Nebraska Children and Families Foundation is awarding $300,000 over two years to the Blue Valley Community Action Partnership (BVCA). The funding will be used to build a Connected Youth Initiative (CYI) to serve young people in need across Butler, Cass, Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Johnson, Nemaha, Otoe, Pawnee, Polk, Richardson, Saline, Seward, Thayer and York Counties.
“We are so excited to have the opportunity to work with the BVCA on this important project,” said Troy Gagner, Nebraska Children’s Connected Youth Initiative lead. “The partnerships they’ve built and the plan they’ve put together have the potential to make a major impact on the youth and young adults who need the most help.”
“One may say that the southeast area of Nebraska, outside of Lincoln, is philanthropically underserved,” Richard Nation, BVCA’s CEO said in the funding proposal. “The Connected Youth Initiative by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation is exactly the kind of jump start the area needs to pull together the limited resources that we have.”
Blue Valley’s program plan
BVCA has already been serving the unconnected youth population in the area as a part of Project Everlast Lincoln. In this role, it has provided intensive case management, as well as financial literacy training and Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to help young people save money and become more independent.
The CYI grant will allow the partnership to dramatically expand to serve more young people with a greater array of services. With the funding, BVCA will act as a “backbone organization,” coordinating the efforts of multiple organizations through a full-time Connected Youth Initiative Officer. This role will oversee CYI operations, build partnerships and ensure improvements in youth outcomes. The grant will also pay for three existing employees to take on new responsibilities, including Central Access Navigation, management of youth IDAs, systems management and more.
According to Nation, the greatest barrier for unconnected youth in Southeast Nebraska is the lack of living wage jobs. Other closely related barriers include the lack of affordable, high-quality child care, housing, public transportation and health care.
“These young adults have to overcome many obstacles,” said Nation. “It will take the entire community working together to turn around the flight from rural areas back to local opportunities for their futures. It’s our hope that all segments of the population — local governments, the private sector and other private non-profits — will work together to turn around disadvantages and make them opportunities both for these young folks and for our communities. Rural areas need these young people and we need everyone to pitch in to help out.”
For its Connected Youth Initiative, BVCA has pulled together a powerful partnership, including primary partner Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership (SENCA), who serves Cass, Johnson, Nemaha, Otoe, Pawnee and Richardson Counties. Other partners, many of whom have been working with BVCA for decades, will focus on helping unconnected youth access transportation, financial literacy and assistance, health care, behavioral health and housing. With CYI funding, BVCA will coordinate the activities of these partners to improve outcomes for unconnected youth:
- BVCA will provide youth assessments, Central Access Navigation, case management, mentoring, financial literacy training, help saving for a vehicle to alleviate transportation needs, RentWise classes, referrals into Head Start for child care, housing assistance and educational/job training referrals. BVCA will also oversee the creation of youth councils to provide input into the services and processes.
- Southeast Nebraska Community Action Partnership (SENCA) will provide the same services as BVCA, but cover different counties. Together the two organizations will be able to serve all 15 counties.
- Four Corners Health Department will provide various health services
- Christian Heritage will offer family finding services to help youth connect to caring adults that create a sense of permanence
- Jefferson Community Coalition will provide longer-term case management
- Public Health Solutions will provide health care support
- FYI Center will offer homework assistance and positive mentoring
BVCA intends to formalize other partnerships with county coalitions and service providers to round out the services available to the underserved, unconnected youth in the 15 county area.