Taking the high road: Street Team begins seventh year of service

Building young civic leaders means teaching them to take action to improve their communities. Street Team has exposed Omaha middle-schoolers to betterment projects that support critical learning, civil discourse and civic leadership skills.

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Building young civic leaders means teaching them to take action to improve their communities. For seven years, our outside-of-school club known as Street Team has exposed Omaha middle-schoolers to betterment projects that support critical learning, civil discourse and civic leadership skills. 

Street Team meets at four different Omaha middle schools. Kent Day, Civic Nebraska’s director of Youth Civic Leadership Programs, says service and community engagement are at the core of the project. 

“I believe that students take away the assurance that there is at least one caring adult in their lives,” Kent says. 

One of those adults is Akeyla Dowden, Street Team’s program specialist at Morton Magnet Middle School. There, Street Team works on service projects for eight weeks at a time. When picking issues to tackle, Akeyla says she is careful to work with students, letting them choose something about which they are passionate. 

“When you’re giving, it has to come from the heart,” she says. “I really want the students to be into it.”

The leadership, critical thinking, and teamwork skills students gain are crucial to building and keeping a healthy democracy.

“My ultimate goal is that (students) can create friendships that they can take outside of Street Team,” Akeyla says. “It’s a very diverse environment in the class so I really, really push for the students to form bonds. That way when they leave here they can say, ‘OK, I can be this person’s friend, even though they’re different from me.’ ”  

It’s important for students to learn the importance of serving their community and to give without expecting anything in return. Street Team encourages a desire to help and expects students to continue volunteering and serving their communities long after their time in the after-school club.

In the past, Morton’s Street Team has made no-tie blankets and donated them to the Humane Society. Currently, they’re making birdhouses for the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha. A potential next project will be designing puzzles and taking them to nursing homes at Christmastime. 

“It teaches the students (to) help elders, being patient and kind when while doing a puzzle with them,” Akeyla says.

Last year, Street Team started a school-wide campaign at Morton to collect feminine products and general hygiene products. The club donated the items to the school and created a hygiene closet for students who might not be able to afford them. 

Street Team not only benefits the students involved and the surrounding community, it also benefits its own employees. Akeyla says she loves coming to her job and her students can always boost her mood. 

“This is the highlight of my day,” she says. “It’s my second job, but it’s my favorite job.”

For more on our outside-of-school clubs click here!

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Locations

  • Lincoln Administrative & Program Office
    1111 Lincoln Mall Suite 350, Lincoln NE 68508
    402.904.5191
  • Omaha Office
    6400 University Dr., N CEC 117.12, Omaha NE 68182-0708
    402.554.3584
  • Contact Us

After School Programs

  • Sherman Elementary School

    5618 N 14th Ave.
    Omaha, NE 68110
    402.457.6711

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School

    6901 Burt St.
    Omaha, NE 68132
    402.557.4300

  • Lothrop Elementary School

    3300 N. 22nd St.
    Omaha, NE 68110
    402.457.5704

  • Campbell Elementary School

    2200 Dodge St.
    Lincoln, NE 68521
    402.304.1165

  • Lincoln High School

    2229 J St.
    Lincoln, NE 68510
    402.436.1301

  • Lincoln Northeast High School

    2635 N. 63rd St.
    Lincoln, NE 68507
    402.436.1303

  • Randolph Elementary School

    1024 S. 37th St.
    Lincoln, NE 68510
    402.436.1163