Civic Nebraska will honor nine Omahans at Build Up Omaha on Jan. 24 who have made a positive difference in Omaha’s civic life.
This year’s Build Up Omaha honorees include five adults and four youth who have demonstrated exceptional civic leadership and who embody Civic Nebraska’s vision of a modern and robust democracy.
“A strong democracy does not build itself. A strong democracy requires dedicated citizens of all ages supporting our civic institutions and working collaboratively to make one another better,” said Adam Morfeld, Civic Nebraska’s executive director.
“It’s easy to take such work for granted. At Build Up Omaha, we make sure such determination and hard work are recognized and celebrated.”
Civic Nebraska’s 2019 Build Up Omaha honorees are:
Dawaune Hayes, director of North Omaha Information Support Everyone. NOISE, a community-led news project that creates and distributes information in north Omaha, encourages residents to recapture their narrative and to communicate with neighbors. Hayes also is a member of the Urban Design Review Board; a board member of Mode Shift Omaha; a resident of the 24th Street incubator space The Study; and an organizer of Omaha NeighborFest.
Chase and Rob Vanderveen, advocates for Omaha’s refugees and immigrants. The couple began teaching English as a Second Language to refugees from Thailand and Myanmar several years ago, and have since immersed themselves in the city’s immigrant and refugee community. They have built communities, connected neighbors, and bridged gaps in cultural understanding to make Omaha a welcome place to live.
Scout Black, research associate with Smith & Lehmann Consulting and a leader in youth participatory action research. Black helps community organizations and programs in addressing youth and young adult access to inclusive, low-barrier sexual and reproductive health services and education, reducing homelessness, and creating a more equitable Omaha. Black leads a team of youth and young adult researchers in learning research skills, conducting culturally responsive research, and sharing results with community change-makers.
Erik Omar Servellon, president of the Metro Young Latino Professionals Association. Erik cultivates community-minded Latinos and Latinas and increases civic engagement and the Latino/a community. In 2018, he grew the association’s DREAMers Scholarship, which gave nine full-ride scholarships to Metro Community College.
Regina Anyaegbunam, student, Lewis and Clark Middle School. A straight-A student, Regina is active in several clubs at Lewis and Clark and in the school’s drama productions. Regina regularly finds ways to help Civic Nebraska’s after-school staff, most notably by tutoring other students.
Kalisha Dunn, student, Lothrop Magnet Elementary. Though Kalisha recently lost her father, she has remained focused and driven at school as well as during Civic Nebraska’s Lothrop-based after-school Community Learning Center. Kalisha regularly helps other Lothrop students who need an extra hand with their studies.
Kyleigh Penix, student, Sherman Elementary School. Active in a variety of clubs, Kyleigh is a role model among students at Sherman’s after-school Community Learning Center, which is run by Civic Nebraska. Kyleigh also is a regular volunteer at the CLC, helping staff with Sherman’s kindergarten and first-grade students.
Aracely Gonzalez Diaz, student, Norris Middle School. Aracely is an active student member of Circles, Civic Nebraska’s program to match middle-school girls with successful Omaha women. Assertive yet empathetic, Aracely has emerged as a student leader in her Circles group.