What a difference Sixpence has made at Shinga Zinga

By Gwen Frideres, Shinga Zinga Program Director | Umo’ho’ Nation, Macy, NE


The Sixpence program has made a difference in our center by providing a curriculum foundation and structure to the children’s learning that promotes their growth and development.  Other child care centers do not have a curriculum that they follow for activities that include all developmental levels and domains in Early Learning Guidelines. The children’s milestones are recorded with parent input on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) as well as in the Teaching Strategies Gold database.  The Teaching Strategies Gold database report shows the parents their child’s developmental growth through documented observations.  This data also helps child care center teachers to design an individual lesson plan specifically for that child. But that’s not all:

Assessment data for parents.

The assessments that are conducted with Munroe-Meyer Institute help parents understand their child’s developmental levels.  If a child falls below expectations, the center is able to share this with parents and to share this data with the Early Intervention team to conduct further evaluations, and receive special education services to children who may be at risk so that they can transition out by age 3 and be ready for school.


Partnerships with parents and the community

Now, thanks to Sixpence funding, necessary community resources are shared at parent meetings so they are aware of what services are available to them. The technical support that is provided by the Sixpence team ensures centers to have high-quality programs, facilities, staff and instruction.

Our parents have become our life-long friends and they want their child to attend our program because they know it is high quality that they are not going to receive anywhere else, plus the parents get to see the rate their child is learning and developing.  Parents feel open to share with us and to continue to be in contact with us even when their child has transitioned out of our program.  This relationship has increased our retention rate, and many parents who are expecting are on our waiting list.

Enhanced educational experience

Our program can now purchase additional resources from Teaching Strategies Gold, like child portfolios to track children from the time they enter center.  We transfer this data to Head Start when toddlers transition out of our program.  Then this data can be shared with kindergarten teachers so each child’s development is tracked from birth until they enter kindergarten.

We’ve also been able to purchase educational materials and equipment to educate parents on topics associated with becoming a parent and about their child’s growth and development.  Some examples include car seat safety, safe sleep practices, CPR and first aid training to name just a few.



Ongoing staff training

The Sixpence funding has supported training and conference opportunities for staff to learn about infant- and toddler- specific teaching to build staff expertise.  We have also been able to purchase additional supplies  to improve the quality of learning through play, including an expanded outdoor play area.

Find out more about Sixpence now.

Project Everlast Lincoln has launched

By Mary Kate Gulick, Associate Vice President


As of July 1, 2014, Lincoln now has a fully operational Project Everlast initiative. More than two years in the making, this new network of services will serve youth with foster care experience as they become adults. The process to create Project Everlast Lincoln has been a collaborative one, bringing together community stakeholders and diverse voices to create a system of care for young people. Here’s how it all came to be.

First there was the youth.

Like everything else Project Everlast does, the Lincoln initiative started with the youth. The Project Everlast Lincoln Youth Council has been going strong for more than three years. Council members learned to speak publicly about their experience in the foster care system. They became friends and partners in advocacy. And they provided the input required to build a community-based system of care for other youth like them.

“Without the youth council, Project Everlast would have no direction,” said Jason Feldhaus. “Project Everlast is youth driven – it’s the experiences and input of the council that tells us what kind of services and system of care we need to create.”

Then there was planning.

Beginning in 2012, community planning meetings for Project Everlast Lincoln brought together youth, nonprofit service providers, health care practitioners, faith-based organizations, educators, DHHS representatives, law enforcement and more. Together, these stakeholders spent months crafting the outline of what would become Project Everlast Lincoln.

“We also looked at what Omaha had done,” said Betty Medinger, Nebraska Children’s Vice President of Systems Integration. “We learned that there are seven components of life that need to be covered for youth aging out of care – housing, transitional services, permanency services, employment, education, health and transportation.”

The plan developed by the youth and community members addressed each of these issues. With planning complete in year one, year two was all about putting the plan into action for Lincoln’s youth with foster care experience.

Ready, set, launch.

True to the Collective Impact philosophy that Nebraska Children subscribes, implementation of Project Everlast Lincoln drew from the strengths of existing resources in the community.

“The goal was to work with organizations who already provided some of these services, build their capacity, align their activities around youth with foster care experience, and share the measurement and data of those activities,” said Jennifer Skala, Nebraska Children’s Vice President of Community Impact.

Central access navigation/Needs Based Fund – The Hub 

“The Hub has been doing this type of work with youth for years – it’s what they do,” said Medinger. “We were able to contract with them to have another full-time employee to work specifically with the foster care population.” The Hub will also be collecting data for all the youth who enter the Project Everlast system, and their outcomes.

Opportunity Passport – Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders County 

“Community Action Partnership was already working with Individual Development Accounts, so they were a natural fit to take on Opportunity Passport,” said Medinger. Opportunity Passport is a program that matches savings that youth put into their IDAs in order to purchase a car, college tuition, housing or other assets that are critical to independence. Project Everlast provided CAP with funding for an additional full-time employee to administer Opportunity Passport and to start their matching funds account

Transitional Services/Health – CEDARS, PALS, Region 5 Professional Partners and CenterPointe 

Project Everlast focused on capacity building and filling gaps here, providing funding for the CEDARS Bridges Program to expand their program and reduce the waiting list for local youth seeking services. “Transition services focus on supporting the youth while teaching them the basic skills required for independence,” said Medinger.

Permanency Services – Christian Heritage 

With funding for a new full-time employee, Christian Heritage is taking on family finding. “Every young person needs people who care,” said Medinger. “Family finding focuses on tracking down adult connections that are meaningful to a young person, so they have a network of interpersonal support to help them as they transition to adulthood.”

Youth Voice –Project Everlast Lincoln Youth Council 

“We’re adding another part-time youth advisor to build a more robust, active Project Everlast youth council,” said Medinger. “Youth voice will continue to be at the center of Project Everlast – from planning to implementation to ongoing adjustments.” The council also serves as an invaluable venue for young people to build relationships with peers and caring adults, helping them develop the necessary social capital to succeeding as adults.

Rural Youth Services –  Blue Valley and Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnerships

The need of youth aging out of care doesn’t stop at the Lancaster county line. PALS workers serve the rural counties of the Southeast Service Area, but they are spread thin and the distance between youth and workers is expensive to overcome. So to better serve youth s in the southeast service area, Project Everlast has provided funding to Blue Valley CAP and Southeast Nebraska CAP to provide additional transitional support services in their respective coverage areas. These organizations will work with The HUB of Lincoln and CAP of Lancaster and Saunders Counties to southeastern youth with central access navigation services, access to the Needs-Based Fund, and Opportunity Passport.

Community-based funding

Much of the funding for initial funding for the Lincoln initiative was provided by statewide sources – such as the Sherwood Foundation and the John C. Scott Foundation. As implementation neared, it became critical to secure local funding – not only to power operations, but to ensure a local commitment to Project Everlast.

“We’ve been working hard to get local matching funds,” said Medinger. Project Everlast has since secured $45,000 in local funding, which is a great start. “It’s important for the local community to show it has some skin in the game. If local funders aren’t showing their support, why should state or national funders step up?”

And local funders, like Woods Charitable Fund, the Cooper Foundation, the Lincoln Community Foundation, Women Investing in Nebraska, City/County Keno funds are among the first local funders.

“Woods Charitable Fund especially appreciates the collaborative nature of Project Everlast,” said Tom Woods. “It’s a group effort, benefiting from both the input of community experts in the field and the youth who have personally experienced the foster care system.”

“The Lincoln Community Foundation is proud to support Project Everlast Lincoln,” said Sarah Peetz, LCF’s Vice President for Community Outreach. “This program represents the type of investment that will impact our community now and in the future.”

Nebraska Children is still raising operating and sustaining funds for Project Everlast Lincoln. Find out more about how to donate now.

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 http://www.afterschoolalliance.org.