Our Build Up Omaha honorees are …

Our 2019 Build Up Omaha honorees include community advocates, volunteers, students, and everyday Omahans who demonstrate exceptional civic leadership and embody Civic Nebraska’s vision of a collaborative and innovative civic society.


Civic Nebraska on Nov. 15 will honor Omahans of all ages who help to build a stronger civil and civic society. The 2019 Build Up Omaha honorees include community advocates, volunteers, students, and everyday Omahans who demonstrate exceptional civic leadership and embody Civic Nebraska’s vision of a collaborative and innovative civic society.

We will honor the winners from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at The Empire Room Omaha, 200 S. 31st Ave., Suite 4107. Tickets to the event are available here.

“Civic Nebraska believes that a strong democracy does not build itself. It takes dedicated people working together to create a civil and civic society,” said Adam Morfeld, executive director and founder. “We look forward to celebrating Omahans of all ages who clearly emblemize this ideal and who have a positive influence on the people in their circles.”

Matt Blomstedt

Attendees will have an opportunity to meet and learn more about each honoree, as well as hear from keynote speaker Matt Blomstedt, Nebraska’s Commissioner of Education. Blomstedt, a native Nebraskan, focuses on local, regional and statewide education issues. Blomstedt’s work has included education finance and organization, assessment and accountability, professional development, and the development of systems to enhance blended and distance-learning opportunities across the state.

Our 2019 Build Up Omaha honorees are:

Akile Banister of the Banister Leadership Academy, which teaches inner-city youth life and leadership skills with activities like Tae Kwon Do, dance, gang prevention classes, parenting classes, mentoring, and tutoring. Banister also hosts a free Friday and Saturday youth program called The Night L.I.F.E., or Leadership in Fun Environments.

Ferial Pearson, assistant professor of teacher education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Pearson began “Secret Kindness Agents” after the 2012 Sandy Hook murders. With her students, she created a way to commit anonymous, random acts of kindness, even with no financial resources. Pearson spreads this message of kindness everywhere she can and presents across the country.

Amanda Ponce, community advocate. Ponce, who has led a local civic leadership program for the past two years, has a passion for progressive change. This pushed her to become a community advocate to uplift and equip the future leaders of Omaha through the New Leaders Council.

Sara Woods, executive associate to the senior vice chancellor for community engagement, Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center at UNO. Woods leads a CEC team that provides a home for diverse Omaha nonprofits to collaborate, grow, and continually improve. Thousands of children benefit every day from the work that comes from the CEC, which under Woods’ leadership facilitates civic dialogues and generates positive change for Omaha and Nebraska.

Our 2019 student honorees are:

LaShawn Patton, Omaha Central High School. LaShawn, a junior at Central, is an alumna of Civic Nebraska’s Lewis & Clark Middle School Afterschool Academy. She regularly volunteers at the Academy, mentoring younger students and helping staff. LaShawn is a role model who has continued to grow, mature, and work toward becoming a strong citizen.

Jolibeth Martinez-Carazo, Sherman Elementary School. Jolibeth, a fifth-grader, was selected by her fellow students, Sherman Community Learning Center staff, and school staff for the award because she leads by example. She is kind and constantly encourages other students, has high standards for herself and others and understands the roles and responsibilities required to be a successful student and citizen.

Music Paw, Lothrop Magnet Elementary. Music, a fourth-grader, is on Lothrop’s student council, loves to serve and help others, and enjoys learning in all learning domains, including our Lothrop Community Learning Center. In all of her relationships, she emphasizes caring for others, helping classmates, humility, and respect for everyone – all of which are important traits for a young civic leader.

We’ll see you at Empire Room Omaha on Nov. 15 as we celebrate these amazing Omahans!

Our 2019 Build Up Omaha honorees are, clockwise from upper left: Sara Woods, Music Paw, LaShawn Patton, Amanda Ponce, Ferial Pearson, Akile Banister, and Jolibeth Martinez-Carazo.

Related Articles

Building Up Omaha: Our 2019 student honorees

Each year, Civic Nebraska’s Build Up Omaha awards recognize Omahans whose work embodies the spirit of a modern, robust democracy. Among our latest honorees are community advocates,

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


After School Programs

  • Sherman Elementary School

    5618 N 14th Ave.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School

    6901 Burt St.
    Omaha, NE 68132

  • Lothrop Magnet Elementary

    3300 N. 22nd St.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Campbell Elementary School

    2200 Dodge St.
    Lincoln, NE 68521

  • Lincoln High School

    2229 J St.
    Lincoln, NE 68510

  • Lincoln Northeast High School

    2635 N. 63rd St.
    Lincoln, NE 68507