March Connected Youth Initiative roundup

This month’s CYI roundup brings lots of Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) activity, site visits, and a renewed youth interest in legislation. Read on to see what we’ve been up to over the past month.


National LEAP partners visit Omaha office

LEAP national partners Jobs for the Future and School and Main Institute traveled to Omaha for the third LEAP site visit this year. The purpose of the site visit was to review year one and create the implementation plan for year two of the LEAP initiative. As year one ends in March, we celebrate 145 youth enrolled in college and 101 students who retained from first semester or term to a second and third semester or term via LEAP. The highlight of the visit were two focus groups with 18 LEAP Scholar students who shared their experiences, successes, challenges, and ideas. The students’ stories were powerful, and their courage to openly share was inspiring! It was so impressive to hear their willingness and excitement to be involved in developing a pipeline to education, mentoring new LEAP Scholar students, recruiting students by sharing their own stories, and asking us for internship and apprenticeship experiences to help launch their careers. The students’ message was loud and clear: their relationship with the LEAP partners is what makes the difference. Every student who participated in the site visit said the relationship with the LEAP staff was the best thing about college. During the site visit debrief, the partners specifically highlighted the strength of Nebraska’s LEAP collaboration and said that it is unlike anything going on at other LEAP or Back on Track sites. They were impressed with how well all the partners work together and are so willing to share strategies and ideas with one another. Year two begins April 1, 2017, and the goal is to enroll 132 new youth into college via the LEAP initiative.



Jim Casey site visit

Leslie Gross, Senior Associate and Nebraska Site Coordinator, and Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, Director, from Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative joined us in Omaha and Lincoln on February 22 and 23. Leslie and Sandra met with CYI and Project Everlast staff to discuss Nebraska priorities, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative priorities, and how they
align. NC staff also talked about the components of the model in both rural and urban communities and engaged in a very positive Q&A with Leslie. Leslie and Sandra also led a successful funders’ collaborative meeting in Omaha with LEAP and Opportunity Passport funders. Day one ended with an energizing dinner with several young people to discuss Legislative Day and youth priorities. On day two, meetings took place with DHHS and Nebraska’s First Lady, Susanne Shore, to discuss policies, strategies, and partnership. The visit concluded with Sandra’s testimony at the HHS Committee Hearing for LB 179. The site visit was an opportunity to highlight prior success and strategize for the future.



Youth participate in Legislative Day at the Capitol

On February 11-13, 19 youth from the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council (GYAC) and the Connected Youth Initiative (CYI) gathered to learn about and engage in the legislative process at their annual Legislative Day. This youth-planned and youth-facilitated event aims to connect youth from diverse backgrounds around civic engagement and provide an opportunity for them to have a voice. The learning experience culminated in a day at the Capitol that exposed youth to all three branches of government. Youth visited their senators’ offices and watched floor debate. They shared bill presentations with senators over lunch and in a meeting with Governor Ricketts. Youth left energized and full of ideas for their next steps and ways to make next year’s event even better. Read the full story here.


LB487 youth presenters.


“Think of Us” app to launch this month

Nebraska is nearing the first launch of the exciting and innovative Think of Us app and website technology! The Think of Us platform is an evidence-informed life coaching app and website that will empower unconnected youth to build their personal advisory board of supportive adults from both the system and personal network in order to help them navigate life in the system and their journey to thrive as adults. The coaching app and website will provide young people, their supports, and professionals with interactive videos, self-coaching activities, social media connections, a request system, alert response and planning tools to help them identify and set personal goals and objectives, a virtual locker, and a self-empowerment framework to achieve their goals. The technology will be available to Nebraska’s unconnected youth population, with a pilot in Omaha and expansion statewide within 12 months. Due to unique challenges to technology in rural settings and a need to identify possible partners for cloud storage, a pilot app and website will be developed for the urban setting in Omaha and Lincoln prior to rollout into rural areas of Greater Nebraska. Sixto Cancel, Executive Director of Think of Us and Jim Casey Young Fellow, is the creator of the platform and partnered with NC and Nebraska’s young people to develop the platform specifically for Nebraska. The first version of the platform will be available for launch this month.


clairebuddenberg_web_2016-01Staff Spotlight: Clair Buddenberg, Assistant Vice President of Program Evaluation for CYI

What is your role at Nebraska Children?

I have been with Nebraska Children since October 2016. I primarily support research and evaluation efforts surrounding the Foundation’s older youth initiatives. Right now, most of my work revolves around our two Social Innovation Fund grants.

What do you enjoy most about the work?

I love that NC invests in systems-level change to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our state. This commitment to having a true impact comes with exciting challenges, which is very motivating. In addition, everyone at NC is passionate as well as highly skilled/knowledgeable in their respective areas. Because of this, I think we are all able to help each other and our communities grow.

Is there a quote or saying that is particularly meaningful to you? If so, what is it and why?

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This quote is a simple reminder for me of how important it is to have others at the table, especially as I find myself trying to attempt work on my own.

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

While we often focus on changing the whole world, it’s just as important to remember the difference we can make in one person’s world.

What is in your refrigerator? 

Lots and lots of cheese. There are usually at least five different kinds because I can never choose just one!.

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 Legislature, News and Events, Teen/Early Adulthood

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