Evelia's Story

Evelia is a civic leader and youth academic navigator who is passionate about engaging students and communities to amplify voices and create leaders. She recognizes the countless challenges students face and wants to expose them to role models, opportunities and lead by example for her own children and every student she meets.

Born in a small village in Michoacán, Mexico, Evelia lost her father at a young age and her mother brought she and her siblings to Parlier, California. She is inspired daily by her mother’s great sacrifices and the opportunities created by her mother’s courage and love.

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Edem's Story

Edem is a local musician who credits her introduction to the violin at age nine with a life-long interest in the arts. Today she is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and performer who recognizes both the benefits and challenges of Omaha’s small, creative community in nurturing her own career and that of other young artists.

Born in Maryland and raised in Omaha, Edem benefited from her mother’s encouragement in starting orchestra at an early age. She continued playing violin and has been involved in music and arts in the Omaha region ever since. Through her own experiences, she’s become a staunch advocate of Omaha’s growing arts community and a supporter of other local up-and-coming young artists.

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Cody's Story

The son of an immigrant from Mexico, Cody is only second person in his family to go to college.

Growing up, Cody’s grandfather taught him that nothing is more important than education. Cody’s high school guidance counselor helped him to apply for college scholarships, and he won a full ride to Metro Community College’s automotive technology program.

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Shonna’s Story

Throughout her childhood, Shonna overcame numerous challenges to become a successful tech entrepreneur and educator. With such a great career and shelf full of leadership awards, she never expected domestic assault would cross her path.

Shonna Dorsey’s parents divorced when she was young leaving her mother a single parent. Her parents both had a good education and worked hard, but they were under-resourced. Growing up, Shonna wasn’t certain about college, but she changed her mind while at Omaha North High School. Through hard work and strong support from her teachers and guidance counselor, Shonna got into UNO on a full ride scholarship. There she earned a master’s degree in Management Information Systems before going on to co-found and lead Interface Web School in 2014. By 2015, Shonna and her team had graduated several classes of Interface students.

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Johnetta’s Story

Johnetta is a single parent who balances a lot. She relies on public transit to get to work, college, and anywhere she needs to go. She has also struggled to find employment, due to a shoplifting charge that has followed her since age 18.

Johnetta Hudson has lived in Omaha her whole life. She faced many challenges throughout her childhood; she was in foster care since age five and both her parents had died by the time she was 15 years old. During her time in foster care, Johnetta chose to take advantage of a number of services and relationships that were available to her within the community. That support made a huge difference in her life. She’s now studying psychology and has a passion for helping others who have gone through what she did as a child.

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Edwina’s Story

Welcoming others, sharing information, and stepping up to ask for change. Edwina's work has helped to create a significant impact on her very own street.

Edwina Sheppard’s beloved neighborhood had slowly deteriorated over the years; vacant lots, burned out houses, condemned properties, and dangerous living conditions surrounded her home on all sides. As a homeowner who has been living in the same house within the Kountze Park/King Science Center neighborhood for 40 years, she was motivated to be a part of the solution.

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Geo’s Story

In a matter of several months, Geo lost his business and home and found himself living in a friend’s shed. With a spirit of resiliency and hope, Geo shares how income loss and homelessness can affect a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual health.

George "Geo" LaPole, owned an antique business in South Omaha, and when he lost his business, he lost everything. Struggling with depression and other health concerns, he was forced to make some difficult decisions. Should he spend what little money he had on his hospital bills, monthly medications, healthy food, or a place to live? The choices were difficult ones and only exacerbated the issues he was already dealing with.

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Karen’s Story

Karen is a breast cancer survivor who tells her story about how state and federal health programs helped to catch and treat the cancer at an early stage.

After moving to Omaha, Karen was out of work and lacking healthcare coverage. She was used to visiting her healthcare provider every year, but missed an annual exam because she was no longer employed and couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket..

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Candy’s Story

Candy was a single mom, worried about her kids who were suffering from headaches, dizziness, and nosebleeds. She soon found out their apartment was the problem: it had toxic levels of lead and black mold.

Candy Hicks has four children living with her and has struggled to find affordable and safe housing for her family. Living on a fixed income means that every month she has to make difficult decisions about food, clothing, transportation, diapers, and rent. After moving around from one poorly maintained apartment to the next, Candy was happy to have found a place where she settled her family for five years.

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Lisa’s Story

Lisa is an educator who grew up in poverty and was unable to read until the fourth grade. Now, she’s making a difference for students who experience the same challenges that she has overcome.

Prior to becoming the Executive Director of Elementary School Support and Supervision of the Omaha Public Schools (OPS), Lisa Utterback was the principal of Miller Park Elementary School. But before that, she grew up in a home environment of drugs, poverty, and neglect.

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