The holiday season was full of togetherness and support for the CYI team. Take a look at what they’ve been up to.
Project Everlast Omaha holiday event
On December 15, more than 70 young people and their loved ones gathered together at Family Housing Advisory Services for the annual Project Everlast holiday event. The evening featured a catered meal of classic holiday comfort food, and young people opened beautifully wrapped holiday care packages. Friends of Nebraska Children worked throughout the year to collect generous donations for the holiday care packages, and young people excitedly unwrapped packages that included things like small appliances, kitchen utensils, hats and gloves, hygiene products, games, and books. Volunteers
from the “No Youth Without a Birthday Treat” Facebook page also signed up to bring baked homemade goodies for young people to take home. Many volunteers, along with the Project Everlast Omaha and NC staff, made this event possible and a good time was had by all!
LEAP initiative is full steam ahead into the Winter quarter
Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) is in full swing and getting ready to enroll another cohort of students for the Winter quarter. The LEAP initiative aims to increase educational and employment opportunities for young adults ages 14 to 23 who are in foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, and/or homeless. There are 62 students currently participating in LEAP and enrolled in post-secondary education in Omaha and Lincoln, with about 30 students waiting to enroll next quarter. LEAP students receive intensive coaching and academic advising from LEAP Specialists at Avenue Scholars, Central Plains Center for Services, and The Hub. Students also participate in group study halls, cohort classes, tutoring, and fun activities. Lincoln LEAP students recently visited the skating rink, and Omaha students have a recognition dinner this month. The next LEAP enrollment phase for students will begin in May.
CYI team gathers for year-end retreat
For two days in December, the CYI team met at the Youth Leadership Center in Aurora to reflect and celebrate the work of 2016, set goals for older youth work in 2017, and to have some fun. Day one of the retreat focused on 4 key leadership skills – self-reflection, communication, personal ethics, and inspiration – and concluded with lots of love and laughter from comedian T. Marni Vos. Day two featured an overview of the CYI staff mapping project of Clifton StrengthsFinder™ and Myers Briggs Type Indicator profiles and concluded with strategic planning for 2017 older youth priority areas.
Staff Spotlight: Cassy Blakely
What is your role at Nebraska Children?
As Assistant Vice President of Youth Policy, I provide support to the system and policy connections of our work. I manage a few small grants focused on bringing youth voice into system development and quality improvement.
What do you like most about the work?
I love the moment when a young adult realizes the power they carry in their voice. The first time they feel heard flips a switch, and they become a survivor and changemaker. It’s amazing to watch them find and then make their space.
What is your favorite quote or saying?
“Adoption means eating Spiderman cookies, forever and ever.” – Lucan, age 4, explaining what it means to be adopted.
What motivates you to come to work every day?
I was lucky to have people take time to push me to be more than what life handed me. It’s my responsibility to give that back and make it less of an extraordinary thing.
Who is someone you look up to and why?
My grandfather. He was a lifelong dairy farmer who lived love everyday (even if he didn’t say it until his 70s). He taught me how to work and enjoy life. And, that you do it all for your people. The best example is he cared for his wife of 53 years at home as she battled Alzheimer’s because he’d promised her he’d always be there.
What is your favorite movie?
That’s tough. I’ll watch pretty much anything, but I’m a sucker for zombies or a good post-apocalyptic flick. Cheesy horror movies also rock. Also on the list: classic Disney.