Avenue Scholars celebrates 15 years of helping Omaha students

Omaha's Avenue Scholars program is celebrating 15 years of helping the city's youth with post-secondary education.
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 6:57 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Recognizing the work of thousands of students who have been lifted up by the community.

The program has the data to back up years of success at helping young people who often can’t afford education after high school.

A’Myrah Johnson had butterflies knowing on this day, inside the Baxter Arena, among hundreds of students and stakeholders, her job was a big one - introducing the governor.

“When I got the invitation to introduce the next guest, I have to admit I was a little nervous,” A’Myrah said.

But she recognizes the trajectory of her life really changed a few years ago as a sophomore at Northwest High School.

“I was in English class when I got called to the auditorium.”

A’Myrah had been selected to be an Avenue Scholar. It’s an Omaha program helping students of hope and need overcome educational barriers.

The room was full of them - 224 new students and thousands of alumni.

“I’ve always known since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a chef,” A’Myrah said.

Avenue Scholars is celebrating 15 years, and it’s not just about education, even though 94% of its students graduate high school - far exceeding the normal graduation rates of their school.

And many more go on to college and trade schools because in the end, it’s about connecting them with high-wage, high-skill jobs in the area.

“Don’t get me wrong, having cash for scholarships is great,” said Ken Bird. “But having a career coach by your side for 4 years helping you, it’s irreplaceable.

Gov. Pillen told the young people he’d like to see Avenue Scholars expanded across Nebraska with the business community all in.

“We have to step up and help kids like we never have before,” Pillen said. “I have to help advocate for that so that everyone gets on board to make it happen now.”

For A’Myrah Johnson, she’s studying to be a pastry chef on her full ride to Metro Community College, working toward a dream that used to seem unreachable.

“I always thought I’d venture out of Nebraska but I’m glad I didn’t because there are more connections and community,” A’Myrah said.

Avenue Scholars started in 2008 with 25 students. Today, the team has worked with nearly 4,000 students from 11 high schools and connected them to roughly 300 businesses.