February 2019 newsletter

VEX Robotics- Building a System of Excellence
By Gwyn Williams

Youth participating in VEX Robotics

One of Program Director, Gwyn Williams goals within the CFY afterschool programs is to provide as many students as possible with an opportunity to experience the inspiration, excitement, and learning that comes from participating in the VEX IQ Challenge. Her vision for the future is to have multiple CFY agency site teams participating in local, regional and national VEX Robotics competitions. Initially, Gwyn thought it would be as easy as purchasing the equipment and training the staff and then letting them run with it!! 

Over the last several years of working towards her goal Gwyn found that the first challenge to overcome is helping the site staff to understand that it is not necessary to be an engineer or even have specific technical skills to lead a VEX IQ Robotics Challenge team. After working through many other challenges, three Collective for Youth partnering agencies, DREAM, Civic Nebraska and Kids Can collaboratively hosted a summer robotics camp. A total of 9 agency staff and 60 youth participated in the 2018 Summer Robotics Camp.

To date, a total of 16 schools have participated in VEX Robotics, 7 schools have participated in a completion tournament, and two of those teams have made it to the regional finals.

Keep reading to hear from Program Director John Brady to learn why they encourage all of their students to participate in VEX Robotics!

Kids Can VEX Robotics Competition
by John Brady

Kids Can youth at the Vex Robotics Competition

Elementary and middle school is the most formative time in a young student’s life. The best way to instill a lifelong interest in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is to provide a fun, engaging, and hands-on opportunity to explore and experience it for themselves.

By its nature, the study of robotics inherently incorporates all four pillars of STEM. VEX IQ is a snap-together robotics system designed from the ground up to provide this opportunity to future engineers of all skill levels. By packaging advanced concepts into an accessible package, the system also naturally encourages teamwork, problem solving, and leadership for students as young as second grade!

On December 6th, Gilder Elementary hosted their first Vex Robotics League Competition for 15 local robotics teams. Teams came from all over the city, but five of them were teams from Kids Can Community Center sites including Gilder, Miller Park and Wakonda. The Omaha Area VEX IQ League’s mission is to provide convenient opportunities for elementary and middle school students in Omaha Metro area to compete in local robotics tournaments.  League Play dates are especially designed to be an introduction to VEX IQ for young and new teams, the shorter format allows each event to last about 2 hours.

The Championship Event for the Omaha Area VEX IQ League Play was held on Monday, January 28th.


Childcare Subsidies, LB329 –

Senator Katie Bolz

Affordable, high quality child care is vital to allow families to work, to keep children safe and to jump start a child’s learning and development. Unfortunately, childcare is very expensive and Nebraska is one of the least affordable states.

Collective for Youth and our partners supported a legislative bill to that would potentially increase the amount of money families could make and still qualify for child care subsidies. LB329 was introduced to the Health and Human Services committee on Friday February 8, 2019 by Senator Katie Bolz. LB 329 would allow for people to qualify for subsides while making up to 165% of the federal poverty guidelines, or $27,159 for a single parent and child. Bolz said that her measure would give low income families a boost towards self-sufficiency by reversing budget cuts enacted in 2002. 

The outsized costs of child care leaves Nebraska parents with few options, “My income meets my budget needs. Once this baby is born, I will be short $800/month unless I can find a child care that will take a toddler and infant for $1000/month, so far, that doesn’t exist – even for in home providers,” said Omaha mother Bobbi Jo Howard. “My electricity, car payment, car insurance, fuel, and food costs are also as low as they can be. I don’t subscribe to cable and my phone bill is currently covered by a family member. However, my child care, despite charging in the lower range for a center in the Omaha area, has wiped out my reserves and will soon be completely unaffordable when the child I am carrying is born.”

Many of Omaha’s agency partners drove to Lincoln to testify in front of the Health and Human Services committee. Robert Patterson, Chief Executive Director of Kids Can Community Center told the story of a mother whose three boys attend Kids Can.  The mother lost her child care subsides when she was promoted from $10 an hour to assistant manager. She still struggles to pay for child care and without Kids Can’s financial assistance, she wouldn’t have money to feed her family. Robert was quick to point out  Chris Tointon, President and CEO of YMCA of Greater Omaha said, “This bill is a solution for tremendous unmet need.  High quality child care programs can help lift a child out of poverty by providing education at the most critical time in their development. Lastly, Emily Koopmann, a site director with Civic Nebraska at Campbell Elementary talked about the need for students to stay afterschool even when their parents make slightly too much money to pay for the afterschool program.  She asks,“wouldn’t we want kids to say at school learning, rather than going home to empty house at the elementary age”?

To date, LB 329 has not advanced out of the health and human services committee. 

Express Yourself Art Exhibit
March 2nd, 2019 from 4-7 p.m. at the
B Side of Benson Theatre.
Don’t miss this upcoming exhibition! A collaboration with Why Arts and the Basic Hope Foundation. Featuring collaborative works by CLC students from McMillan, Marrs, Monroe, Morton, Norris, Lewis & Clark and King Science Magnet Middle schools.

Opening Reception for Express Yourself Art Exhibition March 2, 2019

The collaborative artwork of middle school students from Omaha Public Schools will be on display at The B Side of Benson Theatre, 6058 Maple Street, during the month of March.

The opening reception for the Express Yourself Art Exhibition is Saturday, March 2, from 4:00 to 7:00pm at B Side. The show is sponsored by WhyArts, the Basic Hope Foundation’s S.O.A.R. Program, Collective for Youth and Omaha Public Schools. S.O.A.R., a local after-school program, provides incentives for improved grades, program attendance and the Student of The Quarter Award, said Kim Jubenville, director of youth engagement at WhyArts.  The acronym “S.O.A.R.”stands for:
Self-control resulting from a greater understanding of oneself
Others for whom more compassion and empathy are developed
Appropriate attitudes and awareness in choosing effective conflict strategies
Relationship management at school, home and in the community

The student work will be created in February through a series of workshops led by WhyArts teaching artists Joe Broghammer, Amanda Caillau, Rich Chung, Kim Darling, Brandon Mass, Tom McLaughlin, Sarah Rowe, Katherine Scarpello and Hugo Zamorano. The participating middle schools are Monroe, Morton, McMillan, Marrs, Norris, Nathan Hale, Lewis & Clark and King Science Magnet. The March 2nd opening reception is free and open to the public. Attendees will be able to meet the artists and enjoy spoken word performances and refreshments. For more information, contact Jubenville at kim.jubenville@whyartsinc.org.

Community Organization Award

ULN President, Tom Warren; CFY Executive Director, Megan Addison; CFY Board President, Bob Whitehouse

A special thank you to Urban League of Nebraska for honoring Collective for Youth with the 2018 Community Organization Award at the  Equal Opportunity Day Luncheon on December 7th, 2018. We have so much to celebrate, yet work remains to ensure all Omaha students a bright future.

Upcoming trainings-Register today!

Youth Work Methods 205: Youth Culture
February 15th, 2019 @ CFY from 10am – noon

Youth Work Methods 206: Navigating the Lesson Plan
March 15 from 9-11 a.m.