In 2009, based on three years of ground work and collaboration, the Empowerment Network worked with the Omaha Public Schools District and a number of other partners to develop a comprehensive plan for education in North Omaha referred to the as the Cradle to Career Initiative. It integrates best practices from leading efforts around the nation and builds on the feedback and insights from literally thousands of parents, students, community leaders, elected officials, business executives, faith leaders, community activists, and representatives from hundreds of organizations. Now, seven years later, the collaborative has grown tremendously.
The findings and recommendations from the North Omaha Cradle to Career Initiative have been wrapped into the Empowerment Network’s 7 Step Model and Transformation Plan that was submitted in 2010 and 2011 as a Promise Neighborhoods federal grant application. While the Network has not received the highly competitive federal grant, the collaborative model and framework received some of the highest scores in the country. The U.S. Department of Education has recognized the model as a high scoring and highly recommended strategy.
The Empowerment Network and partners will work to apply for an implementation grant that will build on the solid foundation that has been created over the past five to ten years by OPS and community partners. It serves as a great opportunity to refocus our attention on collective and collaborative approaches. With or without the grant, partners have continued moving forward with the key elements of the plan. The Cradle to Career Strategy includes nearly 100 organizations, but the core group includes: The Empowerment Network, Omaha Public Schools, Urban League of Nebraska, Omaha Education Association, Learning Community, Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College, Omaha Economic Development Corporation, 100 Black Men of Omaha, Midlands Mentoring Partnership, Collective for Youth, Charles Drew Health Center, Douglas County Commissioners and Health Department, College is Possible, African-American Achievement Council and others. The Learning Community has worked with the AIM Institute, community partners, and OPS to develop a strategic plan for Sub-Council 2 which fits perfectly within the Cradle to Career model. All of these organizations have current projects at various stages inside the North Omaha Village Zone focus area.
Moving Forward. The visionary goal of the Cradle to Career Initiative: 100% of students moving from the cradle to successful entry into the career field of their choice. Yes, 100%! Along the way, we have established critical benchmarks: 1) All students are prepared to enter kindergarten. 2) All students achieve academically – on grade level or above. 3) All students graduate from high school with a marketable skill and prepared for college/post secondary training. 4) All students are provided an opportunity to give back to their community through service and civic engagement. 5) All students graduate from college/post secondary training and successfully enter the career of their choice or launch a successful business. Each goal has specific measures, strategies, and identified actions, with an emphasis on evaluation, outcomes and longitudinal data.
In addition to the supports needed for students, the Network’s holistic strategy incorporates the other key elements of the 7 Step Empowerment Plan. Realizing that we need to surround students with positive and supportive environments, we are partnering with community organizations to implement initiatives in these areas: 1) Employment and Entrepreneurship, 2) Education and Youth Development, 3) Housing, Neighborhoods, and Transportation, 4) Faith and Hope, 5) Violence Intervention and Prevention, 6) Health and Healthy Families, 7) Arts, Culture, History, Entertainment, and Communications.