The Need to Succeed: Closing Omaha's Black Male Achievement Gap


Closing Omaha's Black Male Achievement Gap

Inspired by POV's documentary AMERICAN PROMISE


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Willie Barney, Executive Director of the Omaha Empowerment Network, listens intently to the discussion.

NET Learning Services is presenting a special program in the series, The State of Education in NebraskaThe Need to Succeed: Closing Omaha's Black Male Achievement Gap, hosted in April at the Omaha Home for Boys' Wurdeman Learning Center by Willie Barney, President and facilitator of the Omaha Empowerment Network.

In April of 2014, a coalition of NET Learning Services and community partners in Omaha created a televised Town Hall event centering on a broadcast of the acclaimed 90-minute POV documentary film, American Promise. The dialogue focused on the challenges facing young African-American men as they navigate life, school and social situations. The Need to Succeed identifies some of the issues within the Omaha community, but also what can be done to overcome these obstacles to create a brighter future for youth in one of the state’s most challenging educational environments.Ricky Smith, Urban League of Nebraska, talks with Christian, a Burke High School junior.
Thomas Warren and Michael Cich-Jones of the Urban League of Nebraska along with Derrick Smith and others from the North Omaha Boys and Girls Club listen to Mark Snow, Omaha Public School board member. The documentary, American Promise, tells the story of two middle-class African-American students as they make their way through a prestigious private school in New York, chronicling their divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation. The April film screening was followed by group discussions of the complicated questions American Promise raises about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class, and opportunity as well as issues surrounding African-American male achievement in Omaha.




As a special community outreach effort, the partners hosted an American Promise Tour with Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, parents of the young men in the film as well as creators of the documentary. The filmmakers came to Omaha on August 22nd and 23rd to host workshops with educators, community members, and young people. They also autographed the documentary's companion book, Promises Kept at several Omaha bookstores and libraries.

American Promise Tour

Thurs. Aug. 21NET State of Ed Premiere
UNO Campus, OPPD
Fri. Aug 22
for Educators & Mentors
Workshop & Book Signing
Omaha Home
for Boys
Sat. Aug. 23
for Parents & Youth
Omaha Home
for Boys
Sat. Aug. 23Book Signing
C.B. Washington Library



Additional Video

A Teacher's Perspective:
The Purpose of School

Comments of Ferial Pearson, UNO educator.

The Importance of
Parental Involvement

With comments from Gerald Bowen, Akile Banister, Banister's Leadership Academy, and Ricky Smith, Urban League of Nebraska.

Guiding Students
Toward Success

With comments from Kevin Custard, Omaha North High School, Jalen Bradley, and Brenda J. Bell, Center for Holistic Development.

Never Give Up

Byron: Positive Male Role Models

Gerald: Work Hard, Believe in Yourself

Colin: Importance of Encouragement & Education



The project is made possible by a grant from American Documentary/POV, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, ITVS, and the National Black Programming Consortium.

The program is hosted by the following partners:




NET Learning Services
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation
Nebraska Loves Public Schools
First Five Nebraska
America’s Promise Alliance Grad Nation
Avenue Scholars Foundation
Beyond School Bells
Buffett Early Childhood Fund

Center on Children, Families, and the Law
Coalition for Community Schools
Lincoln Community Foundation
Nebraska Department of Education
Nebraska Trucking Association
Urban League of Nebraska
United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County

United Way Readers, Tutors, and Mentors

© 2014

American Graduate is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in partnership with America's Promise Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Photo Galleries

As a special community outreach effort, the partners hosted an American Promise Tour with Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, parents of one of the young men in the film as well as creators of the documentary. The filmmakers... more››
In April of 2014, NET Learning Services, in partnership with a coalition of community partners in Omaha, hosted a Town Hall event centering on a broadcast of American Promise, which tells the story of two middle-class African-... more››