National Seed Community: Omaha, NE

African-American Empowerment Network

About the Applicant

Established in 2006, the African-American Empowerment Network works together with residents and leaders to transform distressed neighborhoods and improve the economic condition and quality of life of African Americans and citizens of Greater Omaha. Their goal is to close long-standing gaps in employment, entrepreneurship, education, housing, and other factors to transform Omaha into a thriving & prosperous city, across every one of its zip codes and neighborhoods.

About the Project

The Empowerment Network is one of the organizations that helped reduce gun violence in North Omaha by 80 percent during the summer months; They’ve also been instrumental in decreasing African-American unemployment from 20.7 percent to 7.5 percent decreasing youth unemployment by 45 percent; and, increasing the graduation rate for African-American students by 17 percent over the past 10 years.

The goal of this project is to build on these successes and accelerate the pace of positive change by expanding Step-Up Omaha!, which recruits, trains, prepares, and places Omaha youth and young adults in paid summer jobs and work experience opportunities. Since 2008, the collective has helped 4,000 youth from lower income households explore careers and find jobs. The goal is to expand the program to support additional youth from the Asian, Hispanic, Native American, and immigrant communities in Omaha.

Mid-Year Update

From attending the MBK Rising! National Conference in Oakland to reaching a record number of participants in Omaha, the first six months of the African-American Empowerment Network’s partnership with the MBK Alliance has connected more youth than ever to career opportunities and experiences.

This year, the Network grew from an annual average of 150 participants to a record of 700 participants. The Network also saw success in their goal to reach other diverse communities—with applications and registrations from Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian and other groups increasing this year.

Another area of focus was increasing exposure to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. To achieve this goal, the Network is working with Metropolitan Community College and Omaha Public Schools to introduce participants to construction, robotics, architecture, IT, applied technology and other careers and sectors—all in an effort to provide more work experience opportunities.

Finally, the Empowerment Network hosted the Obama Foundation at the 12th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference. The Network used the conference as an opportunity to formally announce and launch the partnership with the Obama Foundation. The conference attracted over 450 participants, and media coverage far exceeded expectations.

Key Implementation Partners

  • MBK of the Heartland
  • Latino Center of the Midlands
  • Refugee Empowerment Center
  • Omaha Public Schools