February Connected Youth Initiative roundup

A new year means new challenges, victories, and efforts to make life better for Nebraska’s unconnected youth. Here’s what the CYI team has been up to lately.


LEAP semester celebration

Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) scholars from Omaha and Lincoln recently celebrated the end of a successful semester with a fun holiday event, where 27 young people gathered for food and special entertainment provided by fellow scholars. One student sang a Christmas song, one student shared an original rap, and LEAP Young Leader Jesús talked about his experience at the LEAP convening in New York City. Each LEAP scholar also received a holiday gift and door prizes generously donated by Bellevue’s Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, and each young person was given a handmade afghan made by a Broken Bow community member. It was a great opportunity to share the successes of the first semester as LEAP scholars.



LEAP community advisory committee meeting

The statewide LEAP advisory committee met on January 26 at University of Nebraska – Omaha. The committee is made up of education, employment, and community partners helping to create an education-to-employment pipeline for unconnected youth in Lincoln and Omaha. The committee advises LEAP education and employment work in the following areas: traditional post-secondary education pathways to employment; certificate and trade school pathways to employment; health/mental health for youth in education and training programs; preparation for post-secondary education (including IEP services, bridging, and career exploration); successful transition to career (including financial coaching); data-sharing; and youth voice and leadership pathways. This meeting also focused on successes of year one and planning for year two of the LEAP Social Innovation Fund grant. The meeting is held quarterly and is made up of 25 leaders from area partners, as well as several LEAP young leaders. The next committee meeting will be held in March.


Older youth work highlighted on KETV’s “Chronicle” program  

Nebraska Children’s Jason Feldhaus and Project Everlast Omaha participant Azar recently had the opportunity to appear on KETV’s “Chronicle” program to discuss Nebraska Children’s older youth work. Both Jason and Azar did a great job talking about the work in Omaha, how great the need is for unconnected youth, and how we’re expanding our work into other parts of the state. Azar attends UNO (and is taking classes at Metropolitan Community College) with a triple major. You can catch the segment online here.



Fremont Youth Council update

The Hope Center for Kids applied to oversee the Youth Leadership component of CYI. The young people came up with a list of questions they wanted to ask the Hope Center and were then able to meet with the Hope Center to find answers. A report and recommendations by the youth will be taken to the next CYI community meeting. The Fremont youth council will also be participating in Your Money, Your Goals training together. They identified two topics for each monthly Enrichment Night. In January, they focused on the self-assessment and looking at their money picture. They also invited other CYI youth to the training who are not involved in the council. They will continue to participate in two topic each month until they’re finished, probably over the course of 5 or 6 months.



sarariffel_web_2015-01Staff Spotlight: Sara Riffel

What is your role at Nebraska Children?

I help with project management for Social Innovation Fund CYI statewide and co-lead the Social Innovation Fund LEAP initiative, and I’ve worked at NC for just over two years.

What do you enjoy most about the work?

I enjoy that each day is different and presents a new challenge. It’s a daily reminder that the work we are doing is new and innovative, and a lot of this older youth work hasn’t been done before, so we are helping to lead the charge.

What is one good piece of advice you’ve received?

“Never write or type anything that you wouldn’t want published in the newspaper.” Basically my mother’s way of saying written words can both hurt and help and always stay with you. Ironically, I grew up, started a blog, and fell in love with writing. In fact, I’d much rather write you an email, note, or text message than talk.

What is your favorite animal and why? 

I love all animals, so I have lots of favorites for different reasons. I love penguins because they share life with only one other penguin soul mate. I love panda bears because they have super fun personalities and I connect with similar personalities in people. I love dogs because of their loyalty. And I love sloths because we have a lot in common.

Nebraska Children's mission is to maximize the potential of Nebraska’s children, youth, and families through collaboration and community-centered impact.

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Posted in News and Events, Teen/Early Adulthood

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