Building bright futures


By Said Ernesto Velazquez, communications intern

St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of high school students on the road to academic and personal success. The congregation’s partnership with Burke High School right down the street has a seven-year track record of student engagement. The students that apply to be part of the after-school support program, housed at St. Luke’s UMC and often called the teen center, are eager to take part in diverse study groups and activities ranging from tutoring to recreational activities. The following two components are the main core of the school partnership

  1. Power hour study time. Burke teachers and community volunteers are available for academic assistance. In addition, students have access to school supplies, schoolbooks, computers and printing. An incentive program is also in place to encourage good grades, complete homework and to achieve positive test scores.
  2. Seminars, recreation and peer time. After the students complete their homework they get to participate on several fun and educational activities — activities include senior seminar, sports science, curtain call, cooking matters, stand and deliver, louder than a bomb and channeling your career. These activities are intended for the discovery and pursue their potential while working towards self-sufficiency.

“The teen center has been a big part of my life, before and after graduating from high school,” said Sierra, a 2013 Burke graduate. “This place is my home away from home and I am a member of this big family.” Sierra is one of the several alumni volunteers that give their share on the program. Sierra is now attending college, with a full-ride scholarship for the criminal justice program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“This is a place for them to focus on their studying and a safe space to get tutoring from many volunteers from local universities and Burke High School faculty,” said Abbey Jackson the teen center director. “Many of the youth that are part of this program come from low-income communities and/or are first generation immigrants.”

The teen center recently hosted a question and answer presentation by a representative of Heartland Family Service. The main topics that were discussed included domestic violence, healthy relationships and illegal substance abuse. 

The partnership between Burke High School and St. Luke UMC has changed the life of hundreds of teenagers in the West Omaha area. Many seniors said they wanted to go to college and make genuine contributions to their community.

If you would like more information about the teen center, contact center director, Abbey Jackson, at or 402-333-6886 ext. 328. For more information on Great Plains education partnerships, visit

Teen Center! St. Luke UMC Education Partnership with Burke high school

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