Circles students learn how to be ‘Development Divas’

Sarah Cohen visited our after-school Circles club to share some “Development Diva” wisdom, and got to know the young people who benefit directly from funds that she secures.


According to Sarah Cohen, a “Development Diva” enjoys supporting others’ ideas and dreams, likes to tell stories, and thrives on competition. As Civic Nebraska’s grants associate, that’s exactly how Sarah works as she secures grants and donations for the organization so we can serve our state.

On a recent Tuesday, Sarah visited our after-school Circles club to share some “Development Diva” wisdom, and got to know the young people who benefit directly from those funds.

Circles is an Omaha-based mentorship program between women leaders and middle-school girls. Created to show young women the variety of careers available to them, Circles also includes activities that focus on leadership development, civic-mindedness, women’s health, and self-expression. Maranda Loughlin of Omaha coordinates the club.

“These kinds of visits make my writing and my own applications stronger and more compelling,” said Sarah, who is one-half of Civic Nebraska’s development team, along with Director of Development Liz Potter. “Circles has always been a club that impressed me, so I was honored to meet the young women Maranda works with each week, and to invite them into my world.” 

To help the girls understand her role, Sarah created a hypothetical Request For Proposal, or RFP as it’s known in the development world. She asked the girls to create a visual argument explaining why Circles should receive an imaginary $1,000 grant. 

The girls dove into the chance to share why their club is deserving. And, Sarah said, they learned how to get more detailed in their requests.

“At first, the girls used words like ‘this club is awesome’ and ‘this club is all about girl power,’ but by the end of the activity, we were developing more specific stories of impact, detailing the big why behind the power these girls are cultivating in Circles,” she said. 

Circles participants created their own proposals. Sarah said it would be too hard to choose the best proposal from all of the submissions. But a few did stick out:

  • One shared how Circles is a place where she feels safe and she was able to meet girls older and younger than her who have positively influenced her friend choices and how she now looks forward to school.

  • Another fondly reviewed the years she had been a part of the club. She talked about how she’s about to move on to high school and wants to come back and help Maranda, because Circles had such a significant impact on her.

  • Another talked about how Circles helped her meet so many women leaders in Omaha. Circles makes her more curious and less anxious about her eventual career; in short, Circles taught her that women can do anything.

All of the girls, Sarah said, benefited by practicing their storytelling skills and learning about yet another potential career path.

“The girls dipped their toes into what the day-to-day looks like for a professional grant writer,” she said. “Anyone can be a ‘Development Diva.’ I’m excited that the Circles members could envision themselves as one and even practice the work that development professionals do.”

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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