The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is committed to engagement in the Omaha community and beyond, through efforts like the P-16 Initiative.
As part of the UNO’s Service Learning Academy, the P-16 Initiative facilitates partnerships between these key groups:
- UNO students and their teachers
- Pre K-12 partner
- Community Originations and their members
Each semester hundreds of students engage in service learning projects through the P-16 initiative. Included below are some highlights from the Fall 2016 semester.
Engaging In Conversations About Voting In North Omaha
By Meghan Perrin
Students boarded a bus destined for a residential neighborhood in Benson on a crisp fall morning in October. They stepped off the bus near the corner of 42nd and Bancroft ready with clipboards, surveys, and canvassing rules to knock on doors to learn about residents’ voting habits in North Omaha.
Professor Preston Love’s Black Experience in American Politics and Ms. Rebekah Sidzyik’s AP Government & African-American History classes partnered with Nebraskans for Civic Reform to gather important information about barriers to voting in their precinct. According to the Douglas County Electoral Commission, the voting precincts in North Omaha vote at an average of 12% lower than the rest of the county.
After further discussions about civic engagement and voting within their communities, students returned to Benson High School to analyze, discuss, and reflect on the data and experiences from the canvassing day. From the small sample size, results indicated that the biggest barrier to voting was voter apathy.
A UNO international student from Togo commented about American civil discourse: “I’ve not seen anything like this before... in my country, you fight to vote, you don’t talk about voting.”
Her remarks prompted students to recognize the importance of voter engagement.
I Voted For My Family
By Alexandra Bauer
UNO professor Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado partnered with UNO adjunct professor and South High Magnet School faculty Mrs. Melissa Peterson to assist the Heartland Worker’s Center in their “I Vote for My Family” campaign that worked to increase voter turnout of South Omaha residents for this presidential election.
UNO’s Latino Politics and Introduction to Political Science classes worked with students in Peterson’s AP American Government course at South High Magnet School. Students learned about issues that affect Latino voters and barriers the Latino population face in America’s political system while they partnered with the staff at the Heartland Worker’s Center (HWC).
UNO and South students assisted the HWC in canvassing South Omaha neighborhoods, registering residents to vote, and phone banking in an effort to increase voter turnout. “Community members get happy when they see youth knock on their doors,” said Stephanie Zambrano, UNO student and staff member at the Heartland Worker’s Center. UNO and South students put more than 150 hours into the “I Vote for My Family” campaign during the Fall 2016 semester.
The students, faculty, HWC staff, and community members celebrated their efforts while sharing pupusas and pan dulce, and data indicating some South Omaha precincts increased voter turnout by 25%
Paving The Road To College, One Family At A Time
By Socorrito Salcido
The College Prep and Family Learning service-learning project brought together families from the Learning Community Center of South Omaha (LCC) and UNO students from Dr. Sandra Rodriguez-Arroyo’s Introduction to Teaching English as a Second Language class.
For many of the LCC families, Spanish is their primary language and successfully preparing their children for college in English can be an intimidating prospect.
This semester, the UNO students educated LCC families about college preparedness. Students used techniques learned in class to teach the families about college readiness. While at UNO, families received tours that gave the parents and children a taste of real college life.
UNO student Alissa Goodding shared about her experience: “I learned that a language barrier does not have to be a barrier to building positive relationships. You may not be able to have long conversations, but taking the time to be together and communicate nonverbally as well as verbally is amazing as it shows that you value each other and respect each other. I truly enjoyed and cared for the families I worked with.”
The Little Cookbook That Could
By Rosa Najera
Ms. McKenna Methe’s Montessori Co-Op class, Professor Don Bowen’s UNO Photography class, and local nonprofit City Sprouts collaborated on a P-16 service- learning project this year.
The team identified ingredients that can be found at City Sprouts’ North and South Omaha community gardens to create a cookbook using these ingredients to empower residents to sustainably grow, eat, provide, and promote healthy, local foods.
The Montessori Co-Op class of 6-7 year olds each wrote a recipe with the help of their teacher, Ms. Methe. The Montessori Co-Op and UNO students visited City Sprouts twice to tour the nonprofit, learn about the different produce that is grown at the garden, and prepare recipes while taking photographs of the process.
“I’m not sure any of them realized when we started how much fun this would be, but they’ve found out,” Bowen said.
The finished product of “The Little Cookbook that Could” was given to City Sprouts at the end of the semester where the students’ creativity and recipes will fill the bellies of families for years to come.
“The cookbook will be a great resource to share with the community!” said Roxanne Draper, Executive Director of City Sprouts.
Engaging Elders To Understand Change
By Lindsey Kreikemeier
Throughout the fall semester, students from Professor Don Bowen’s Editing Principles class teamed up with students from Justin Noel’s McMillan Magnet Middle School Service Learning class. The students also partnered with seniors who attend the Adams Park Senior Center day program to compare and contrast growing up during the Civil Rights Era and today.
The students interviewed the Adams Park seniors about their lives with special emphasis on changes they have seen in Omaha compared to other communities. Seniors described having to work to support their families at a young age as well as their experience living in a segregated community. After interviewing the seniors, students created multimedia presentations and a written report which they presented to the seniors at Adams Park Senior Center. The seniors wanted to remember the rich experiences they shared with the students and pass them on to their families as well.
Professor Don Bowen indicated how engaging this service-learning course was for his students. “In my editing class, I try to give students a real-life editing experience that gives [students] a different perspective of our city than they may have had,” he said.
“Those students had good questions! I really had to think back and remember it all. I really enjoyed connecting with the students on this project,” added Ed Martin, an Adams Park member.
Family Resource Night At Nelson Mandela School
By Amber Smit
Students from Professor Emilio Herrera’s Social Work & Civic Engagement course teamed up with Nelson Mandela Elementary School to support the school’s Family Liaison, Mr. Joe Ogba, to plan and facilitate a family resource night.
UNO students surveyed scholars’ parents on potential family night topics and potential barriers to attendance.
While planning for the resource night, UNO students contacted local banks and grocery stores to invite speakers to inform parents of local resources, including financial skills such as budgeting and smart shopping. UNO students also advertised the event through social media and family interaction.
Finally, UNO students had the opportunity to interact with the scholars by planning activities to develop social skills.
Mr. Ogba stated that “this project helped engage our families and helped them get over some barriers for seeking help to improve their family situation.”
By SaraAnn Staley
“Seed to Salad” was a P-16 service-learning collaboration between Instructor Stephanie Lynam’s Intensive English (ILUNO) students and Ms. Rachael Burn’s Omaha Northwest Magnet High School (ONW) Horticulture students.
Together, they worked to identify international and medicinal plants for the ONW rain garden. The rain garden at ONW was created in 2015 as part of another UNO P-16 service-learning project. The idea to introduce international plants into the garden came from Northwest High School’s magnet theme, Law, Government and International Diplomacy. This collaboration allowed UNO and ONW international students to highlight plants from their cultures while giving students the opportunity to deeply explore science in an international context.
Students joined together four times throughout the semester to learn about international and medicinal plants. This project not only reinforced class curricula around plants and horticulture, but also helped ONW students to learn about other cultures, while ILUNO students learned about American culture and practiced English language skills.
“Service-learning helps me to know the American society and community because it’s difficult to do so by myself,” shared Riho Sato, an ILUNO student from Japan.
ILUNO students were interested in hearing about the culture and activities of homecoming week at ONW, as these kinds of festivities are not celebrated in many of their home countries.
Shaping Positive Outcomes
By Camtrice Bexten
This fall, students from Blackburn Alternative Program and UNO teamed up to learn about positive reinforcement and provide training and enrichment for dogs at the Nebraska Humane Society.
This marks the sixth year for the “Reality Bites” P-16 service-learning project where students from Jennifer Noelle’s Psychology class and Ali Buttner’s Laboratory in Psychology: Learning class worked together to shape behaviors in dogs that would make them more adoptable.
Shaping behaviors like sitting, lying down and holding eye contact allowed students to bring their textbook content to life and gave the dogs positive interactions and much needed enrichment.
Ms. Noelle was particularly pleased with this year’s results: “Students took readily to the concepts of shaping and positive reinforcement. During the first week alone, seeing the positive changes in the dogs motivated the students to think about ways in which they could incorporate these concepts into their own lives. We were thrilled that students so quickly generalized their new learning. The UNO students were a big part of that success by making their high school partners equals in the process. It is tremendously gratifying to see dogs find homes and to see students find ways to positively take control of their interactions. Reality Bites succeeded on all fronts this year!”