Omaha’s Yates school purchased by community group, undergoing renovations

Save Yates has successfully battled to keep Yates School operational in Omaha.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 4:30 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Every time Marie Hélène André walks into the Yates building, “it gets better and better.”

The building is a landmark in the Gifford Park Neighborhood not just for its architecture, which was done by the same man who designed the Joslyn Castle, but for its services to the refugee and immigrant community.

“Yates is the place where everybody can tell their story and improve their skills to be better citizens,” said Hélène André.

With the help of the community, Yates Illuminates fought to keep the building from being sold to an out-of-state developer.

Instead, Omaha Public Schools agreed to sell it to the community organization to bring non-profits under one roof.

Restoring Dignity, an organization dedicated to refugee services is the last of the 14 non-profits to move in. Its president was part of the push to save it.

“Being part of the effort to save this building was one of the honors of my life,” said Hannah Vlach, founder of Restoring Dignity. “I feel like it’s going to impact people for decades to come hopefully.”

Inside the building, only nonprofits work. New and transitioning Americans are the focus, but it’s open to all.

“This is exactly where Metropolitan Community College needs to be. Right in the middle of a neighborhood who really appreciates learning,” said Gary Girard, Vice President of Community and Workforce Education at MCC.

They offer free GED and language classes. Also inside, Bluebird Cultural Initiative for Native American appreciation, cultural groups, and a theater company.

The large colorful shipping container outside is MCC’s sustainable garden. It’s a newer initiative they hope to open it up to the public.

A few desks are still available to rent for smaller, non-profit organizations.

They’re still restoring the 120-plus windows, building a kitchen, and putting other final touches. Those renovations are made possible in part by $1 million in COVID-relief money awarded by the city.