The Omaha Community Foundation awarded a total of $163,444 to 19 local organizations from three specialized grant funds: Creche Childhood Education FundJetton Charitable Fund, and Richard A. Shaw Fund. Each fund supports specific programming in the community driven by the intent of donors who established the grant programs.

Creche Childhood Education Fund

The Creche Childhood Education Fund was established following the closure of the Creche Home for Children in 2014. The Fund continues the organization’s 127-year legacy of serving youth in Omaha by distributing a maximum of $25,000 a year to nonprofits providing educational services to underserved children.

> Completely KIDS: $3,770 for Pre-K to Second Grade Education and Enrichment Programs. These programs provide educational and social-emotional growth activities for 60 children ages three to seven. Similar to a classroom environment, children rotate from center to center to gain experiences in a variety of opportunities. Some centers Completely KIDS will add or enhance with funding include Blocks, Dramatic Play, Art Manipulatives (puzzles, peg boards, Legos, lacing shapes, etc.), Library Science/Discovery, and Music and Movement.

> Omaha Performing Arts: $5,000 for Wolf Trap Program. Omaha Performing Arts is establishing a national partnership with Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts to bring Pre-K arts education programming to Omaha Public Schools (OPS) and parents/caregivers with children ages 3-6. The nationally affiliated program uses the following tools to educate preschool children: music, dance, theater, puppetry, and storytelling. Professional Teaching Artists will partner with early childhood educators and create activities that target curriculum and developmental goals, including emerging literacy skills, social interaction, and self-expression. Wolf Trap residencies will provide professional development for teachers in arts-based instruction techniques they can employ in their classrooms. The program will also provide training for Teaching Artists, family classes, educator workshops, and more.

> Pear Tree Performing Arts: $10,000 for Research-Based, Inclusive Creative Movement and Creative Drama Curriculum. Grant funding support Pear Tree’s efforts to enhance class offerings, purchase supplies, increase outreach partners, and begin incorporating programming for students with neurodivergent and unique behavioral needs in the fall of 2022. Pear Tree aims to ensure all youth have access to quality and affordable performing arts instruction and experiences. This is met through a data-driven curriculum, community partnerships, and a whole-child and village approach to program delivery.

> SPARKPositivity: $3,000 for Spark Generational Love. Funds will be used to have all sites participate in Service-Learning Projects and continue expanding SPARKPositivity’s SEL program in South Omaha. Currently, they have only been able to have two sites in North Omaha participate in Service Learning Projects for the elderly. Youth learn the importance of respecting, remembering, and relating to the elderly.

> The Big Garden: $5,000 for Grow Your Own Education Program. Each summer, The Big Garden hires young adult interns to work in childcare settings, teaching kids to grow, cook, and preserve garden produce. Interns receive extensive training in urban agriculture, food security, and working with children. Interns follow a 10-week curriculum, which covers topics such as soil health and composting, companion planting, pollinators, harvesting, the food chain, cooking, food preservation, and more. In 2021, The Big Garden taught at over 50 sites, reaching over 1,000 kids each week.

Jetton Charitable Fund

The Jetton Charitable Fund supports youth exposure to the performing and visual arts, in addition to student exposure to STEM and/or history programs. The Fund places an emphasis on programs offered by area cultural institutions or nonprofits, rather than traditional classroom instruction.

> Circle Theatre: $8,000 for Playwriting Discovery Program. This program is an interactive series of playwriting workshops developed specifically for students in middle school special education classrooms and school-aged children at nonprofits focused on disabilities. Over six sessions, playwrights and teaching artists will lead participants through the process of writing a play, including story structure, conflict, dialogue, scene setting, and character development. Students will engage in creative drama exercises to create their own fairytale resulting in the creation of a 10-minute play and the development of a new communication tool for students.

> City Sprouts: $7,500 for Seed to Table: Educational Programming with City Sprouts. City Sprouts will use funding to support their hands-on youth education programs in the natural sciences and botany, as well as horticulture, animal care, and cooking. The desired outcome of these programs is to provide youth across Omaha opportunities to connect with and learn from the natural world within an urban environment.

> DIBS for Kids: $12,000 for Introducing STEAM to Early Readers. DIBS for Kids (Delivering Infinite Book Shelves for Kids) provides diverse, culturally representative, and leveled books for independent reading for 4,000 kindergarten through third grade students throughout Omaha and Nebraska, providing exposure to, and curiosity about, cultures, natural wonders, and historical narratives, while encouraging and reinforcing literacy skills. This project will allow DIBS to add 750 STEAM books into classrooms, from emergent, early readers to fluent readers.

> Institute for Holocaust Education (Jewish Federation of Omaha): $5,575 for Art & the Holocaust. This is an innovative Holocaust-related project for middle school art teachers, culminating with an exhibition at the Jewish Community Center and a special evening with students, their guests, and Holocaust survivors. The exhibition includes a virtual component allowing the project to be viewed and used outside of Omaha, along with professional development opportunities. This project increases knowledge and empathy related to the Holocaust, and art’s role in this history.

> KANEKO: $10,000 for Youth Core Education Programs: Creative Exploration of Arts & STEAM Disciplines. The Youth Core Education Programs offer youth opportunities within the arts/STEAM to explore creativity in these disciplines under mentorship. Through Creative Careers, students learn from local professionals in a creative field about how creativity can lead to a successful career. In partnership with Ross Leaders and Youth for Greater Good, KANEKO’s Community After School provides a safe space for primarily South Sudanese students twice a week in classes on leadership, reading comprehension, and artistic/creative activities. Art for Me empowers youth with neurodiverse needs to increase their artwork visibility and merit, with mentorship from qualified artists. At Creative Camps, youth work with local STEAM professionals to explore creativity and its intersection with art, education, science, design, technology, and philosophy.

> Kids Can Community Center: $14,934 for STEMsmart Academy. The purpose of STEMsmart Academy is to engage children through the traditional STEM curriculum of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and go beyond it by incorporating Strength, Music, Art, Reading, and Tutoring. Experiencing new technologies helps strengthen student’s skills in STEMsmart areas so they will be better prepared in school and in the future workforce.

> Nebraska Writers Collective: $10,000 for All Writes Reserved Youth Poetry Festival. All Writes Reserved (formerly known as Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains) pays accomplished local poets to visit 45+ Nebraska high schools, providing eight months of free mentoring to over 600 students in the art of performance poetry. Students perform their pieces publicly during a month-long tournament designed around diversity and inclusiveness. The program curriculum was recently revised by a paid BIPOC-led internal team to focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and is expanding to schools and partner sites that serve high proportions of students who identify as BIPOC. Students participating in this program achieve full mastery of the arts of writing and performing poetry, develop public speaking skills, and have deepened empathy, understanding of, and respect for diverse peers they otherwise would not have had opportunities to interact with.

> Omaha Conservatory of Music: $15,000 for String Sprouts. String Sprouts offers free violin, viola, cello, and bass lessons—including materials and instruments—and performance opportunities to underserved children aged 3 to 9 years old. String Sprouts is a groundbreaking early-education program designed to: (1) close the learning gap for underserved children, (2) enable underserved children to break the cycle of poverty, and (3) equip caregivers of these children with resources to enable successful study habits, which promotes kindergarten readiness and sets children on a trajectory of academic success and employment.

> Omaha Symphony Association: $15,000 for 2022/23 Margre Durham Concerts for Youth: Latin Rhythms. Concerts for Youth, the Omaha Symphony’s longest-running education program, integrates musical instrument curriculum with an immersive concert experience to teach music literacy and cultural competency skills to third through sixth grade students. Teachers are provided with classroom curriculum that meets six Nebraska State Standards for Education, providing much needed support to area music educators and classrooms. The 2022/23 Concerts for Youth program will debut commissioned play-along songs by composer Enrico Lopez-Yañez focused on exploring Latin rhythms from South and Central American cultures, while connecting the music students will learn to play with the culture of local Omaha neighborhoods.

> Opera Omaha: $15,000 for 2022-2023 Community Engagement and Education Programs for Children and Youth. These programs will serve approximately 6,000 children and youth through Opera Outdoors, a bilingual, family friendly concert with interactive activities in the Kids Zone; a Poetry & Music Project where K-12 students are invited to participate in writing workshops and submit works of poetry on selected themes that will then be set to music and played at a public concert; Student Dress Rehearsals where Opera Omaha welcomes hundreds of students to experience opera through their free Student Dress Rehearsal program at the Orpheum Theater; and the Holland Community Opera Fellowship, which fulfills unmet needs for arts experiences, education, and appreciation, working with partners to create safe spaces in which participants can explore their own creative expression.

> University of Nebraska Foundation: $20,000 for UNO College of Communication Fine Arts and Media Summer Musical Theatre Academy 2023 Program. Funds will help provide a tuition-free college-level experience for high school students interested in the performing arts, technical theatre, design, and stage management. The month-long musical theatre workshop culminates in a production (three performances) open to the Omaha community. Students who participate gain professional level musical theatre experience while developing confidence, discipline, professionalism, creativity, leadership, and exposure to a larger, more diverse citywide community.

Richard A. Shaw Fund Grant Recipients

The Richard A. Shaw Fund awards grants to organizations with a focus on history, the natural sciences, outdoor education, or animals. It was established to honor the life and legacy of Richard A. Shaw, a graduate of Benson High School and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, who worked as a teacher in Ralston and Elkhorn schools throughout his life. Each year the fund distributes $3,500 through two grants that support an organization’s mission.

> Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands: $1,165 for Expanded North Omaha Fishing Club. The Fishing Club is housed at the North Omaha Club and aims to introduce members ages 12-18 to fishing and the natural world—a different experience than one found in the city neighborhoods. The intended outcomes of Fishing Club are the development of leadership skills such as critical thinking, positive decision-making, and confidence as well as learning how to fish, which will in turn develop a curiosity for other outdoor sports and activities.

> DIBS for Kids: $1,000 for Nature Books for Early Readers. DIBS for Kids (Delivering Infinite Book Shelves for Kids) provides diverse, culturally representative, and leveled books for independent reading for over 4,000 kindergarten through third grade students throughout Omaha and Nebraska. They partner with elementary schools whose students have free and reduced lunch eligibility over 70% and/or students of color over 60%. DIBS leverages the best of what classroom, school, public libraries and book giveaways offer without the barriers of time, transport, and finances. Access to nature books is particularly important for children in low-income families. The same barriers that limit book access also limit trips to spaces that expose kids to the beauty and diversity of nature.

> Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy (HETRA): $1,500 for Miniature Horse Onsite Learning Program in Partnership with Duet. Many of the participants with developmental disabilities served by Duet are unable to leave their day locations for long periods as they experience anxiety and depression. During previous visits to Duet, we discovered more people could participate in HETRA’s programming. Through this program, HETRA brings miniature horses to organizations like Duet within the Omaha Metro. Licensed Occupational Therapists and Certified Instructors collaborate with Duet to offer programming that provides participants with social emotional learning. This program is the perfect fit for participants at Duet seeking hands-on learning opportunities to support their mental wellness without having to leave a familiar environment.

Visit the Field of Interest Funds page for more information about each of these funds and their application dates.