Thirteen-year-old Aaliyah Cummings has no doubt that things have gotten a lot brighter for her and her classmates at Bryan Middle School.
About $21.5 million worth of work has been completed at the school near 42nd Street and Giles Road, and it comes with something special: an attached Boys & Girls Club.
“This means a better future for me,” she said. “I’ll get to plan my future.”
The club will provide programs in robotics, the sciences and trades, along with athletic facilities and meals. Students will be able to stay as late as 9 p.m.
Classmate Sienna Stone, also 13, said the center is giving her a chance to make new friends and get to know her teachers better.
“This will help me the rest of my life,” she said.
That’s what the philanthropic community, local school districts and the Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands had in mind when they began a collaboration that placed club facilities next to schools. Bryan is the fifth and final metro area school to benefit. The others are at Millard Central Middle School and Westbrook, Mount View and Florence Elementary Schools. The Bryan club is named for philanthropist Henry Davis, the president and chief executive officer of Greater Omaha Packing Co.
Davis said the school-club partnership is the best model that he’s seen because it places the two together in the same location.
“I know this can make a big difference because it has in the past,” Davis said.
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Lack of transportation is a hurdle for many kids, said Davis and Ivan Gilreath, president and chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands.
“That’s the biggest way to lose kids,” Gilreath said. “They can’t get to your space. You remove transportation as a barrier, and unbeknownst to them, you extend the school day.”
The club will remain open until 9 p.m. It is staffed to absorb 300 kids from Bryan’s 850-member student body, but because it shares space with the school, it can serve more kids if need be, he said.
There’s another bonus to the partnership, Gilreath said. Because the club is sharing physical space with the school, it cost only 40% of what it would have to build a free-standing center.
The club cost about $4.5 million, which was funded through a charitable campaign by Boys & Girls Clubs. The school was renovated at a cost of $17 million, which was underwritten by taxpayers in the Omaha Public Schools district.
OPS board member Kimara Snipe said credit also goes to taxpayers who approved a bond issue in 2014 that funded the renovation.
“You are in a wonderful place,” she said to students gathered in the gym for the ribbon cutting. “You have voters who would vote to provide someplace like this.”
For 12-year-old Kaitlyn Whitworth, the club is nothing short of a boost toward her lifelong goal of eradicating illnesses that have claimed loved ones.
After the ribbon-cutting, Whitworth headed to the innovation lab, where she and others played with robotic balls. Whitworth said she’s known for most of her life that she wants to become a neurosurgeon.
“A lot of people in my family have died from things you can’t really prevent. It’s really hard,” she said. “I want to make sure that other people don’t have to go through that with people they love.”