Tag Archives: University of Nebraska at Omaha

The Homeless Connection

Homeless Connection

Children in the Completely KIDS shelter program look into a room at the Nebraska Humane Society. The kids toured the facility as part of a service-learning project.

Kids in CK shelter program promote adoption for animals at humane society

By Adrielle Griffin
Completely KIDS Communications Manager 

Homeless ConnectionIt’s an interesting concept—kids without homes helping dogs and cats also without homes. But it resonated well with the children at Completely KIDS and the employees at the Nebraska Humane Society trying to find loving families for the four-legged critters who live there.

In a recent service-learning project, youth in the Completely KIDS homeless shelter program worked with University of Nebraska at Omaha students to create bandannas, posters and toys that promote adoption of cats and dogs at the humane society. The project included tours of the facility and education about cats, dogs and adoption.

Completely KIDS Shelter Coordinator Lulu Rangel said the project stood out to her during a weeklong Service Learning Seminar at UNO because of the homeless connection between the children and the animals.

Homeless Connection“There (were) a couple kids who (were) like, ‘We don’t have a home. They don’t have a home either,” Rangel said. “ ‘At least we have parents who are helping us. These dogs don’t have anyone helping them.’ ”

From the seminar, Rangel received the support she needed to launch the project and was connected to Erika Jacobson, a graduate assistant for the UNO Service Learning Academy, who helped coordinate schedules with two separate UNO classes and provided materials.

“I really liked watching the UNO students interact with the Completely KIDS participants,” Jacobson said. “It was wonderful to see how they’re relationship evolved and how much the kids looked forward to seeing the UNO students each week.”

Rangel said one of the lessons that she and the UNO students taught the kids was the idea of civic engagement or “helping a population who can’t give back to them.” The kids caught on quickly.

“It felt really exciting to help the lost animals where they’re supposed to go,” said Pamila, 8. “They’re out of their minds lost. I wanted to change that.”

Rangel said the kids also understood that, like their own situations, the shelter was a safe place to go and the cats and dogs didn’t have a choice in the matter.

Jakobe, 7, believed the dogs and cats would be happy because of the help the kids provided in getting them adopted.

“I think it’s going to remind them of the family they used to have,” Jakobe said. “When (people) see (the signs) they’re going to say, ‘I’ve got to buy a dog,’ and they’re going to be proud of what we did.”

He added, “I’m just going to miss those poor little dogs.”

Overall, the kids made 144 bandannas and 119 posters, each with an adoption message and pictures drawn by the kids. They also made 88 dog toys.

Every one of the kids had a sense of pride in being able to help their feline and canine friends. Rangel said the kids provided a voice, both literally and figuratively, for the animals. And most of the kids said that as soon as their own families were out of the homeless shelters and into a house, they wanted to go right back to the humane society to adopt a dog or cat.

Visit the Nebraska Humane Society website for more information about animal adoption.

The Cinderella of Completely KIDS

Penny Court of Honor

The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben and Women’s Ball Committee inducted Completely KIDS Executive Director Penny Parker into the 2013 Ak-Sar-Ben Coronation and Scholarship Ball Court of Honor on Oct. 19 at the CenturyLink Center. She joined fellow inductees Fr. Thomas M. Fangman, Jr., Bruce Rasmussen and Michael H. Simmonds.

‘I’ve just done the right thing for kids,’ says
Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor Inductee Penny Parker

Penny Court of Honor 2

Penny & Steve Parker

She looked like a present-day Cinderella, glowing in a blue cap-sleeved gown with a subtle glittery floral pattern embellishing it from the top down.

But it’s her years of dedicated service to youth that really tell the Cinderella story. She’s been a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for those less fortunate, a guide for thousands of children and families.

The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben and Women’s Ball Committee inducted Completely KIDS Executive Director Penny Parker into the 2013 Ak-Sar-Ben Coronation and Scholarship Ball Court of Honor on Oct. 19 at the CenturyLink Center. She joined fellow inductees Fr. Thomas M. Fangman, Jr., Bruce Rasmussen and Michael H. Simmonds.

“I was shocked, and I said, ‘You’ve got the wrong Penny Parker,’ ” she said about her reaction to finding out she was selected for the Court of Honor. “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything extraordinary. I’ve just done the right thing for kids.”

Established in 1988, the Court of Honor is one of the most prestigious awards given by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation. Honorees are selected based on excellence in one of the following areas: agriculture, arts, business and industry, community service, education, philanthropy, professions, public service, sports or youth.

Penny has served for 22 years as the executive director of Completely KIDS, formerly Camp Fire USA Midlands Council. She attended Nebraska Wesleyan University and received her bachelor’s degree in social welfare from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She then earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Prior to her work at Completely KIDS, Penny served as a caseworker and then supervisor for Douglas County Social Services, followed by a position at Child Saving Institute, where she managed a residential program for young mothers and their children. Later, as an employee of the Nebraska Department of Social Services, she became the first female child welfare administrator at the Omaha office, overseeing foster care, adoption and child protective services.

We all know it isn’t the dress that makes the princess. It is her actions and service to others. In keeping with the humble and gentle Cinderella spirit, Penny is quick to say that this significant honor is not about her; rather the agency, and the kids and families it serves.

“The theme to me is almost like hard work pays off,” she said. “If you have passion for what you do, give your all. Don’t worry about the recognition.”

CK Norris, YAN Programs Receive First Lady’s Award for Service Learning Project

First Lady Award - Norris

From left, Claudia Escandon, CK Norris YAN; Nebraska First Lady Sally Ganem; Norris Middle School Principal Ruben Cano; and Danny Walsh, UNO Service Learning Graduate Assistant at the ServeNebraska Luncheon. Due to a collaboration between the CK Norris YAN program, Norris Middle School and UNO, the First Lady awarded them the Outstanding School Volunteer Program for work on the Redbird 108 service learning project.

Experience continues to excite kids

By Adrielle Griffin
Completely KIDS Communications Manager
Posted: June 19, 2013

CK Norris and the Completely KIDS Youth Attendance Navigator program were selected in April to receive the 2013 First Lady’s Outstanding Community Service Award in the Outstanding School Volunteer Program category.

The award recognized volunteer efforts by Norris middle school students participating in the Completely KIDS YAN and Redbird Afterschool Academy programs in partnership with psychology students from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Those efforts came together under a multifaceted service learning project called Redbird 108, named after the classroom in which the project is housed.

CK Norris students designed the Redbird Community/Family Room and the Redbird Closet. The room itself has a resource wall based on needs of Norris families and serves as a place for mentoring and relationship building. Students assisted in preparing for the open house of the room and continue to maintain the space throughout the year.

The Redbird Closet provides clothing, hygiene items and school supplies to Norris families. Students are responsible for clothing and supply drives, washing the clothes and organizing supplies.

Julie Dierberger, P-16 Coordinator at UNO’s Service Learning Academy, nominated the YAN program for the award.

“My YAN program is very fortunate to have her and the P-16 Initiative in our corner as we implement service learning at Completely KIDS and Norris Middle School,” Youth Attendance Navigator Claudia Escandón said. “Julie and Graduate Assistant Danny Walsh are amazing.”

Escandón said another phase of the project is in the works.

“This experience continues to excite students about helping others,” she said. “In the same way that students created and run Norris’ family and community room and Redbird Closet, students will work to transform a room at Hanscom Park Methodist Church into our Redbird Boutique. The space will serve as an in-kind donation center specializing in baby and elementary items.”