Greg Emmel and Carolyn T. Miller, Executive Directors
For Immediate Release: July 17, 2019
United Way of the Midlands Awards $24,000 Grant to the D2 Center to Fund Youth Academic Navigator (YAN) / Reengagement Specialist Program
(Omaha, Nebraska.) The D2 Center is pleased to announce it was recently awarded another $24,000 grant from United Way of the Midlands. Thanks to the generosity of United Way donors, a Youth Academic Navigator (YAN) added to the team last year will continue to reengage and support high-risk youth ages 15-21 who are struggling to finish their high school diploma. YANs build a caring relationship and help students focus on attendance, academics, and connections to needed resources in the community.
Every year, each YAN serves as a case manager for about 50 high school youth voluntarily participating in the D2 Center program. These high-risk youth may not graduate on time, are attending an alternative school, or have dropped out. After completing intake/assessment, students are assigned a YAN. YANs check in with their students frequently and communicate with other adults who care about the student’s progress. The D2 Center has a contract with Omaha Public Schools (OPS) to do outreach to students who withdraw from school but are eligible to enroll, and YANs attempt to reengage these dropouts to reenroll in school.
High school dropouts have fewer employment opportunities and a much lower earning potential; they experience higher rates of incarceration and health problems; they are also more likely to rely on public assistance and to live for extended periods of time in poverty compared to high school graduates. A high school diploma is recognized as a better gateway to postsecondary education compared to a GED.
With the help of this grant, the D2 Center will serve more students. During the 2018-19 school year, the D2 Center served 369 youth through the YAN program and attempted to reengage nearly 250 dropouts. Seventy-eight students in the YAN program earned their high school diploma and many others are still enrolled. Twenty dropouts reengaged and graduated, and many others are also still enrolled. The D2 Center YAN / Reengagement Specialist Program aligns with United Way of the Midlands efforts to increase levels of education, attainment of marketable skills, and services to opportunity youth in the Omaha Metro – defined as youth ages 16-24 who are not working and not in school.
Shayla dropped out of high school 16 credits short of graduation. Kelsey, a D2 Center Reengagement Specialist, made multiple efforts to contact her about returning to school, finally leaving her card at Shayla’s home as a last attempt. Shayla soon reached out to Kelsey. She had been incarcerated, had been running with the wrong crowd, lacked family support, and had gotten pregnant since dropping out. However, she was motivated and ready to try engaging in school again. Kelsey assisted her getting reenrolled in school and connected to NECC’s Teen and Young Parent Program. But other issues surfaced that resulted in Shayla not attending school: transportation, housing instability, and depression.
For months Shayla continued to struggle and made no progress in school. She applied to the D2 Center program and Kelsey became her YAN. With help she found childcare and she secured a second job and was able to afford a car. As the 2018-19 school year began, Kelsey reminded her this would be her last chance to graduate because of her age. She earned some credits during the year in two OPS alternative programs, Independent Studies and Accelere. As the summer of 2019 approached, she had until late July to earn several more credits. Kelsey lined her up with a D2 Center math tutor to assist with one math class, and kept in close touch with Shayla and the staff at Accelere to be sure she was maximizing every opportunity to earn credits. But then her car was impounded and her babysitter suddenly left on a vacation for a week—again, Kelsey helped connect Shayla with resources so she could continue to make progress. Shayla is now on track to graduate on July 24, and her seven-year journey to earn a high school diploma is nearly over. And at commencement, Kelsey will be there to help her celebrate.
“United Way of the Midlands’s support for the D2 Center’s YAN and Reengagement programs is much appreciated. Earning a high school diploma is a crucial life step and we won’t give up on the young people in our community as they strive for success. We want to thank everyone who donated to the United Way, assisting us in our efforts,” said Greg Emmel, Executive Director of the D2 Center.
About United Way of the Midlands:
Thanks to donors, volunteers and community partners, United Way of the Midlands (UWM) is not only focused on addressing our community’s human needs today; it is focused on what can be and what should be. It is building on today’s strong partnerships to create even more comprehensive human service efforts tomorrow, so our community can solve some of the root causes of poverty. UWM is community-based, community-focused. Thanks to those who share their strength, UWM is COMMUNITY STRONG. Please visit UnitedWayMidlands.org for more information
About the D2 Center:
The mission of the D2 Center is to connect out-of-school and disengaged youth ages 15-21 into an educational pathway with other resources and supports needed to earn a high school diploma and prepare for post-secondary opportunities and a career. Our services are:
- Youth Academic Navigator: YANs are education-focused case managers who check in with their students frequently and help with issues as they emerge to ensure students are making progress and earning credits in school.
- Tutoring and Elective Classes: Tutoring is offered two afternoons a week and elective credit classes are offered in the summer. Certified teachers specialize in creating a small, caring classroom environment with a focus on individual students and their success.
- Career Navigator: The Career Navigator assists students with postsecondary planning and connections for both career and educational opportunities. Services are also available to graduates.
- Reengagement Partnership: D2 Center staff members work closely with OPS staff to reengage students who have withdrawn from school but are eligible to enroll. Nearly all dropouts who choose to reenroll attend an OPS Multiple Pathways program.