Greg Emmel and Carolyn T. Miller, Executive Directors
For Immediate Release: August 6, 2020
United Way of the Midlands Awards $15,000 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 a $15,000 one-year grant from United Way of the Midlands. Thanks to the generosity of United Way donors, a Youth Academic Navigator (YAN) 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 2019-20 school year, the D2 Center served 339 youth through the YAN program and attempted to reengage nearly 210 students who had left school. Sixty-three students in the YAN program earned their high school diploma and many others are still enrolled. Twelve 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.
Samantha was starting to believe that a high school diploma wasn’t in the cards for her. After dropping out of school in both her junior and senior years, she tried working on a GED but found she lacked the motivation to continue. Her younger sister, Sara, started to struggle in school too. Sara’s school counselor recommended the D2 Center for support. During their intake appointment, Sara and her mother met Youth Academic Navigator Evelia Gutiérrez. This ended up being a game changer for Samantha, too.
That evening during dinner with her parents, siblings, grandma and husband, Samantha heard the news that her mother had learned that day from Evelia: she only needed 11 credits to graduate. According to Samantha, the news was a surprise. She applied to the D2 Center, completed intake, and Evelia became her YAN.
Evelia assisted Samantha with reenrolling in school. While she waited for the OPS Accelere Program to start in August, an eager Samantha took a summer elective class at the D2 Center for one credit. Through perfect attendance and hard work, she earned an “A” in the class. This helped her believe that she could start attending school again and be successful in the classes she took, even though it had been more than two years since she’d attended school. Evelia stayed in close communication with her when school started in August. She became pregnant but continued to attend school regularly. Since she wasn’t working, Evelia encouraged her to take full advantage of the opportunity at Accelere to attend school all day and earn two credits nearly every term. Samantha said she was “thankful with God for giving me a second chance and sending the Angel Evelia in my path. Having an extra support system means a lot to me. I want to make everyone proud.” Samantha became a proud December graduate and celebrated with her husband and family.
Although she isn’t currently working or making any immediate plans to attend school or a training program, she is focused on being a good mother and is determined that her children will get a good education. As is the case with many students who struggled to finish high school, the fact that she earned a diploma will always give her the opportunity in the future to pursue further education and be eligible for better jobs when her circumstances change.
“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 not only for the individual but also for the community as a whole. 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:
United Way of the Midlands (UWM) has served the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro for more than 95 years. Guided by best practices and community input, it approaches poverty in a specific way – a “united” way. With the support of volunteers, community partners and donors, UWM invests donor dollars efficiently and effectively in our local community. These dollars fund basic needs, education and financial stability programs at local nonprofits, creating a circle of support for people in need. 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.