United Way of the Midlands Awards $15,000 to Goodwill Industries

The grant will fund Goodwill Omaha’s YouthBuild program

Goodwill Industries, Inc., in Omaha (Goodwill Omaha) is pleased to announce it was recently awarded a $15,000 one-year grant from United Way of the Midlands. Thanks to the generosity of the United Way donors, Goodwill Omaha will invest in virtual learning technology and tools for its YouthBuild program, which provides educational opportunities for at-risk youth ages 16 to 24.

The YouthBuild program gives disadvantaged youth who have struggled with school a second chance by providing education, training and career paths in the construction trades. Many of Goodwill Omaha’s YouthBuild students are underemployed or don’t have high school diplomas. As program participants, the students also earn their GEDs and receive leadership training and ongoing support from Goodwill’s team.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for Goodwill Omaha’s YouthBuild students, most notably when the organization temporarily closed for eight weeks between March 23 and May 18 this year. During this shutdown, YouthBuild trainers and case managers were challenged with keeping their students engaged and on track with their GED studies and testing at a time when the potential for recidivism was significantly increased.

With the help of this grant, the YouthBuild program is able to offer updated and extended virtual learning opportunities to students in situations when classroom learning isn’t possible. With the new ability to keep students engaged and interested in the program whether they’re in the classroom or interacting with the trainer or class virtually, Goodwill Omaha can increase GED and program completion rates of YouthBuild participants.

Yasmine Lewis, a YouthBuild participant, said the program has exceeded her expectations. “I learned more than I thought I would,” Lewis said. “They go beyond the stars here to show us we shine.”

“This is an incredibly generous and much-needed gift for our YouthBuild program and students,” said Tobi Mathouser, president and CEO at Goodwill Omaha. “These young adults truly want a second chance at finding long-term, stable career paths — that’s why they came to Goodwill in the first place. But many of them may not have strong support systems at home or among their peer groups.

“That’s why it’s crucial that we keep them interested in the program and connected with our team and the other participants,” Mathouser continued. “Although we don’t anticipate another full shutdown due to the current pandemic, a participant may need to quarantine, either because they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or they’re a caregiver for a high-risk individual. With this grant, our team will implement the tools they need to continue participants’ education and to conduct regular check-ins with them when in-class learning isn’t possible.”

About United Way of the Midlands:

Thanks to donors, volunteers and community partners, United Way of the Midlands is not only focused on addressing our community’s human needs today; it is focused on what can be and what should be. It is building on today’s strong partnerships to create even more comprehensive human service efforts tomorrow, so our community can solve some of the root causes of poverty. United Way of the Midlands is community-based, community-focused. Thanks to those who share their strength, United Way of the Midlands is COMMUNITY STRONG. Please visit UnitedWayMidlands.org for more information.