The Simple Foundation is a Omaha nonprofit organization that provides extracurricular activities to improve the self-confidence of youth from diverse backgrounds. It helps youth to elevate their academic achievement as well as to improve lifestyle choices.
Don’t be fooled by the company’s name. The Simple Foundation’s work to serve immigrant and refugee populations is highly complex. It involves a multifaceted mix of cross-cultural engagement, academic tutoring, social skills enhancement, and health empowerment. Now armed with financial resources through a grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), the Simple Foundation is poised to be a game-changing force for good in Omaha.
The Simple Foundation received a $6 million grant through DED’s Internships and Crime Prevention Program. The funds are targeted to serve youth between the ages of 14 to 24. Simple Foundation President and CEO Osuman Issaka said the foundation has extended its service area beyond North and South Omaha and now addresses the needs of underserved populations in West Omaha as well.
The Simple Foundation has developed a robust network of agencies to maximize the impact of its grant award.“We have partners that we’ve identified that are frontline direct service organizations,” Issaka stated. These include Girls Inc, the RP Ready RP Wrestling organization, Metropolitan Community College, and Omaha Public Schools, among others.
The need is critical to serve young Omahans, Issaka emphasized. “Seeing a lack of opportunities, lack of safe spaces, , and the lack of internships,” has been a motivating factor for the foundation’s work, he said.
Issaka cited access and exposure to opportunities in various fields as a primary need of the Omaha community. Education may come via a trade school, community college, or a four-year college. Interns funded through the grant program will learn from and about major local employers like local architectural giant HDR, Omaha Public Schools, PayPal, and Union Pacific.
As examples, Issaka pointed to opportunities for interns to learn WEB3 and engineering as preparation for jobs as economists and in other positions in the financial world. He emphasized the need to equip interns with digital skills as businesses increasingly transition from brick-and-mortar operations to online engagement.
Connecting interns to jobs is only the start, Issaka explained, with a bigger goal being the generation of entrepreneurs who will become employers. “That’s our goal, having business leaders,” he said. “We’re preparing employees to be employers.”
Issaka expects the grant to have an economic impact on the community far beyond the initial time frame of the grant. “Even though the funding is for two years, our plan and our projection is scaling up 10 to 20 years . . . We’re going to see a generational impact.”
The Simple Foundation is currently planning a Global Youth Summit as the first step toward achieving its internship program goals. The summit will introduce four main topics: entrepreneurship, how to monetize social media, goal setting, finance, and technology. The Summit will also create accountability partners, Issaka emphasized, to provide the relational support youth need.
This project will not be easy, and Issaka is quick to acknowledge that. “Our talent has a unique way of looking at things. Nothing is a failure. It’s just an opportunity to learn,” he said. “So, we swing, we take chances.”
With Issaka’s corporate background and economics degree, and a project manager with similar credentials, the Simple Foundation’s leadership has the education and experience to make waves in North and South Omaha. They’re dreaming big and anticipating a transformative impact that will reverberate for generations to come.