Survey says: Summer learning gains ground


New research from the 2014 edition of America After 3PM, the most comprehensive household survey of how students in America spend their after school hours, shows that summer learning programs are strongly supported by parents and that participation in summer learning programs is on the rise.

According to the survey of nearly 14,000 families:

  • 86% percent of parents indicate support for public funding for summer learning programs, a statistically significant increase of 3 percentage points over the already very strong support registered in 2009.
  • One-third of families report at least one child participated in a summer learning program last summer, up from the 25% of families reporting at least one child participated when the survey was last conducted in 2009.
  • More than 50% of families reported a desire to participate in a summer learning program this summer.
  • 13% of families reported that summer programs were available to them at no cost in 2013. However, the vast majority of parents paid for programs and the average weekly per-child cost for a summer learning program was $250— high enough to put the programs out of the reach of many children and families.

With increased awareness of the problem of summer learning loss, especially among low-income students, it is encouraging to see data that suggest parents are increasingly recognizing the important role that summer learning programs can play in helping keep kids on track for success. However, the cost data raise concerns about equity and whether or not the very students who might most likely benefit from programs are able to access them.  Download the one-pager or graphics for an overview of the findings.

In October, look for the release of the 2014 edition of America After 3PM, which will provide a detailed view of afterschool, including access to STEM learning opportunities, physical activity, and healthy meals and snacks in afterschool. America After 3PM is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Wallace Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, with additional support from the Heinz Endowments, Samueli Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Gallup employee launches video series to promote Nebraska STEM

By Mary Kate Gulick

Arranger. Woo. Communication. Maximizer. Activator.

jimcollisonThose are Jim Collison’s top 5 Gallup Strengthsfinder attributes. And each one of is plain to see in Jim’s new YouTube video series, dedicated to promoting STEM in Nebraska.

Jim has been at Gallup for 7 years. Serving as the corporation’s Technology Manager, he puts his passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) into practice every day. But as a member of the Gallup recruiting team, he was also keenly aware of the need for better STEM education at younger ages.

“There’s not enough full time tech workers in Omaha,” said Collison, “so we go to the college level and are like wow, there’s not enough STEM students in college. So then we look at high school and see there’s not enough students interested in STEM. For the long haul, we don’t have enough stem workers because we’re not capturing them in the lower grades.”

That’s why Jim started the Nebraska STEM interview series on YouTube.  He started shooting and producing interviews with Omaha-area STEM providers in February. Now, with six interviews under his belt, he’s hoping the series will create public awareness of the outstanding programs Omaha offers to make STEM learning more accessible.

“For a movement that lacks people, it doesn’t lack effort,” said Collison. “There’s a lot of STEM learning going on in Omaha. So my goal is to connect those providers so that they know what each other are doing and raise awareness for the general public.”

Creating a series like this takes time. Thankfully, Gallup supports what Jim is doing.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to support the professional ecosystem,” said Jim. “We’re looking for people to hire, but we also want to help the city of Omaha. There’s such a huge mission in this that’s so much more than hiring people. Gallup is willing to let me invest in this.”

Follow Jim on Twitter.


Collective Impact 101: Training for Nebraska’s communities


Nebraska Children partnered with The Peter Kiewit Foundation, The Sherwood Foundation, the Iowa West Foundation and the Lincoln Community Foundation to bring FSG to Nebraska to train on Collective Impact.

What’s Collective Impact and who’s FSG?

Collective Impact is a specific type of collaboration involving organizations from different sectors who commit to a common agenda, aligned efforts and sharing measurement systems and data to solve a specific social problem. The definition of Collective Impact emerged in 2011 – Read the original article now.

FSG (originally Foundation Strategy Group) is a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in strategy, evaluation, and research. They’re credited with developing the concept of Collective Impact and supporting communities to implement this special type of collaboration.

Training in Nebraska

Because Nebraska Children uses the Collective Impact model in our work with communities across the state, we were thrilled to bring FSG out to train community leaders and service providers about the nuts, bolts and how-tos of successful Collective Impact Initiatives.

On June 3 and 4, hundreds of Nebraska change-makers came together to deepen their understanding of Collective Impact, and learn how to make a more profound and permanent difference in the lives of their constituents.

Tuesday, June 3 

Leading  a Backbone Organization for Collective Impact (Omaha/Council Bluffs)

100+ attended this event on UNO’s campus. During the full afternoon session, they learned from FSG Director Jennifer Splansky Juster on:

  • Increasing their knowledge on the role and characteristics of successful backbones
  • Strengthening their ability to guide a Collective Impact effort toward desired results
  • Successful backbone structures, staffing, and functions
  • How to communicate the value and role of a backbone to funders
  • Successful backbone experiences

A “backbone organization” is one of the key components of a successful Collective Impact initiative. Read more about the critical role of backbone organizations now.

Wednesday, June 4

Collective Impact 101 (Lincoln)

At the Lincoln VItal Signs breakfast, a speaker from FSG covered the basics of Collective Impact and how it differs from other forms of collaboration. Attendees walked away understanding the structure of Collective Impact initiatives and how the approach has been successful for other communities.

Child Well Being Community Peer-to-Peer Training (Lincoln)

Nebraska Children brought together representatives from our eight statewide Child Well Being communities to discuss how each has successfully implemented the Collective Impact approach, and what challenges they’re striving to overcome.

Nebraska Children Workshop

FSG leaders facilitated a conversation with state and community leaders around the Collective Impact structures Nebraska Children has put in place around child abuse and neglect prevention and promoting child well-being across the state. During the session, FSG and the participants discussed how to overcome barriers to Collective Impact, strategies for sustainability of state/community collaborations, and policy and practice implications associated with greater collaboration.

Why this matters.

At Nebraska Children, the Collective Impact model is at the center of our child well-being work in communities. And a key component of our success is the trust among community partners and a real understanding of how a common agenda is a make-or-break proposition. Having FSG come in and train hundreds of statewide partners helped build and strengthen relationships within partnerships, while deepening understanding of the process of making positive change for Nebraska’s children. It was a monumental success.

Project Everlast rocks the red carpet


To celebrate Foster Care Awareness Month, Omaha’s Project Everlast council held a star-studded recognition event at the CASA of Douglas County event space.


The evening started with each honoree strutting their stuff on the red carpet, where the “paparazzi” snapped shots of them.




The Lincoln council made the trek to join their Omaha counterparts.

PE staff and volunteers served as waitstaff and kitchen help, serving up chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans.




The meal was topped off with some delicious cupcakes.

The award ceremony was emceed by youth advisors Schalisha Walker and James Bowers.


Young people were recognized for getting new jobs, moving into their own apartments, procuring scholarships and graduating high school.










It was an evening of fun and empowerment, where Project Everlast council members could celebrate one another’s accomplishments and just have some fun together.


Senator Kolowski Honored as an Afterschool Champion at Special Event in Nation’s Capital

Republished from Afterschool Alliance Press Release

Kolowski honor
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Afterschool Alliance last week recognized State Senator Rick Kolowski for his exemplary support for afterschool programs and the youth who participate in them.

Sen. Kolowski was named a State Afterschool Champion at the “Breakfast of Champions,” a gala event in Washington, D.C. featuring Members of Congress and national afterschool champions. In the Nebraska State Senate, Sen. Kolowski has drafted and supported legislation to ensure children have extended learning opportunities. He was one of 11 state champions honored at the Breakfast for helping to support and expand innovative approaches to expanding learning that close opportunity gaps, build student skills and create pathways for lifelong learning. Beyond School Bells nominated him for the honor.

Before being elected to the Senate, Kolowski was the founding principal of Millard West High School, which had one of the state’s highest rates of student participation in extracurricular activities. After retiring, Sen. Kolowski was elected to and named chair of the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties. One of the group’s first activities was to fund an expansion of high quality afterschool and summer programs. Since his election in 2012, Sen. Kolowski has authored legislation resulting in two separate Education Committee hearings on extended learning opportunities.

“From his time as an educator placing a strong value on connecting youth with extracurricular activities to his time in the State Senate advocating for more funding for extended learning opportunities, Sen. Kolowski has made improving access to enriching out-of-school-time learning experiences a priority,” said Jeff Cole Beyond School Bells lead. “He is currently leading an effort to conduct a study on extended learning opportunities that will shape future legislation. His efforts will create new and engaging learning opportunities for children and youth throughout Nebraska.”

The “Breakfast of Champions” is part of the 13th annual Afterschool for All Challenge, sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance. The event brings together hundreds of educators, parents, afterschool leaders and advocates from around the country for a series of events and meetings with Members of Congress. Following the Breakfast, participants met with their senators and representatives on Capitol Hill to talk to about how important afterschool programs are to children, families and communities. This year, the Alliance is also encouraging advocates for afterschool to participate in the Challenge at home by calling Congressional district offices to urge their representatives in Congress to co-sponsor the Afterschool for America’s Children Act.

“Quality afterschool programs give our children and youth a chance to engage in hands-on, experimental learning in a safe and structured environment after the school day ends,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “But they also do much more. Not only are they a lifeline for working parents, afterschool programs expose students to possible careers in the sciences or other fields, teach them the value of community service, and provide them with mentors, meals, physical activity and more. The champions we honor today not only support these programs, but the kids, parents and communities that benefit from them.”

The State Champions being honored at the Afterschool for All Challenge are:

  • Florida: Michael Lannon, Retired Superintendent, St. Lucie County Schools
  • Kansas: Joyce Glasscock, Director, Government Relations, Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Massachusetts: Jennifer Benson, Representative, Massachusetts State Legislature
  • Michigan: Peter MacGregor, Representative, Michigan State Legislature
  • Michigan: Rashida Tlaib, Representative, Michigan State Legislature
  • Nebraska: Rick Kolowski, State Senator, Nebraska State Legislature
  • New Mexico: Christine Trujillo, State Representative, New Mexico State Legislature
  • Ohio: Gayle Manning, State Senator, Ohio State Legislature
  • Pennsylvania: Nancy Peter, Founder and Director, Out-of-School Time Resource Center at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee: Karl Dean, Mayor of Nashville
  • Wyoming: Karen Bierhaus, 21st CCLC State Consultant, Wyoming Department of Education

The 2014 Afterschool for All Challenge is generously sponsored by The NAMM Foundation, National Afterschool Association and National Geographic Channel.
The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality afterschool programs. More information is available at

Celebrating our superheroes – Project Everlast Fremont

By Brenda Weyers, Associate VP, Visual Brand



On Friday, May 2, Fremont’s Project Everlast Council gathered at for lunch at the Wooden Windmill to honor their “superheroes.” Their way of celebrating Foster Youth Awareness Month was to call attention to the adults who have meant so much to them while in the system.


They day’s keynote speaker, Jacob Rusher of Lutheran Family Services, spoke of his past experience with Project Everlast and how his job at Lutheran Family Services as a family finder helps to reconnect youth have aged out with important people from their past. When the biological family isn’t in the picture, young people still need adults they can look up to. Jacob helps young people find the teachers, coaches, neighbors and family friends that had an impact on them in the past, and would be good mentors and touchstones for the future.

Brian Kempkes of Lutheran Family Services also shared the struggles and joys of fostering (and eventually adopting) a teenager. Right now, there are only 5 active foster homes in Dodge County, so the need is great.

After the buffet lunch, the young people from Project Everlast Fremont got up and told the stories of the adults who have been superheroes in their lives, and gave each of those adults a special award.

Toughing it out award

This award goes to someone who stood by our side no matter what we threw at them. They never gave up on us when everyone else in their right mind would have.  Against all odds, they saw something inside of us and wanted, truly wanted to help. They gave unwavering support, countless words of advice but most importantly they never gave up on us. We would like to thank you, Julius and Michelle Biggs for toughing it out.

Guardian Angel Award

He is a helper, but not just any helper; he goes above and beyond what any ordinary person would do.  He will go far beyond your bar of expectations, helping in any way that he can. He truly makes a difference with any one they come into contact with, watching over the young and protecting them from the evils of the world.  This award goes to Father Peter for being our Guardian Angel.

 #1 Caseworker Award


We all have our favorites whether it be football teams, food or color. We have favorites for people too; aunts, uncles, sisters or brothers. This award goes beyond the “favorites” category because he is the best, our #1. He is continually raising the bar of expectation and excellence not only for himself, but for everyone involved in every case. He strives for perfection and yet is still kind, caring, and compassionate by nature. It was a very hard decision and an even closer vote but we would like to tell Seth Coates that he is going a great job and is our #1 caseworker.

Best GAL


When people on the outside look in at the foster care system, they see the children, foster parents, and caseworkers. What very few people realize is that foster youth have their own army standing behind them at all times ready to fight for what’s in the child’s best interest. Our generals are our guardians ad litem. They helped us through intimidating situations, supported us and led the way, and advocated for children that were and still are in foster care. This year’s award winner never gives up on the child no matter the situation. She gives unwavering support and reminds all of her children that no matter how dark a situation seems, she always has our back supporting and fighting for the youth she represents.  Thank you Leta Fornoff for being the Best GAL you can be.

Great Supporter

From a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a hug to help you through or words of wisdom, he/she has given it all. Never expecting anything in return, he/she is always cheering us on, helping us with any and almost everything we could possibly need.  Thank you, Felicitas Cardenas for being a great supporter.

Good Friend Award


We all have good friends, right? A good friend is someone who has always been there for you. They are loyal, there in the middle of the night when you call.  If you have a fight they are willing to let you stay there, and they always have a shoulder to cry on. There are millions of things to say for a friend, that is why we have nominated Mrs. Penke because she has done these things and more.  Mrs. Penke, you are a good friend.

Project Employment Launches: Job skills for independent living


Project Employment is a 5-day program for young people age 14-24 who are in foster care now, or have been in foster care in the past. In this program, these young adults will get the employment skills that local employers are looking for. Classes are small – only 5-10 young people will be accepted. Participants in the program will benefit from:

  1. Intake and assessment – What do each of our participants need to learn? What are the barriers? We only accept participants who are willing and can dedicate the time required leave the program job ready.
  2. Employment readiness training – Project Employment uses the evidence-based “Bring Your A Game to Work” curriculum to instruct a class of 5-15 participants over a 5-session course. Students will learn the 7 As for success as an employee (Attitude, Attendance, Appearance, Ambition, Accountability, Acceptance and Appreciation), learn to write resumes and cover letters, participate in mock interviews, role play challenging work situations, and find and apply for positions for which they’re qualified.
  3. Ongoing support – We continue to work with our participants after graduation from the program to help reinforce what they’ve learned, identify job openings and assess any future needs.
  4. Employment Partners – We work with local businesses like you to determine what qualities are most important in your new hires, and to secure interviews for our graduates.
  5. Tracking outcomes – In order to continuously improve this program, we monitor the outcomes of each of our graduates to make sure the training helps them meet their goals, and the goals of their employers.

Project Employment is a collaboration between Goodwill, Project Everlast, Heartland Workforce Solutions and other community and business partners.

                              Want to join Project Employment?

Contact Jennifer Thielen at or 402-384-4673 to start the enrollment process. She will interview young people to assess their availability, barriers and willingness to participate.