Omaha is one of 11 cities across the nation that's going to try something new to help improve the lives of inner-city young people with the help of a grant.
While the area near 24th and Lake was once a part of the city depicting hopelessness for the city’s young black men, today it’s a symbol of what can be accomplished.
City leaders are planning a one-two punch to combat troubling trends. It’s a collaborative effort designed to reach at-risk areas and unlock potential.
Willie Barney, with the Empowerment Network, said, “Our young men are creative, resilient absolutely brilliant."
Just last week, we saw the opening of the Northstar Academy near 52nd and Ames. City leaders call it a big step in the right direction.
Now the National League of Cities is stepping in, selecting Omaha and 10 other cities where the focus turns to improving opportunity for young African American males.
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray said, “What all of us have to do collectively is provide hope, because in many of our communities, many of our young men and women don't have hope."
Leon Andrews, with the National League of Cities, said, “There's no silver bullet, no blue pill, right, that solves this, solves this problem. So what works in Omaha does not necessarily work in Oakland."
Another big step is developing positive role models.
Job seeker Desmon Carter said, “Sometimes I look at people and am like, ‘Oh, they don't have a role model and see where they are at?’ I'm like, ‘I don't want to do that. I want to make something of my life - get out and try to do something.’"
Desmon and his cousin Andre Valentine are both looking for work. Both are high school grads. One with a child and one now expecting a child. They admit the road is hard.
Valentine said, “A lot of people don't have that role model type in their life and they need something like this. I feel like without a role model sometimes, people are led onto the wrong path."
The two men hope this new initiative will make the path to success easier for them and their sons.
The National League of Cities will be in town through Saturday. The group will focus on strengthening mentoring programs and a big, local push for summer employment for these young men.