Zeny: A Young Woman with an Incredible Work Ethic, Meets Her Goals and Says, “I Can’t Wait to Give Back One Day”

Zeny is a busy young woman. After achieving her associate degree in Business, she’s working hard on her bachelor’s degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is also a role model for her younger siblings, and a kind, smart, and reflective person.  

When Zeny and her husband moved from the small town of Hastings, Nebraska to Lincoln, she had to begin all over again. For anyone who has encountered not only a new chapter in life, but a new library, that transition can be scary, exciting, and abrupt.  

For Zeny, transplanting to Lincoln meant uprooting herself from her siblings, her comfort, and her supportive network. This transition also meant she would begin the next segment of her rigorous education at a new school.  

Zeny said her move was demanding. “I was juggling a lot at once,” she said. “There were all the expenses and stress that come with moving, plus adjusting to school, job-hunting, and more.”  

This year, Opportunity Passport™ has assisted 92 participants!
This year, Opportunity Passport™ has assisted 92 participants!

As Zeny continued to exercise her strong work ethic and resolve to create a new home, she had a few supports in place waiting for her in Lincoln. These resources weren’t people, per se, but programs that are offered through the Connected Youth Initiative (CYI).  

The CYI model is a statewide system comprised of services and resources for young people between the ages 14-25 who have experienced the foster care/juvenile justice and/or probation systems, homelessness, and/or human trafficking. One CYI component that helped Zeny along her way was Opportunity Passport™, which is implemented in Lincoln by Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders County. 

The Opportunity Passport™  Program was created as a Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.  This program is a core component of the Connected Youth Initiative across the state. Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties is the administrator of Lincoln’s Opportunity Passport™ program in partnership with Nebraska Children’s  Connected Youth Initiative.  

Opportunity Passport™’s benefits include the  participants’ ability to use a 3:1, 2:1, or 1:1 savings match. As an example of a 3:1 savings match in action: if a participant saves $2,000 for a car, the program provides $6,000 for her purchase, including insurance and registration.   

2:1 matches are also available for living and asset-specific costs such as housing, medical expenses, education, debt reduction, and investments.  

26 out of 92 participants made at least one asset purchase.

Finally,  a 1:1 match is available for stability-supporting purchases. Throughout the program, Opportunity Passport™  participants receive referrals and active case management. These services may include additional help with opening personal bank accounts and establishing or re-establishing personal credit.  

Zeny said Community Action and Opportunity Passport™ are, “Honestly, kind of a life-saver.” She said that she met both programs with a clear-cut focus. “They supported me in navigating my goals,” Zeny said.  

A cross-section of Opportunity Passport™'s recipients.
A cross-section of Opportunity Passport™’s recipients.

Her area of financial focus included reducing her debt, especially that which she’d accrued in medical bills. Zeny recently utilized her full Opportunity Passport™ funds to address her financial needs.  

She said, “I feel much more secure. I have the resources and confidence to pursue more opportunities on my own. I’m grateful for Community Action and Opportunity Passport™, and I can’t wait to give back one day.”  

Zeny, pictured above, said, “I can’t wait to give back one day!”

Each Nebraska community  implementing the full Connected Youth Initiative model offers resources like these for youth with foster care experience, including Central Navigation, Coaching, Opportunity Passport™, and Youth Leadership, all of which continue to be successful for participants like Zeny.    

Thank you for supporting the hard work of young people like Zeny. 

Opportunity Passport™ is one of the many supports and services that is part of the Connected Youth Initiative, which recently received a moderate evidence rating! Click here for more details.

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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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Posted in News and Events, Systems, Teen/Early Adulthood

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