insideWLC – Summer Edition, August 2015

Investing in our Community’s Future

There is true power when a group of engaged and committed citizens gather – when people combine their skills and passion, and work toward a common goal.

Although we come from many backgrounds and perspectives, members of the Women’s Leadership Council share an important belief: that we have a responsibility to use our talent and resources to keep our community strong.

Compassion for our most vulnerable neighbors runs strong in our group, in concert with education and action. There’s no greater evidence of this than the “Train to Gain for Student Success” initiative.

In just seven short months, our group has raised an impressive $450,000 to support expanded training for front-line staff members at 31 out-ofschool time youth programs across Omaha. With this valuable professional development, the staff members will be even better prepared to help children and teens become Classroom Ready, and one day, Workforce Ready as well.

As we celebrate this achievement, the WLC is also preparing to welcome new corporate members to our group. With additional perspective offered by these women, it will strengthen our discussion, and increase our capacity to make a positive impact on the community’s quality of life.

At the heart of these efforts and many others, Annette Smith has offered her thoughtful assessments and community-minded focus. As chair, she has guided our group with intelligence and grace, never failing to provide strong leadership or the follow-through required to execute a project.

As Annette completes her term as WLC Chair, we offer deep thanks for her leadership. We will honor her work by building upon it in the coming year. Momentum is a valuable resource that we will invest for our community’s future.


In just seven months, the United Way of the Midlands Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) has achieved its threeyear
goal to raise $450,000 for a new project to increase the classroom success of children who attend out-of-school time (OST) youth programs in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area.

The WLC team has now fully funded the “Train to Gain for Student Success” initiative, which is a partnership of the WLC, United Way, and Collective for Youth. It will focus on providing expanded training for 250 front-line staff members at 31 OST program sites at 13 local nonprofit youth agencies. “Train to Gain” has three main focus areas:

  • identify specific staff training needs
  • provide high-quality research-based instruction to reinforce initial training provided to staff members
  • measure the impact of the new training provided

The immediate goal of the enhanced professional development is to build upon already-strong local after-school programs that serve at least 4,500 students in metro-area. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the learning experiences and achievements of children who live in poverty, so they can achieve success in school, at the workplace and achieve economic stability. The advanced professional training is scheduled to begin this fall. The WLC offers thanks to those who have given so generously.


The statistic is disturbing: more than 10,000 young people in the metro Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area are not attending school or working.* That’s a large number of 16-to-24 year olds who are disconnected from institutions and relationships that can serve to stabilize their lives, and provide personal and economic stability.

This group of young people, known as “Opportunity Youth”, will be the focus of the upcoming “Mary C. Lopez Lunch and Learn” on August 19th at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, hosted by the UWM Women’s Leadership Council.

UWM President and CEO, Shawna Forsberg will moderate the discussion, with an esteemed panel of local experts:

• Mary Fraser Meints – Executive Director of Youth Emergency Services (YES)
• Cambria Kelly – YES Student Advisor
• Rhonda Newman – Executive Director of Project Everlast
• Greg Emmel – Executive Director of D2 Center

The event is “first come, first served” and RSVPs can be made to Matthew Reinarz at United Way, (402) 522-7910 or

*Brookings Institution, 2010


The Leadership Giving team at United Way has welcomed a new member. Mikaela Borecky is UWM’s Director of Affinity Groups and she will concentrate much of her time and energy working with the Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) and our newly-forming Young Professionals group. She’s a native of Lincoln and graduated from UNL.

Mikaela has a strong background in leadership and development; most recently, she was Area Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Norman, Oklahoma where her responsibilities included development, and community outreach. While in Norman she also
served as President of the Junior League board.

Her arrival brings the UWM Leadership Giving team to full-strength, joining Rob Trebilcock, Senior Director of Individual Giving and Matthew Reinarz, Administrative Coordinator.


Members and friends of the Women’s Leadership Council recently focused their attention on Workforce Ready efforts in the metro area. The group toured Heartland Workforce Solutions (HWS), an organization that works with the public and private sector to expand employment opportunities for job seekers in Douglas, Washington and Sarpy counties. It is also reaching out to help employers whose job positions go unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. The goal is to make connections that help local job seekers build those needed skills, and empower local companies to reach full-strength. HWS Executive Director Erin Porterfield hosted the WLC event.

Located at 57th & Ames Avenue, the organization provides access to computers where clients can register and search for job leads through the Nebraska Department of Labor. But it also takes the important “next steps” to help individuals build their skills by offering workshops in basic computing, interviewing tips, job search and networking and resumebuilding. In addition, HWS hosts frequent job fairs at the site.

It also provides small office spaces to several Omaha employers, including Goodwill Industries, whose Business Outreach program is one of the 144 that are receiving United Way funding for 2015-16. Its business model complements HWS by establishing a single point of contact for both the employer and the participant, streamlining services and creating successful placements.

To connect someone with these and other helpful resources, the contact number is 402-444-4700.


Supporters of afterschool and summer education programs are celebrating passage of LB 519 in the Nebraska Legislature. For the first time, the state has its own definition of Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) and will distribute grants beginning in the summer of 2016. Specifically, the measure calls for one percent of the education funds generated by the Nebraska State Lottery to be put into the grant program for youth education services. The Department of Education will determine a process to distribute the funds.

For the time being, Nebraska’s ELOs continue to be supported by private funding and the federal 21st Century Community Learning
Centers grants. While the new state program represents a small part of LB 519 overall, it will serve to increase the number of summer and afterschool opportunities and make them available in more Nebraska communities.