Summer Camp attendees visit Henry Doorly Zoo.

NorthStar Foundation  Guides Students to Success

Raising the Bar | Youth Pathways to Success | February 2017

Peter Kiewit Foundation (PKF) awarded the NorthStar Foundation a grant totaling $375,000 for operating support over the next three years.

“First and foremost, the contribution itself allows us to do the work that we seek to do each and every day,” says Scott Hazelrigg, NorthStar Foundation president. “By having multi-year operating grants from organizations like PKF it allows us to more strategically plan one, two and three years down the road.”

NorthStar’s mission is to change young men’s lives through programming that supports, challenges, inspires and instills a life rooted in education, self-discipline and service.  After school and summer programming aims to combat startling statistics in North Omaha by finding creative ways to build relationships, expand academic and life skill application, and teach students to advocate for themselves both in the classroom and in life.

“The African American young men from this neighborhood are on average only graduating 50 percent of the time, which is the third lowest of major metropolitan areas across the country,” says Charlie Olsen, director of donor relations at NorthStar Foundation.

A key predictor for on-time graduation is ninth grade readiness in terms of GPA and significant school absences or other barriers to educational engagement. “For a young man that is not on track at the end of his ninth grade year, there is less than a 60 percent chance that he will graduate on time,” Olsen says.

NorthStar initially offered programming for boys in fifth through eighth grades when they opened their doors in May of 2014.  “Now those original eighth graders are in 11th grade. They’ve grown up with us,” Hazelrigg says. “We made the strategic decision to also grow down to third grade based on recommendations from our staff,” he adds.

“In third grade the focus shifts from learning to read to using reading to learn,” Olsen explains. “About 80 percent of our students were two grade levels behind in reading.” Last year NorthStar students in third through eighth grades gained two years in reading competency.

NorthStar engages youth by focusing on five program areas of academic achievement, athletics and healthy lifestyles, adventure and experiential learning, arts immersion and employment readiness. After school programming serves on average 180 students each day with 200 students actively participating in  their eight-week full-day summer camp. They provide daily transportation from 31 different schools.

The number of students served has grown dramatically over the last four years. “Our concern is that we don’t want to just grow wide but grow deeper in the academic outcomes that we are seeking for our students,” Hazelrigg says. “That’s what we were built and designed to do—to move the needle for our kids—to be able to put them on a trajectory to have successful lives where they are able to support themselves and their families and have meaningful careers.”

“That’s what we were built and designed to do – to move the needle for our kids – to be able to put them on a trajectory to have successful lives where they are able to support themselves and their families and have meaningful careers.”

– Scott Hazelrigg, NorthStar Foundation President

Students experience new skills in Arts Immersion opportunities.

NorthStar storms the court after scrimmaging during half-time at the 2017 UNO Mavericks/NorthStar Night Men’s Basketball game. NorthStar supported 13 basketball teams for third through eighth grades this season.

“For a young man that is not on track at the end of his ninth grade year, there is less than a 60 percent chance that he will graduate on time.”

– Charlie Olsen, Director of Donor Relations at NorthStar Foundation

NorthStar interns hang out in the lobby.