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June 2018 Issue

From the Executive Director:
La Vida Buena

Staff Spotlight:
Stephanie Burkholder


College Possible


Grand Island Community Foundation


Heartland Workforce Solutions

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College is Possible for ALL Youth

Raising the Bar | Youth Pathways to Success | June 2018

In June of 2017, Peter Kiewit Foundation (PKF) awarded College Possible Omaha a $750,000 grant for general operating support over a three-year period. That support ensures that college admission and educational success is possible for capable low-income students through an intensive curriculum of near-peer coaching and support.

“College graduation should be determined by a student’s talent, motivation and effort; not by their zip code or family income,” says Arvin Frazier III, executive director for College Possible Omaha. “When we talk about the economic development of our community and how we can break certain cycles, the tried and true method of addressing generational poverty is through education.”

Powered by AmeriCorps members, College Possible Omaha assisted nearly 2,000 students last year in ten Omaha area high schools and over 90 colleges across the U.S. Coaches, who are recent college graduates themselves, meet with junior and senior high school students after school for two hours twice a week. High school students benefit from over 320 hours of programming that equips them with not only knowledge and information, but step-by-step guidance to finding the right college fit, filling out college and scholarship applications, writing essays and preparing for the ACT/SAT among other college ready activities.

But the support doesn’t stop there. “Our focus is two-fold, to and through college,” says Frazier III. “It’s about graduation, that’s the end goal.” College Possible Omaha continues to support and encourage students all the way through to college graduation with on-campus and virtual coaching. “We are putting together the necessary resources and supports to ensure the investment up front in our high school programming is successful for those students on the back end. It is important that we don’t lose sight of those end goals and prepare accordingly,” Frazier III adds.

“We have an incredible impact on assisting those students,” Frazier III says. “Being a partner with PKF helps us to facilitate and operationalize that talent and that motivation that is already there.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, College Possible Omaha juniors saw a 22 percent increase on ACT scores and 98 percent of that senior class gained admission to a four-year college or university. Those seniors collectively received over 1.9 million dollars in private and institutional scholarships, including 83 Susan Thompson Buffett Scholarships.

The organization saw 91 percent of the 2016 high school class enroll in college that fall which is 33 percent higher than the statewide average for low-income students; and reports a 74.4 percent first-to-second year college retention rate for that cohort. The national average is 68.7 percent for all students regardless of income background. This year’s goal is to surpass 75 percent. College Possible Omaha’s impact is substantial and far reaching for economic development in the community. “These students will be taxpayers not consumers,” Frazier III says.

He knows first-hand the power of education to break the cycle of poverty. Frazier III comes from a low-income background and benefitted from the personal guidance of a school counselor who recognized his potential and connected him with available resources. “Quite honestly, in one generation the cycle of generational poverty has been broken. Education offered me options and I’ve been able to pass that on to my sons,” he says.

“I have the joy of seeing happen on a much larger scale what happened for me personally and in my family,” Frazier III says of his work with College Possible Omaha.

Ana Perez-Villagomez, a College Possible student.

Ana Perez-Villagomez:

One Success Story of Thousands

“I take one opportunity and turn it into three, because life is about doing the unthinkable, the unimaginable, and the unstoppable,” says Ana Perez-Villagomez, a 2017 Omaha South graduate and College Possible Omaha participant.

During her senior year, she was chosen for the Better Make Room Student Advisory Council, which is Former Lady Michelle Obama’s college access campaign to celebrate higher education and elevate the voices of Gen-Z students. Ana is attending Barnard College in New York City. Her story represents thousands of other determined future leaders of the Omaha community that are a part of College Possible Omaha’s program for success.