Tag Archives: University of Nebraska at Omaha

Building Dreams … and the World’s Smallest Car

Building Dreams World's Smallest Car

CK Norris youth are pictured with what is believed to be the world’s smallest roadworthy car. The kids helped build the vehicle in the Building Dreams Club at CK Norris.

CK Norris youth awaiting Guinness determination on car built in Building Dreams program

By Adrielle Griffin
Completely KIDS Communications Manager

It has headlights, taillights, brakes and mirrors. It follows the basic requirements of a shatterproof windshield – even if you don’t look through it – horn and seatbelt. Music will play from its 6-inch Kenwood speakers. And if fully charged, it could get you nearly to West Omaha from Norris Middle School, where Completely KIDS youth helped build it.

Building Dreams World's Smallest Car

CK Norris youth helped build what is believed to be the world’s smallest roadworthy car in the Building Dreams Club at CK Norris.

It’s registered as Nebraska TRB 383 and tops out at 22 mph. And at just under 4 feet long and just over 2 feet wide, it may very well be the world’s smallest roadworthy car. Guinness World Records still has to decide.

Building Dreams
Tyrome Williams builds dreams. More importantly, he helps youth build their own dreams. It’s why he started a program called Building Dreams. It services middle school youth throughout Omaha including those in the Completely KIDS program at Norris Middle School

The skills that youth learn in Building Dreams come from hands-on experiences related to the blue collar industry. Youth come away having used problem solving and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competencies.

Tyrome teaches them automotive and motorcycle mechanics, woodworking and carpentry, engineering and design, basic electronics and circuits, and 3-D printing.

“Everything I teach the kids has value to it,” he said.

Tyrome points out that in November 2013, there were 4 million available jobs in the American economy and more than 75 percent of the top 25 jobs for 2014 involved STEM fields.

“Some of these kids will go to college,” Tyrome said. “Some will go to trade school. I try to give them alternative advisement.”

What he really does is open the door of possibilities. He expands the opportunity field and inspires kids to look beyond the norm. He simply teaches the kids that “not all science takes place in a laboratory.”

‘They’re my stakeholders’
It’s in this Building Dreams program that Norris youth have taken apart tape recorders, DVD players and snow blowers. They have crafted an upholstered bench using a Chevy pick-up tailgate. They have built and launched paper rockets.

Building Dreams World's Smallest Car

CK Norris Program Coordinator Dan Corral drives what is believed to be the world’s smallest roadworthy car. CK Norris youth helped build the car in the Building Dreams Club at CK Norris.

And, along with youth from McMillan Middle School, they have built what is possibly the world’s smallest car.

“Now I get to have a glimpse of what it was like to build a car,” said 13-year-old CK Norris student, Kevin, who wants to be an engineer.

Discovery is a huge part of Tyrome’s Building Dreams, as is discipline and confidence-building.

“The kids usually see me carrying something strange,” he said. “Not knowing is part of the excitement.”

Tyrome provides the instruction, a safe environment and the resources … the kids take it from there.

“I try to allow them to be the ones in charge because they’re my stakeholders,” Tyrome said.

Just as the opportunities for the kids’ futures are endless, so are those for the future of the car. Tyrome hopes to sell the car for charity. Any profits would be reinvested into the kids.

In the meantime, he and the kids at Norris are envisioning their next big project. Batman’s Batpod perhaps? Or maybe an Optimist Prime truck? No matter the project, Tyrome and the CK Norris kids will be building their dreams one VHS player, one radio, one rocket at a time.

About Tyrome
Though he spends nearly 20 hours a week providing Building Dreams at five area schools, Tyrome also works as the building supervisor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Criss Library, where you can often view works built by kids in the program.

Don’t be fooled by Tyrome’s knack for using his hands. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit and public administration and is currently working toward a master’s degree in organizational leadership and management. He expects to graduate in December.

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.”