State of Education in Nebraska: The Need to Succeed: Closing Omaha's Black Male Achievement Gap

News Release Date: 
August 6, 2014

For Immediate Release
August ‘State of Education in Nebraska’ Discusses Closing the Black Male Achievement Gap

LINCOLN, Neb. (Aug. 6, 2014) -- Nebraska’s largest city also has the state’s highest population of African Americans. Omaha is one of 11 cities nationwide developing comprehensive plans to address black male achievement, particularly the achievement gap between black male adolescents as compared to their non-black peers.

Willie Barney, president of Omaha’s Empowerment Network, heads a group of Omaha businesses, foundations, citizens and others who are working to address the issue. The group has identified 865 black, school-aged males in north Omaha and is working to ensure that 100 percent of them graduate from high school and go on to some sort of post-secondary education.

This effort and others are highlighted in the August “State of Education in Nebraska” series.  “The Need to Succeed: Closing Omaha’s Black Male Achievement Gap, ” premieres at 8 p.m. CT Thursday, Aug. 21, on NET2 World (repeating at 2 p.m. CT Sunday, Aug. 24, on NET2 World) and airs on NET1 at 7 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 29, and 10 p.m. CT on Sunday, Aug. 31.

In April, NET Learning Services, in partnership with a coalition of community partners in Omaha, hosted a town hall centering on a broadcast and discussion of the documentary “American Promise.”

Filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s documentary  follows 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 screening was followed by group discussions of the complicated questions “American Promise” raises about race, class, and opportunity as well as African-American male achievement in Omaha.

The film prompted lively discussion on how the parents in the film tried to help their children succeed and raised discussion between young men in the audience and their parents. These discussions and more form the basis of the “State of Education in Nebraska” program, produced by Morgan Foreman of NET Connects.

Marthaellen Florence, NET Community Outreach director, is leading this effort for NET Learning Services. Other events associated with this effort are a series of free workshops to be held in Omaha on Aug. 22 and 23, with the filmmakers. Brewster and Stephenson will lead a workshop aimed at educators and mentors from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at the Omaha Home for Boys. A workshop aimed at parents and youth runs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 23, also at the Omaha Home for Boys. To register for these free workshops, contact NET Customer Service at 800-634-6788 or check NET’s website at

The “Need to Succeed” 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 town hall was hosted by NET Learning Services in partnership with Omaha Empowerment Network, Urban League of Nebraska, Center for Holistic Development, Inclusive Communities, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Black Men United and the Banister Leadership Academy.

Additionally, NET will again participate in American Graduate Day, this year on Saturday, Sept. 27. American Graduate Day is a Corporation for Public Broadcasting initiative that includes a 7-hour live television event with national and local content. NET will air all seven hours, with morning programming airing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT on  NET2 World and from 1-5 p.m. CT on NET1.

Some content airing on the national broadcast will feature stories produced by NET focusing on individuals from Omaha who are working to close the achievement gap there, as well as stories about early childhood education efforts in Crete, Nebraska, and student-run entrepreneurship activities in Cody, Nebraska. Some pieces will be produced by NET, others by Nebraska Loves Public Schools.

For more information on the series and NET Learning Services, check the NET website at


CONTACT: NET Community Outreach director Marthaellen Florence, 402-470-6603 or
RELEASE WRITTEN BY: Kim Hachiya, 402-470-6694, or

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