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• OUR YOUTH

writing on the wall

The Proof is in the Numbers

OUTSIDE DR. ANTHONY DANCER’S OFFICE IN THE OMAHA HOME FOR BOYS SCHOOL IS WHAT SOME MAY CONSIDER JUST WRITING ON THE WALL. TO THE YOUNG MEN SEATED IN THE CLASSROOMS ACROSS THE HALL, IT’S MOTIVATION TO STAY FOCUSED ON THEIR STUDIES.

Other recent improvements at the Omaha Home for Boys School have also helped create an exciting and enthusiastic vibe in the halls. Expanding the teaching staff, opening an additional classroom, and implementing offline computer-based curriculum have all helped students gain a stronger focus on their schoolwork.

“Dr. D.”, as he’s known throughout campus, recognizes the young men who’ve earned a school credit by writing their names in colorful marker on his office window. He also keeps a running tally of all credits earned throughout the school year. At the end of each week, every student who earned a school credit is recognized at a lunchtime celebration and awarded a certificate and small incentive prize. Students can work their way up to earning larger incentive prizes, like snack packs and even a new pair of sneakers, for academic achievements and proper behavior.

Dancer is quick to note that it’s a team effort helping students stay motivated. “The teachers, house parents and support services such as recreation and the Youth Employment Program all play a vital role in giving students a well-rounded approach to learning and fostering a positive attitude toward academics,” he said.

It’s apparent that the recognition from “Dr. D.” not only has the students taking their studies more seriously, but the system has also boosted morale. “If I don’t get the students’ names written on my window promptly, they sure do let me know about it!” Dancer said. “The students are eager to be recognized because for some it’s the first time they’ve been in an environment where they’re receiving positive reinforcement.”

History of the Halls The Omaha Home for Boys School opened in August 2014 with six students and has grown to include all of the Home’s Residential Care youth. Certified teachers oversee the day-to-day teaching responsibilities of the Rule 18 high school that serves 32 students daily. Students are held accountable for attendance, participation, homework and tests – all the same expectations of a community school classroom – with a major focus on recovery and accrual of school credits. The school’s goals are to develop character traits and provide educational programming that leads to academic success, graduation, employment or higher education.

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Thanks to the significant changes taking place at the school, the young men studying within its halls are knocking it out of the park. During the 2016-2017 school year, they earned 368 total credits. That’s more than double the 174 total credits earned the previous school year. On average, students are progressing more than one grade level in math during their time in the Omaha Home for Boys School while reading improvements are even more impressive with an average increase of more than three grade levels. As in any high school, a culmination of the year’s academic activities took place last spring when four young men gave heartfelt graduation addresses during the commencement ceremony. Aside from their crisp diplomas and pride of accomplishment in their beaming faces, they all made one common statement in their speeches: “I would not be where I am today without Omaha Home for Boys.”

About Omaha Home for Boys The Omaha Home for Boys provides care and support for at-risk youth ages 14-24 as part of its mission to Support and Strengthen Youth, Young Adults and Families. The Omaha Home for Boys is committed to providing services that equip and inspire young men and women to lead independent and productive lives through three core programs: Inspiration Hill Residential Care, Jacobs’ Place Transitional Living and Branching Out Independent Living. As the Home approaches its 100th anniversary in 2020, the organization will continue to adapt to meet the needs of youth, young adults and families throughout the community.

mQUARTERLY • AUG/SEP/OCT 2017

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