, they discovered the tragic stories about family illnesses, gang activity within his family and Andy’s bullying behaviors.
Through counseling at the Lighthouse, Andy started opening up more and more each week. He explained that he felt disconnected from everyone and annoyed that they were always on his case for every little thing. He had little support at home. Andy’s mother was constantly working or taking care of his sick grandma, and her boyfriend was not a positive influence on Andy’s life. The staff started working with him in redirecting his behavior into a loving manner and consistently reassured him of the purpose of pressuring him about achieving academic goals and attending counseling each week.
Andy started making strides in a positive direction and now participates in programming at Lighthouse. He puts a conscious effort into finishing homework assignments and works through negative and uncomfortable situations with the skills he has learned from his counseling sessions.
Andy was able to finish his last semester of classes with all passing grades due largely in part to the care and guidance of staff at Lighthouse and the after-school mentoring program they provide.
Luis first came to Lighthouse during his eight-grade year of school after moving from Houston, TX with only his mother and very little money. In Houston, he had a very difficult time interacting with his peers and actually got is some serious fights putting a couple kids in the hospital. After having trouble finding work in Houston, his mother decided to move them to Lincoln, NE. Luis would spend a couple hours a day after school at Lighthouse while his mother worked. He quickly fit in with the staff and eventually made some great friendships with the youth. From the positive adult role modeling and safe atmosphere at Lighthouse, Luis continues to succeed in school and have positive interactions with his classmates. Last year, he won the Lighthouse “compassion” award at an achievement banquet. The “compassion” award was voted on by the staff because of his exceptional drive to better his life and the lives of everyone around him. After conversing with Luis’ mother for the first time, a couple months after meeting him, she asked me how he was doing at Lighthouse. I responded with “what do you mean, he is amazing!” I will never forget the look on her face. It was like she had seen a ghost. She then explained to me about Luis’ history of anger and fighting in Houston. I couldn’t believe that I had never once seen him act in these ways since participating in Lighthouse programming. Through the programming at Lighthouse, Luis pursues his passion for reading and also has been challenged to keep his grades up and interact with his peers in a positive environment.
At the beginning of his freshman year in high school, Jake was struggling with the transition from middle school. He began his freshman year as a 12 year old and was much younger than the other kids in his grade. When Jake had attended Lighthouse throughout the summer before the school year began, he was a fun-loving, energetic youth who was playful with the staff and loved to help. When the school year started, however, the staff at Lighthouse saw a new side to Jake. Jake was failing almost all of his classes and struggling to keep caught up on his assignments. He still attended Lighthouse on a daily basis, but was not using the resources of the homework room and tutors for any help. It was a struggle to get him to be anywhere besides the game room or gym. There was a lack of motivation to get caught up on school work.
After watching Jake’s behavior and grades take a hit, a mentor at Lighthouse created a new set of goals to help him succeed. He requested that Jake complete at least one assignment each day before participating in other activities. Jake was able to check in with his mentor every day and started taking baby steps to get on the right track.
With help from Lighthouse staff, Jake was able to stay focused and work hard on his academic responsibilities. He was able to pass all of his classes that semester and raised his GPA to a 2.3. Jake is currently working his way back up to the goal of having no F’s and receiving a 2.5 or higher GPA throughout high school. Without the support of mentors and staff at Lighthouse, Jake would be failing in school which could have potentially led to participating in destructive behaviors.
Lincoln Literacy Council
Family Literacy Activities for Immigrants and Refugees (FLAIR)
“Jack” was a three-year-old FLAIR student who was rather withdrawn and often acted out in unacceptable ways. His parents came to the U.S. from the Congo three years ago; his father is a laborer and his mother cares for Jack and his two older siblings. When he first began participating in FLAIR, Jack avoided speaking English and usually refused to listen to the read-aloud. Whenever books were given away to the students, Jack refused to accept one. As time went on, Jack became more comfortable with the children and his teachers. He began paying more attention to the activities and the conversations around him, and began listening actively to the read-alouds. He stopped yelling and kicking others and began to follow the acceptable behaviors modeled by other students, such as asking for things in English and using “please” and “thank you.” He began raising his hand to participate in discussions and activities, and learned how to take turns with others and walk with the class instead of running ahead in the halls. After a year in the FLAIR program, he has started participating more fully in the discussions and activities. At the same time, his mother continues to learn English with her Lincoln Literacy tutor at the same site. The monthly opportunity to observe his mother learning has given Jack even more confidence about using his new-found tongue. Book giveaways have become one of his favorite parts of FLAIR! Through his participation in FLAIR, Jack became a confident English language user and lover of stories who also mastered school-readiness skills, all of which will ensure he starts kindergarten this fall with many of the vocabulary and literacy skills he needs in order to enter public school on an even footing in emotional, social, and cognitive terms with his peers.
Lincoln Public Schools
Family Learning in Partnership (FLIP)
Tina and her children came to McPhee Elementary School from Iraq. She had never been to school before and only knew a few English phrases taught to her by her children attending elementary school. She decided to take it upon herself to join the Family Literacy program at McPhee to learn English while her children were attending school.
Tina has been in the Family Literacy program for two years now. She recently took the CASA test and had a growth of 25 points. The national average is between 3 to 5 points, so Tina’s success is truly extraordinary! Tina is now able to communicate with her children’s teachers about any questions or concerns they have and an array of job opportunities have opened up for her now that she speaks English.
LUX Center for the Arts
After School Enrichment
Every year, students attending Community Learning Centers have the option of participating in an art club thanks to LUX Center for the Arts’ after-school enrichment program. These students, who may have questioned their artistic abilities and drive to succeed at something challenging, are now excited and energized by what they create and are stepping outside of their comfort zone. These valuable little moments add up to be a truly transformative experience for the students both personally and academically.
Malone Community Center
Drake was an average sixth grader who enjoyed shooting hoops with friends, listening to music and trying to get girls to notice him. Unfortunately, it was noticed that Drake had been struggling in school and he found reading to be particularly challenging. After attending the out-of-school program at the Malone Center, he was paired up with a mentor who helped him on his reading all semester long. Not only has Drake made great strides in his reading ability, he also has proactively made an effort in his schoolwork and is determined not to give up – even if he is struggling.
Drake’s progress in reading has been tremendous. When he started at Malone Center, he could read about 20 words. He then went up to one book a day, and just recently, has been reading two books a day.
Malone Community Center
Johnny was enrolled in the Malone Center’s Out-of-School Program in June 2010. At that time he was living in out-of-home placement and staff noticed that he was showing some behavioral challenges as well as struggling with reading.
Before the academic year even started, Johnny was assigned a staff person for one-on-one tutoring 30 minutes each day. We continued working with him during the school year with focus on his literacy. His reading skills as well as his vocabulary enhanced significantly over the months. Johnny enjoyed participating in the program, was doing better in school, and demonstrated improved behavior.
In July 2011, Johnny was reunited with his biological family and taken out of the Out-of-School Program. It was about three months later that we received a call from the family’s caseworker asking if he could return to the program. She reported that after leaving the program, a decrease in Johnny’s academic performance and increase in negative behaviors was observed.
We are happy to have Johnny back in our program and to know it gives him the opportunity to reach his full potential.
Northeast Family Center
Parents as Partners
A single mother started bringing her daughter to the NFC Early Learning Center in November 2010. Her daughter was six months old and it was her first time being in childcare. The mother, who is a hard working individual, had a full-time job and was able to provide for herself and her daughter. Then the mother lost her job without any warning and began to panic. She came in and explained her situation and wondered how she would be able to afford child care, food, clothing for her child, and rent. She said she didn’t want to have to stop bringing her child because she felt like we were family. She applied for a scholarship through NFC and was able to receive a discount on her weekly fee. She adjusted her daughter’s hours so she could still attend the center part-time. We worked with the mother so she would be able to look for a job and she made the decision to sign up for classes at SCC to further her education. She told us that being able to receive a discount for quality child care at a place she felt comfortable leaving her child meant a lot to her. Our program gave the mother and the child added support. They attend all of our special events, monthly Family Nights, one-on-one conferences with staff that has direct contact with the child and participates in home visits. As of today, the mother is continuing her education at SCC and now receives Title XX assistant so her daughter can attend daily. Our center gave her and her daughter a positive start. The educational experiences we provided for her daughter helped her with her to reach beyond her development and language skills for her age. The mother was able to receive food baskets from our center, clothing, diapers and wipes. The mother is appreciative of our services and gives back by helping to donate items for special events and donation of toys that her daughter has outgrown.
The Salvation Army-Lincoln
After School program
In January of 2015, a young girl in fourth grade attending the Salvation Army Community Center started taking music classes at the Salvation Army Shield Fine Arts Academy. She comes from a single-parent home and her father is an immigrant from Sudan. Being the middle child of seven siblings, she faces challenges both at home and at school.
With no formal music training prior to enrolling in music classes at Salvation Army, she began studying trumpet. Over 12 months, she developed an amazing talent in reading music, developing her skills as a trumpet player, received first place in the solo contest as a vocalist at the Salvation Army Summer Music Camp in Bellevue and obtained a lead role in the Christmas musical at Salvation Army in December, 2015.
She has become a leader among her peers in the Fine Arts Academy. As a result of this, her grades have increased at school and she now takes pride in her work thanks to the expanded learning program at Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army-Lincoln
After School program
Timmy is a fifth-grader in our after-school program and has been a participant in our program since he was in the second grade. Timmy comes from a very unstable household. His father is a drug addict and is always either coming out of or going into prison. His mother is currently facing a 1–3 year sentence in prison for assulting a police officer. This gives you some idea of Timmy’s background and his home life.
When Timmy first started attending our program, he frequently ended up in our safe seat for various reasons. Mostly, he could not sit still and be quiet during our educational times or he was fighting with other children. His teachers told us he was exhibiting this same type of behavior in school. In fact, Timmy would tell us that he spent most of his school time in the principle’s office.
Over the last few years, Timmy has grown into a leader in our program. He has gone from never wanting to participate in our literacy program to becoming one of the leaders in the program. We have found he is not in time out nearly as much as he used to be. His last report card documented these same changes we have seen first-hand. This is illustrated through better grades at school on his report cards and better behavior reports from the teachers. We believe this is a direct reflection of our character-building and literacy programs.
What we were able to provide for Timmy is appropriate communication with his school and teachers. We held Timmy accountable for his actions as school and at our center. We were able to provide appropriate role models and modeling of behavior. And we provided rewards and opportunities for growth and leadership for Timmy. As a result, we have seen tremendous growth and development. (Timmy is not the participant’s real name.)
TeamMates Mentoring Program of Lincoln
We currently have 500 students who are waiting to be matched with a mentor. TeamMates Mentors provide one to one mentoring in the school setting. One example that exemplifies the students waiting for mentors is the young man at Rousseau Elementary who was struggling academically and behaviorally. This student was on the waiting list for a month. After being matched with a TeamMates mentor for two months, his teachers reported marked improvement in both his grades and behavior. The student now stands by the main entrance before each scheduled visit in anticipation of meeting with his mentor.
The Arc of Lincoln
“George” is a 61-year-old man who experiences I/DD and severely limited hearing. One afternoon George came to the Arc, entered a staff person’s office, and closed the door behind him. He sat down and began to sob as he told his story of being robbed of his money. He reported that this had happened a number of times after his guardian’s weekly visit to drop off his allowance. Each afternoon George would nap and remove his hearing aids. Without these aids, he is almost completely deaf and it was during this time that someone would enter his apartment and take the cash.
One day George woke up to see a person standing in his bedroom with the money in his hands. He recognized this person to be a neighbor, Rob, who also experienced an intellectual disability. When George asked Rob what he was doing, Rob stated that he was taking George’s money and if George told anyone he would return and beat him in his sleep. Fearing not only the attack from Rob but also the possibility of upsetting his guardian, George approached The Arc for help. Arc staff calmed George and convinced him that reporting the incident to the police was appropriate and necessary and we would be there every step of the way to support him.
The Arc contacted police and requested they make special accommodations for the situation. We also made arrangements to meet in the familiar surroundings of our office to ease George’s concern. In an effort to make the meeting as easy as possible, the sergeant arrived in plain clothes driving an unmarked car. However, George remained fearful and began to self-abuse during the meeting by hitting himself in the face and chest out of frustration and panic. Over time, we were able to assist George and the sergeant with the report and work through his fears. Ultimately, The Arc worked with George’s guardian and developed a safety plan. Through our unique communication abilities, understanding of intellectual disabilities, and partnerships with community resources, we assisted George in getting the help he needed, moving to a safer apartment, and returning to the quality of life he deserves.
Willard Community Center
Ben’s mom was at her wits-end when she reached out to Willard Community Center for help for her autistic sixth grader. She had tried everything to help Ben manage his behaviors. After-school programs were too big and chaotic for him to deal with while suffering from autism. She even tried taking Ben to her work, but, his behavior would get out of control. She enrolled Ben into the Willard after-school program, and with the guidance of their trained staff, Ben is now excited about his future. He is working hard toward meeting his goals of getting good grades and participating in community service projects.
Willard Community Center
Ben is a neighborhood teen that comes from a low-income home and is considered an at-risk youth. He has social and emotional issues that keep him from developing close relationships with his peers. He tends to be a bully and claims that he is being bullied by everyone all of the time. He says inappropriate things to his peers and the Willard staff. He has even made the comment that he is going to kill himself because “everyone hates him.” When disciplined he would throw temper tantrums and leave the program. The Willard staff started working closely with Ben to help him develop appropriate social skills so that he could become a better friend to the other teens. The staff has given him lots of individual attention with long one-on-one talks about how to make better decisions concerning his behavior. We also reinforced the fact that he was a good kid and we liked him and wanted him to feel better about himself. The staff regularly discussed strategies with his father that they have used together to help Ben be successful in the Willard and school environments. After months of positive reinforcement and family involvement and support, his self-confidence is growing daily. Through our scholarship program and donations to the teen program, Ben is able to participate in the before- and after-school program and every teen night, even if there is a fee involved to go to Lazer Quest or bowling. He has caring and trusting staff that make sure he gets to and from school, work with him to improve his grades, and are there for support whenever he needs them. He has become a friend to the other teens and is even getting along better with his father and sister.
SMART Girls Club
When Nhi first joined SMART Girls Club she struggled with low self-esteem. Nhi joined SMART Girls Club because she was friends with several other girls. When Nhi was paired with girls not in her circle of friends, she would withdraw from activities. When Lindsey or Carli, her SMART facilitators, would try to draw her back into activities she would resist. Nhi would express self-defeating and negative comments such as “I can’t do this,” “I’m not as smart as the other girls,” and “I don’t have a computer so I have no chance to become as smart as the other girls.” Nhi also said, “My teacher told my mom during parent teacher conferences that I have low self-esteem. My mom yelled at me and told me I needed to be more confident.” Lindsey and Carli asked Nhi to look at the other girls for insight: Do they always have all the answers? Do they ever make mistakes? How do they react when the experiment doesn’t work? Do they all have computers at home? At each meeting, Lindsey stressed to Nhi that intelligence is not fixed, and you often learn more when you make mistakes than when everything goes right. When the girls began programming robots, Nhi began to notice that no one had all the answers. The girls and facilitators learned through trial and error how to program the Lego robot to perform tasks. Lindsey and Carli slowly began to see changes in Nhi’s attitude; she began to help her partner more during small group pairings. Carli began to notice how Nhi’s face lit up when she would get the answer right. Recently, Nhi and her partner created their own water filter from a funnel, gravel, sand, pantyhose, and coffee filters. Nhi participated fully with her partner as they developed their design. She was so excited about her water filter she decided to experiment with water filter designs as her science fair project. Nhi’s progress can be summed up best in her own words: “I learned that when you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything.”