It’s an important, farsighted goal: In Omaha, every young person who needs a mentor should have one.
If our city succeeds on that score, tremendous potential could be unlocked to the benefit of the students and the community.
This week, four Omaha youth-mentoring groups came together to announce a cooperative effort to make sure that goal is reached. The four nonprofit groups are Partnership 4 Kids, TeamMates, Avenue Scholars and College Possible.
Omaha philanthropist Mike Yanney, co-founder of Partnership 4 Kids, described it this way: “This new collaboration means we are making youth the No. 1 objective in our community. There will be no duplicated efforts but rather a coordinated program emphasizing excellence and rewarding the young people who achieve academic success.”
Partnership 4 Kids, which currently serves around 5,100 students, kindergarten through 12th grade, in 22 Omaha Public Schools, deserves particular praise because it is voluntarily making major changes in its programming as part of this effort.
That’s no small thing, considering how much easier it is for any organization to want to stick comfortably with the status quo.
The nonprofit — formed in 2007 from mentoring programs sponsored, respectively, by Jerry and Cookie Hoberman and by Mike Yanney and Dr. Gail Walling Yanney — will end its mentoring efforts in Omaha high schools so that the other three organizations can concentrate on that need.
To best meet the needs of Omaha’s youth, Yanney told a press conference with leaders from the four mentoring nonprofits this week, “We thought we ought to get outside the box.” That’s commendable flexibility and foresight.
Partnership 4 Kids will work with sophomores and juniors currently in its programs to see which of the three other mentoring groups would fit best with their needs.
Former Husker football coach Tom Osborne, co-founder of the TeamMates program, said that once he officially leaves the University of Nebraska athletic department at the end of June, he and his wife, Nancy, intend to increase their focus on TeamMates.
“We always have more children who want and need a mentor than we have mentors,” Osborne said. “This collaboration will enable us to serve more young people in an effective and efficient manner.”
Each one of the four nonprofits “brings something to the table” in terms of unique contributions, he said.
The Avenue Scholars program, an outgrowth of the Building Bright Futures initiative, has had great success in graduating its students and helping them continue their education at Metropolitan Community College.
College Possible, formed in Minnesota in 2000, entered the Omaha area this year and began working with juniors and seniors in six schools. The nonprofit uses recent college graduates as mentors.
Representatives of all these mentoring groups said the new collaboration should set the stage for gradual expansion to reach a greater number of children in need.
Omaha is blessed with a generous philanthropic community, and it is encouraging to see how organ- izations such as these are working together and adapting to best meet public needs. The more these efforts generate success, the stronger the future for these young people and our community.