Community Spotlight: Attendance

Local organizations work together to remove barriers to good attendance.

In the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, approximately 18,500 – or 14 percent of students – are absent enough days throughout the school year that absence alone puts their academics at risk. Of course there are several factors that contribute to academic success, but at United Way of the Midlands we are especially focused on one foundational piece of students thriving in their classrooms: showing up.

Chronic absence is understood as missing 10 percent or more of the school year, usually 18 or more days, for any reason including excused absences and suspensions.

There are key philosophical differences between chronic absence and what many are likely familiar with – truancy. Click graphic to expand.


A growing body of research links consistent school attendance to improved academic performance, college graduation rates and even long-term financial stability. When kids are there, they do better. But still children fall through cracks when it comes to measuring attendance in schools. Many buildings focus on counting the students who show up, and others don’t have the supports they need to examine how to help students who miss numerous days.

Ixchel Alvarado, a Bryan High graduate, shares her story about how UWM-program Pathways to Success helped her stay in school and succeed so that she could do something she wanted: play soccer.




Our community is focused on chronic absence because it engages students and families so that they can prevent absences from adding up in the first place, rather than doling out punishments when it’s already too late.

UWM, along with the Greater Omaha Attendance and Learning Services (GOALS) Center, helped bring together almost 30 local nonprofits, districts and government agencies dedicated to reducing chronic absenteeism. This group is known as the School Based Attendance Coalition, or SBAC.

We also created an online hub,, where the community can go to learn more and find resources and programs.

“All of us can make a difference by helping create a positive school climate that engages students and families in learning and sets the expectation that attendance matters.”

Melissa Mayo, Director of Community Impact at UWM and co-facilitator of SBAC.

Education leaders share their perspective on why attendance matters, how it can become an issue, and what we can do to help students get to school and succeed.

We are also working to remove barriers to attendance through our work with the Metropolitan Omaha Education Consortium (MOEC) – a group of districts, colleges and education-focused services. Attendance plays a vital role in MOEC and UWM’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading initiative to help students achieve reading proficiency by the end of the third grade, a critical metric for future student success.

“It has to be a lot of voices saying the same thing: ‘Being in school is important, helping children learn to read by the end of 3rd grade is vital.’ We can’t do it in silos – we have to work together.”

Martha Bruckner, Executive Director of MOEC

Student Story: Davon

Davon is a middle school student who was referred to Youth Attendance Navigators, a UWM-funded Urban League of Nebraska program, after missing 8 days of school. YAN began building a positive bond with him, and Davon shared that he shuttles between two households. He described his experience “like living two lives,” saying he is often conflicted in his sense of self-worth because he feels he operates under two separate rules of engagement and supervision.

Davon has remained steady in his progress; however, an altercation at school triggered a setback where he demonstrated an overabundance of emotional anger. Still, he chose to speak with his Navigator before a suspension was implemented, and he took responsibility for his actions. For Davon, reaching out to a caring adult when presented with conflict was a sign of personal growth, and is an example of how relationships within school settings can provide an additional layer of support for students who are struggling.

Our donors help fund several attendance-focused programs in the community:

  • Child Saving Institute
    • School and Family Enrichment
  • Father Flanagan’s Boys Home
    • South Omaha Schools Collaborative
  • Greater Omaha Attendance and Learning Services
    • GOALS Center

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  • Latino Center of the Midlands
    • Pathways to Success
  • Omaha Home for Boys
    • Omaha Home for Boys Residential Care Education Services
  • Urban League of Nebraska
    • Truancy Reduction Program
    • Violence Prevention and Youthful Offender Re-entry Program