September 10, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

At 20 years old, Lenzel Khayes-Brown sees a bright future ahead of him. An Omaha native who can claim former residences across the metro from North Omaha to Bellevue, his goal was to attend college straight out of high school. Fortunately, he was introduced to the Avenue Scholars Foundation. He credits the program’s college and career support for providing him with a clear path towards his future.

“Honestly, without the Avenue Scholars I don’t know where I would be today,” Lenzel says. “My family doesn’t have a lot of money, and we don’t like to owe anyone. I wanted to go to college, but the amount of debt I was facing scared me. Going through the Avenue Scholars Program played a big role in helping me to realize my goals.”

Lenzel was fortunate to be one of the first recipients of the Aksarben/Horatio Alger Career Scholarship. Established in 2015, it rewards recipients with $8,000 over two years funded by the Aksarben Foundation and Metro Community College. It starts with Avenue Scholars classes for high school junior and seniors, then provides low-income families like Lenzel’s with beneficial scholarships in career and technical education. He says the Avenue Scholars were there to help him every step of the way.

“I found out about the program during a presentation my sophomore year at Bryan Senior High,” Lenzel says. “I signed up, and starting my junior year the Avenue Scholars Program became part of my daily routine. Because of the program, I kept my GPA up and just took school a bit more serious.”

Lenzel was required to attend an Avenue Scholars class daily, while maintaining a course of study that would lead to on-time graduation. He participated in activities related to his preferred career, part-time job coaching, and dedicated summer activities. By his 2015 senior year, Lenzel had identified his desired career path as a welder and was provided help completing his FAFSA and application to Metro.

Transitioning from high school to college was an easy process thanks to the Career Talent Advisors and College Success Navigators provided to him by Avenue Scholars. Throughout his time in the program, Lenzel has come to appreciate the many partnerships the foundation has acquired to assist students in reaching their goals.

“I’ve seen single mothers receive donated cars from the Avenue Scholars’ partnership with Chariots for Hope,” Lenzel says. “I’ve heard that they provide housing and additional financial aid for students. They even helped me find a great job at Aldi’s. I’m proud to be one of five out of 11 students from my class to be on course to graduate from the program in 2018.”

Lenzel now balances his options for post-graduation. He’s considering a technical-trade degree in welding that would allow him to teach, or he may pursue an altogether different degree (social work). Either way, he appreciates the guidance and support the program has provided.

Proud to call himself an Avenue Scholar, Lenzel is grateful for the program’s help in forging his future.

Visit avescholars.org for more information.

This article appears in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.