As the 40th largest city in America, Omaha, Nebraska represents a unique mix of Midwestern values and exhilarating city life thriving with creativity, growth, and vitality. While the city has been rated highly livable, it also faces some challenges. The City of Omaha knows that for youth to succeed, there needs to be in place a comprehensive and collaborative pathway to achievement in which the entire community participates. Through a multitude of support services, such as strong schools, health services, mentoring, and volunteering experiences, the city of Omaha ensures that each of the Five Promises is applied to the pipeline for youth to achieve success. This is the first time Omaha has been named a 100 Best winner.
Since 1992, Youth Leadership Omaha, an interactive leadership develop program, has brought together a diverse group of 40 participants each year to examine their schools, neighborhoods, ethnicities, faiths, leadership skills and life experiences. An initiative supported by Creighton University’s College of Business, the AIM Institute, private donors and community volunteers, student participants meet with leaders from business, government, media, social services and the arts to learn how the city works and how they can make a difference.
For more than 10 years, the City of Omaha’s Mayor’s Youth Commission has given two students from each Omaha high school an opportunity to serve as advisors to the mayor. Chosen by their school administrators, selected students present the mayor with community and youth outreach opportunities, suggestions for improving community relations between city departments and youth, and ways to incorporate the ideas of young people into long-term planning.
Building Bright Futures (BBF), a local non-profit organization, was established by community leaders and philanthropists to improve academic performance, raise graduation rates, increase civic/community responsibility and ensure all students are prepared for postsecondary education. BBF develops partnerships with school districts, including fifteen pilot schools, and existing providers and creates evidence-based programs to develop a comprehensive, community-based network of services. One collaboration that ensures positive outcomes for youth is through BBF’s Early Childhood Services, a comprehensive, integrated system of early care and education that’s grounded in research, builds on existing community resources, and is culturally responsive and linked to public policy. Early Childhood Services serves as the point of integration for establishing a network of support for early care and education providers to help them access master-level coaches, professional development, postsecondary education scholarships, mental health consultation, quality enhancement grants and increased opportunities to engage with families and public schools.
Building Bright Futures, along with the City of Omaha, supports Midlands Mentoring Partnership (MMP), a non-profit partnership comprised of mentoring organizations in the Omaha area. The purpose of MMP is to increase awareness of youth mentoring, participate in community recruitment processes, support the implementation of quality mentoring standards, and monitor outcomes of programs and share resources. Eleven Omaha mentoring organizations have formal programs designed to recruit and match mentors with mentees in the Omaha School System, with nearly 65 smaller organizations that sponsor mentoring programs.