November Connected Youth Initiative roundup

There’s always something interesting happening with our Connected Youth Initiative programs. Here’s what they’ve been up to in the past month.

Project Everlast youth recognized at Voice for Children Spotlight Gala
gil-and-coGil Green III, an 18-year-old currently living in North Platte, received the 2016 Youth Award at the Voices for Children Spotlight Gala on September 24. Gil was recognized for his exemplary work as an advocate for unconnected youth in Nebraska and has recently gained both statewide and national recognition. Raised in McCook, Gil was placed in foster care at age 14. Like many unconnected youth, Gil faced challenges in his path to adulthood. It was through his situation that he became involved with Project Everlast. Gil is now a leader in the group, sitting on both North Platte and statewide councils. Gil credits much of his growing knowledge of advocacy work and public speaking to his involvement with Project Everlast. During a meeting with local judges, he conveyed the importance of keeping siblings together when making foster care placement decisions. The impression he left on the judges was that of a charismatic and thoughtful leader. Through these experiences, Gil feels he is building skills that will enable him to serve as a mentor and advisor for many other young people. Gil is looking forward to making the most out of the next chapter in his life. He plans to attend college in California and pursue a degree in business. One day, he hopes to run his own company.

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CYI staff and young people attend “Leaders for Change”
Nebraska Children’s Mona Tarin and four young CYI leaders attended the “Leaders for Change” conference in D.C. in October. The conference hosted 20 foster-youth-led organizations from across the country and brought together 100 foster youth leaders to represent hundreds of thousands of foster youth from their states. The conference included youth-designed and youth-led training experiences, a showcase of the national grassroots work of the coalition members, a press briefing on Capitol Hill, and fun network-building activities, and foster youth leaders made visits to the offices of their state’s U.S. Senators and Representatives.

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Omaha Opportunity Youth Alliance update
In June 2015, the United Way of the Midlands brought together a group of providers in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area who serve older youth to discuss how to better serve “Opportunity Youth,” defined as those young people ages 16-24 who are not in school or working. Service mapping of the Omaha/Council Bluffs area was completed in the fall of 2015 and revealed that there are many resources within the area that serve older youth, with the largest service gaps identified as those for youth ages 22-25. The Alliance opted to expand the definition to older youth ages 16-24 who are not in school or working OR are loosely connected to school or work. This allowed the Alliance to broaden the focus to serving older youth who are facing life issues such as homelessness, poverty, or involvement in the criminal justice system. The Alliance recognized that central navigation and a “no wrong door” approach to provision of services would be the preferable way to serve this population. United Way and NC partnered to devote resources toward the creation of an older youth system pilot that will support a central navigation system. At the conclusion of the pilot, the data will inform the Alliance of what service gaps exist for older youth as well as lessons learned about how best to operate central navigation for a large metropolitan area. Because Project Everlast Omaha was recognized as having experience and success with using central navigation for older youth, they will lead the yearlong pilot that will utilize current work and expand to include central navigation for Opportunity Youth. Pilot implementation is planned for early 2017.

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Youth Thrive Training
In October, 19 CYI statewide community partners and Nebraska Children staff members attended a Youth Thrive Train the Trainer in Aurora. Over the course of this intensive four-day training, participants learned all components of Youth Thrive as well as how to train others in the framework. Participants will then provide at least four future trainings throughout the state in 2017 to cross-sector groups to enhance statewide capacity and the opportunity to embed the framework into CYI work. The training was provided by Frank Eckles, Senior Trainer at the Academy for Component Youth Work, and Cindy Carraway-Wilson, Director of Training for Youth Catalytics. The focus on Youth Thrive arose in youth-serving collaborations and was further solidified when the CYI work group reached consensus that Youth Thrive was the most relevant and meaningful framework from which to develop both practice and outcome evaluation. The ongoing development and implementation of Youth Thrive theory and practice rests within CYI communities and the previously existing youth-serving collaborations in Omaha, Lincoln, and the Panhandle. This focus will embed theory in all aspects of youth work and assure sustainability of practice and outcomes.

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kriswhisenhunt_web_2016-01Staff Spotlight: Kris Whisenhunt

What is your CYI role, and how long have you worked at Nebraska Children?
Project Everlast Southeast Service Area Coordinator, 2 1/2 years

What do you like most about working with CYI and at Nebraska Children?
The collective impact approach and the people.

What inspires you to hop out of bed each day and work with CYI?
The youth, the passion and dedication of the partners I work with, and the difference I see us making.

What is the best advice you’ve been given throughout your career?
Don’t punish yourself for feeling the emotional effect of this work. If you were not affected emotionally, you would not be qualified. It is about how you handle that emotion.

If you could walk in someone else’s shoes for one day, who would it be and why?
Eleanor Roosevelt, because she had no fear. She continued to fight for human rights and raise her voice about uncomfortable issues despite gender discrimination and racial tensions.

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

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