JoAnn Robinson, 14, has big dreams. She enjoys studying math, engineering and robotics at North High School – but her real passion is lights, cameras and action.
“I want to be a director,” she says – like her inspiration, director and producer Kenny Ortega, the guiding force behind some of her favorite movies, including Disney’s “High School Musical” trilogy. “He has a lot of fun with his work. It’s just amazing. I want to be a part of that.”
With a life-changing assist from Partnership 4 Kids (P4K) and its summer program series, P4K University, JoAnn is steadily collecting the skills – and the fearlessness – Hollywood will require.
“I’m learning that I’m good in a team more than I thought,” says the soon-to-be 10th grader.
She’s also learning that she is a natural leader. “That’s a new thing for me,” she says. “I used to be so shy. Now, I’m confident.”
Those qualities – cooperation, confidence and leadership – were cultivated with fun intensity during P4K University’s Amazing Race, a workshop sponsored in part by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Throughout the week, JoAnn and her fellow “racers” navigated a series of challenges that required communication, problem-solving and teamwork – everything from setting up a tent together to various trust-building exercises that culminated in Outward Bound’s high ropes course on the Northstar campus. A wrist injury kept JoAnn on the ground but didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for the total Amazing Race experience.
“Some of it is a review of what I’ve learned in school about teamwork and how to always be ready and focused, but it’s better here because you have new, different tasks. We all work together,” she says. “This is an amazing opportunity to learn more about yourself and make friends.”
Additional P4K University sessions include STEM-focused P4K Blast, an arts workshop, and a mini-medical and dental school in partnership with Creighton University. JoAnn, who started with P4K in the fifth grade, is taking part in all of the sessions.
More than a P4K advocate, she embodies what the organization is working to accomplish.
“They are always motivating me to do great in school,” she says. “That was a big confidence boost to know that someone believed in me. It opened my eyes to know that I am important and that I have expectations. It just pushed me to work harder in life – not just school.”
For P4K, that’s what it’s all about – wrapping children in hope and expectation to break Omaha’s cycle of poverty. With the help of nearly 400 volunteer mentors, P4K serves 5,200 disadvantaged students in 23 Omaha Public Schools, inspiring them to set and achieve goals, graduate from high school and pursue some type of post-secondary education. The organization even provides college scholarships to those who complete the program. JoAnn, with her director’s chair dreams, knows she is on the right path.
“I feel like I’ve gotten support and love. I’ve also gotten stronger, mentally and physically. I have a lot of hope and confidence in myself just for being with P4K.”
P4K’s Lori Lundholm says JoAnn’s newfound fearless attitude is proof of the program’s effectiveness.
“It’s a confirmation that what we’re doing and working on every day is making a difference. There is curriculum behind it; there is legitimacy and it’s doing what it’s supposed to do,” Lundholm says.
“I feel positive about my future,” JoAnn says. “I feel hopeful.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same.
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Mary Marion is more than a people person. She is a serving-people person. Her entire adult life has been spent caring for others – from the eight sons she raised to the neighbors she helps feed to the fellow seniors she impacts twice a week, every week at The Salvation Army’s Dora Bingel Senior Center. Click here to read the story.
After dealing with a painful loss, an Omaha musician's career is budding again — and he gives a lion’s share of the credit for his recovery to Grief’s Journey, formerly Ted E. Bear Hollow. Click here to read the story.
It’s not that we have a food production problem in our community. We have a food distribution problem," says Beth Ostdiek Smith, founder of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue, which receives grant support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Sharon Martin and Mike Hughbanks share a passion for advocacy and outreach related to dementia through Art to Remember, an interactive program at Joslyn Art Museum. Sharon is a docent; Mike has early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Click here to read the story.
Occupational therapist Diane Bemis is motivated by the “magic” of pairing horses and people with disabilities in a therapeutic riding program funded in part by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska grant. Click here to read the story.
Beth Kernaghan, left, has spent the past two years coaching Ana Pérez-Villagómez through College Possible, a program for low-income academic achievers. The program is funded in part by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska grant. Click here to read the story.
Adam Armstrong is giving back as a veteran support specialist with At Ease, a Lutheran Family Services initiative that is sponsored, in part, by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska grant. For him, it’s more than a job. It’s a call to service. Click here to read the story.
Lamya Ali has a garden plot through Community Crops and uses the Lincoln nonprofit’s mobile farmers market. The community garden program has been a godsend, she says, and now she’s quick to tell others about it. Community Crops is supported, in part, by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Molly Troxel is a visually impaired athlete who aspires to be a Paralympian. Here, the 15-year-old plays goalball, an intense Paralympic team sport that involves using one’s body to prevent a clanging ball from crossing the goal line. Competitive play is provided through Outlook Nebraska Inc., a nonprofit recipient of grant support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Tim Smiley answered a "driver wanted" ad that changed his life. Today, he's helping thousands in need, coordinating deliveries for Food Bank for the Heartland. Smiley's 12-hour days include the distribution of fresh produce to agencies across Nebraska and western Iowa in an initiative supported in part by a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Dr. Zach Meyer is a medical director at Third City Community Clinic (TCCC). TCCC was founded more than 20 years ago to serve low-income patients who could not otherwise afford basic dental and medical care. Click here to read the story.
Shelton Public School physical education teachers Matt Walter and Amanda Thober stand on a soft shredded rubber blacktop with new playground equipment. Shelton is a recent Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska Project Fit America grantee. Click here to read the story.
"Parents are our first heroes," says Vanita Jarmon, principal at Conestoga Magnet School in Omaha, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s Adopt-A-School Partner for more than 15 years. Her leadership approach celebrates their positive contributions to student — and teacher — success. Click here to read the story.
Rock Steady Boxing is paying off for John Coffey in improved balance, gait, activities of daily living and quality of life. Click here to read the story.
Louis "Big Lou" Parker is a mainstay at the Heart Ministry Center, paying back the help he got when he needed it most. “I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve always believed in going in all the way. And I’ve always had a heart to help people," he said. Click here to read the story.
Sharon Martin on manning the Boys Town National Hotline: “Every day when I leave here, I want to feel like I made a difference in a person’s life, even one person. If I’ve done that, then I’ve done what I needed to do.” Click here to read the story.
Partnership 4 Kids is providing life-changing experiences for JoAnn Robinson. This summer she's discovering that she's a natural leader in P4K University's team-building workshop sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. Click here to read the story.
Karlyn Walker and her daughter, Adrionna, 13, are faithful attendees of Wellbriety Family Nights at the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition in Omaha, where they enjoy making native crafts together. Wellbriety, Karlyn said, has helped her keep her demons at bay and see that “there is a healthy life out there.” Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska supports the program. Click here to read the story.