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Collective Impact

Midlands Mentoring Partnership


Midlands Mentoring Partnership(MMP) is an example of collective impact in action. The premise of collective impact is that "large•scale social change requires broad, crosss ector coordination,”according to John Kania and Mark Kramer, authors of“Collective Impact”from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. However, Kania and Kramer caution that “the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.”  Trying to affect change on an individual level often leads to frustration.To wit, consider the enormity that is public education. Kania and Kramer cite how a coalition of local leaders in the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area, called Strive, reversed a downward trend in student performance over a four year period despite budget cuts and a struggling economy. Strive pinpointed high school graduation rates, 4th grade math and reading scores, and kindergarten preparedness in preschoolers as its benchmarks for success. All three improved without the injection of additional funds. 

sobering stats 

Over 1 million high school students in the US drop out a year. Furthermore, the US is ranked 18th out of 24 industrialized nations for quality of public education. In Douglas and Sarpy Counties, nearly 30,000 students live below the poverty level.There are 6000 truant students in the metro area on any given day, and truancy is often linked to drug use and dropout rates.  An estimated 1,900 ninth graders will not make it to graduation, and the economic repercussions are staggering. According the MMP website, lost earnings total $494 million and lost tax revenue totals $186 million. But the human toll is even more sobering; dropouts suffer an average 9.2 shorter life expectancy than their classmates who complete high school.    

local solutions 

Significant prevention strategies are required, and one of the most effective ways to reduce dropout rates in high schools is mentoring according to a Gates Foundation study. Several local mentoring organizations have aligned with Midlands Mentoring Partnership to address these issues as a team. MMP is not a mentoring organization itself.“MMP is a unique city•wide‘collective impact’organization that seeks to increase the number and quality of mentoring programs in the Omaha Metro,”explains Deborah Neary, Executive Director of Midlands Mentoring Partnership.  Twelve mentoring agencies are full members of the collective; more than forty are working towards associate memberships. Omaha’s MMP is one of 25 mentoring partnerships nationwide that directly support mentoring programs while generating solutions for the challenges of bringing mentoring to scale, says Neary.  MMP promotes community awareness of mentoring and seeks to increase both the number of area mentors and the quality of mentoring in underserved populations. It also facilitates collaboration between metro mentoring agencies by connecting programs to available resources.  The need for mentors is great. Currently, there are only 3,000+ existing mentoring relationships, the majority of which are being managed by organizations with five or fewer staff members and working with an operating budget under $100,000. 

mentor of the year: tess larson 

The power of one is especially evident in mentoring. Each year, MMP recognizes an individual who exemplifies a truly giving spirit.This year’s Mentor of theYear isTess Larson. Larson has been a mentor with Girls Incorporated of Omaha for over six years and currently is mentoring three young women. Larson enjoyed a strong network of caring adults, including involved parents, her mother’s friends who felt like second moms, and special teachers in high school. Acknowledging how fortunate she was and recognizing that there are many young women who lack this kind of stable, loving adult support, Larson decided to become a mentor.  “Everyone really needs a few adults who care about them, want to hear about their day, and have a little advice or story to share,” says Larson.  Larson volunteered at Girls Inc. and witnessed the power of mentoring.“I saw other mentor/mentee matches, and realized that I could offer what those mentors were offering.”  “If you can listen, share a story or two, ask a few questions, and have a little bit of time to share•you’re good to go,” Larson says of what it takes to be a good mentor. She began mentoring two friends, Gabbi and DeNaya, when they were twelve. Both are now in their freshman year of college. She also mentors a young refugee from Somalia, Hawa, whom she met when Hawa was 16. She generally sees each of her mentees a few times a month.The activities they’ve done together have changed over the years. Early outings included trips to the mall, haunted house adventures, and excursions to the slides downtown. Now she attends their sporting events and helps them write their college essays.“The activities aren’t the important part. It’s the time spent together and that they know someone cares about what they’re going through or where they want to go in life,” she acknowledges.  “We are very proud of Tess and her mentees,” says  Esther Mejia, Board President of Girls Inc.“They are  living proof of just how powerful and important the bond between mentors and mentees can be and how  both can benefit from the relationship.” Because of  mentors like Larson, she continues,“girls are more  likely to grow up ‘strong, smart, and bold.’”  If you are tinkering with the idea of becoming a  mentor, don’t hesitate.“Just do it!” Larson encourages. 

advocate of the year: oppd

Numerous local corporations are also strong  proponents of mentoring. This year MMP has named  OPPD“Mentoring Advocate of the Year” in  recognition of the company’s continued support of  Partnership 4 Kids, a local mentoring agency. Since  2007, the company has sponsored yearly mentor  recruitment drives. This year, OPPD has over sixty  employees serving as mentors. Tim Burke, Vice  President of Customer Service and Public Affairs  expanded the pool of potential mentors to include  recent OPPD retirees.  Burke considers mentoring“an investment in the  future” because“it fosters relationships, builds self• esteem, and identifies talents” within Omaha’s youth.  The population OPPD employees serve agrees. Deb  Denbeck, Executive Director of Partnership 4 Kids, says  that“96 percent of our students report that they are  more motivated to finish high school because of their  mentor relationships.”   More proof of whatTess Larson already knows: “Mentoring really does change the world, one child at a time.”  For more information on mentoring organizations in Omaha, visit www.mmpomaha.org.  

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