Relevant links:

photo by Tim Fitzgerald

Connecting the Community

by Tim Kaldahl

January 2005

The Computer Technology Center (CTC) in a renovated North Omaha building once owned by Lozier manages to be several things at the same time. In a real-world way, it's a terrific classroom and computer lab space with great equipment. More thoughtfully, the center has become a place where better futures get launched.

"It's helping people who otherwise wouldn't even get to the starting blocks," said Tony Baker, one of two Urban League technology instructors at the CTC.  He and Linda McKleny, the other instructor, teach the center's "Independence Project" classes in a way that is both supportive and concrete for their students.  The two mix computer software instruction with advice on job searches, along with career and personal planning.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and the Urban League of Nebraska are partners in the CTC, which opened in 2002 on the second floor of the Gateway Building, 4402 N. 21st St.  The CTC's two classrooms – one large, one small – have more than 40 top-of-the-line computers supplied by UNO. 

"People who have never touched a keyboard are a lot of our clients," Baker said.  "What we've been telling them is that jobs where you think you don't need a computer, you need a computer.  The class makes a big difference."

The students in the Independence Project during the past year have ranged in age from teens to adults in their 50s.  Class meets six hours a day for twelve weeks, and students are expected to arrive on time, "just like work," McKleny said.  The students have been mostly female, unemployed and have little hands-on experience with technology.  The class starts by going even more basic than computer basics – getting people comfortable with the keyboard.  

The Independence Project students, UNO and Metropolitan Community College students in the area, and the public all can use the machines, which have Internet access and the Microsoft Office suite of programs.  Both spaces are also "smart classrooms" with instructor computers hooked into video projectors.  A second CTC site will open in South Omaha early in the spring semester.

More than 20 students graduated from the last Independence Project class section and another class will finish Jan. 28.  The students – many of who are attending thanks to tuition waivers from Nebraska Health and Human Services – get a solid grounding in many of the business world's most popular applications.

"I really didn't want the class to stop," said Michele Taylor, 25, who completed her Independence Project work in October.  "Twelve weeks, to me, was not enough."

Keyboard skills are always the starting point, followed by computer concepts, word processing, Internet navigation, basic spreadsheets, database files and presentation software.  Baker even opens up and takes apart a computer, and lets students put it together again as an exercise to make them more comfortable with the machines.  And getting comfortable with new equipment in a new setting helps.

"All inventory jobs in the city, from what we researched, are now computerized," said Lanyce Keel, assistant planning director for distance education at UNO.  "Auto shops have computer diagnostics for cars today, too."

Keel adds that making Independence Project students feel at ease with computers – along with the career advice – may be enough for some to help them enter the workforce.  For others, she said, the CTC can start them on a different path entirely.

"They can move through the educational ladder more easily," she said.

Taylor, who couldn't get enough of the Independence Project, is now very much on a different path, both for herself and her three children.  Less than two month after finishing at the CTC, she started at Metropolitan Community College.  She said she hopes to transfer to UNO in two years.

"You just have to set your mind to do it and do it," Taylor said.  The time spent working with the computer programs, along with working on presentation skills and short- and long-term planning, were valuable for her, she said.

"You almost look at it being fifty-fifty," McKleny said of the Independence Project.  The teaching focuses on both job training skills, and social and self-concept skills.  The majority of the computer program classwork takes place in the morning.  Afternoons are more about self-concepts, although the computer programs are used extensively.

Students examine their household budgets with Excel; job searches and career research can be done online; a final project that summarizes the class, along with recording personal and professional goals and dreams, are done in PowerPoint; and students give their presentations in front of an audience.

"If people don't have those skills (professional expertise and the ability to set goals), they'll always sit at home and not be able to do anything," McKleny said.

Tammy Francis, who also completed the Independence Project course, said she brought fairly good typing skills with her, but working with the instructors and other students made her less shy – and more likely to find a job.

"I know there's a company out there for me," she said.

When possible, McKleny and Baker take the Independence Project students to job fairs, as well.  

"This is a starting point," Baker said.  "When people start to succeed, they want to succeed more."

Michele Taylor's final presentation echoed Baker's point about success.  She said she hopes to eventually earn both computer and business degrees that would put her on the path to becoming a computer operations manager.  A personal goal, projected onto a screen for everyone to see, thanks to PowerPoint, was simply "living nicer and happy."  Her presentation ends with  "And being a working mom, I can see it all."

Tim Kaldahl is assistant director of media relations at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  He can be reached at


October 2012 > A Closer Look at IS&T's NUCIA

October 2012 > UNO Engages Students, Community for 2012 Elections

October 2012 > National Cyber Security Month Highlights UNO Programs, Research

May 2012 > Dan McDermott Named Employee of the Year at UNO

December 2011 > Conference Tags

September 2011 > Roskens Hall: An Educator's Dream

July 2011 > Arts and Sciences Hall: UNO's Cornerstone

June 2011 > The ABCs of the Alumni House: From Adolf Storz and Mary Shirley to William H. Thompson

June 2011 > The Strauss Performing Arts Center: Making Music for Decades

May 2011 > The Durham Science Center: Theory Put Into Practice

May 2011 > The Gene Eppley Administration Building: Philanthropy at Work

April 2011 > Milo Bail Student Center: From Snack Shack to Student Center

April 2011 > UNOCCC: Twenty-Five Years of Caring

March 2011 > UNO's Libraries: A History

March 2011 > The Henningson Memorial Campanile

February 2011 > Mammel Hall

February 2011 > The Sapp Fieldhouse

January 2011 > Heydays of the Hayden House

December 2010 > UNO Faculty/Staff Earn WELCOM Light of Wellness Team Award

October 2010 > New children's financial literacy book supported by UNO alumni

August 2010 > Anna S. Forman Commencement Remarks

May 2010 > John Treinen Commencement Remarks

March 2010 > My Ties and Cliff Hillegass

January 2010 > Megan Schuster Commencement Remarks

December 2009 > Man Killed by Pheasant

November 2009 > New Molecular Modeling Lab Key to Chemistry Research Work

September 2009 > Midlands Voices: Goals of liberal arts college remain vastly important

September 2009 > Technology and Term Papers – A Photo Essay

May 2009 > USSTRATCOM Commander Hears UNO Intern Ideas on Cyber Security, Global Stability

March 2009 > Early Usage of the Kerrey Bridge: Some Empirical Findings and Thoughts on the Future

March 2009 > The End of an Era - UNO's Public Intellectuals and the Omaha World-Herald, 1997-2006

January 2009 > Going Green on Campus: Kathy Hartle Evokes Her Recycling Charge at Work

October 2008 > Zero to 65 in 80 Semesters

October 2008 > Embracing tests UNO should be praised for bucking establishment, scoring well

September 2008 > H.RES.1372: Celebrating the 100th

September 2008 > UNO Researcher Spotlighted

March 2008 > Culture on Campus

February 2008 > In Her Own Words: Technology is crucial to spurring growth

December 2007 > Pacific Street Memories

November 2007 > WISE Women

October 2007 > Vincent Empowers Teachers, Students With Technology

September 2007 > A Model of Success: UNO-Western Hills Partnership Thrives at Six Years

August 2007 > Orientation Leader Represents UNO with Exuberance

August 2007 > In His Own Words: On Summer School

July 2007 > Changing Faces

June 2007 > MVHC @ 50

May 2007 > In His Own Words: My Fulbright Year in Leipzig

February 2007 > At Your Service

December 2006 > A Job Well Done

September 2006 > Australian Finches Aid UNO Professor's Research

July 2006 > Finding His Way

May 2006 > Calming the Anxious

April 2006 > The Kid's Doing All Right

March 2006 > Shot of a Lifetime

March 2006 > Going for Four

February 2006 > Standing Tall with Sierra

January 2006 > In-Your-Face Geology

January 2006 > Religion Meets Film

January 2006 > Finding a Home Port

December 2005 > Man of the Cloth

November 2005 > Volunteer Field Work

November 2005 > Charting the Unknown

October 2005 > Developing Business Overseas

October 2005 > After The Storm

September 2005 > Building Better Officers

September 2005 > Saving the Planet

August 2005 > Making the Abstract Tangible

August 2005 > Helping Neighborhoods Help Themselves

July 2005 > Improving Health through Technology

July 2005 > Reading the Signs

June 2005 > Small Steps to a Better Life

April 2005 > Women's Walk Brings the Benefits to UNO Student-Athletes

April 2005 > Honest Art

March 2005 > Sharing The Wealth

March 2005 > Engineering His Own Masterpiece

February 2005 > Native Daughter, Native Dreams

February 2005 > Puck Stops Here

January 2005 > Stressing the Familiar

January 2005 > Connecting the Community

January 2005 > Ticket to Cooperstown

December 2004 > Spirit of the Season

December 2004 > Nicholas Stergiou: Research in Motion

fall 2004 > Alzheimer's: Caring for the Caregiver's

fall 2004 > Part of the Heart & Soul of Our Community: A message from Chancellor Belck

fall 2004 > David Hawk: All In

fall 2004 > Anadelia Lamas: Planting Roots

fall 2004 > Dean Olson: Assessing the Threat

fall 2004 > Student's Wireless Application Earns Him $25,000 Price from Microsoft

fall 2004 > Tom Warren: From the Chiefs to the Chief

fall 2004 > UNO Theatre Graduates Start Companies in Their Community

fall 2004 > Host Families Provide Welcoming Environment for Afghan Guests

fall 2004 > CADRE Project Celebrates 10 Years of Preparing Effective Educators

fall 2004 > Business Owner Raises Awareness, Funding for Real Estate Program

fall 2004 > Media Executive Chooses Omaha as Place to Build a Career and a Life

fall 2004 > UNO Partners with Metro, Takes STEP to Grow Science-Related Degrees

fall 2004 > Art Meets Technology in PKI's Student Multimedia Lab