Tag Archives: Avenue Scholars

Lenzel Khayes-Brown

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.

Morally Mute

March 3, 2016 by

“While at work a few months ago,” a local businessperson once related to me, “I was with a couple of employees talking not about anything in particular, just chatting about random things.

One of the people brought up another co-worker’s sexuality (they were not present). This person was very vocal about their beliefs and disgust of homosexuality. I was uncomfortable with the comments being made. I picked up my coffee mug and said, ‘I have to get to work’ and left. But afterwards I felt guilty. Should I have done something differently?”

The uncomfortable situation concerned sexuality, but it could just as easily have been about a coworker’s race, religion, or economic status. Someone talks negatively about a co-worker and the words cut deep. We don’t agree, but remain silent. Then we chastise ourselves for our weakness. We hit ourselves. We are bad, bad, bad for not being stronger.

But then again, are we weak and bad? Or are we just smart? The workplace is about getting the job done. When is it our role to engage a person in what could easily become a shouting match about ethics?

When we believe in our gut that something is wrong but don’t speak out about it, we are “morally mute.” Notice that muteness itself can sometimes be a good thing. Biologists tell us that it is a survival mechanism. It is a technique mankind learned in order to protect ourselves from the prowling lions and tigers. The species that knows how to remain silent in the face of danger is the species that outlives others.

On the other hand, muteness can also be a downfall. If we don’t scream when we see a car is about to run into us, a distracted driver may miss a potentially lifesaving alert. Making our presence known and not being mute can also be a very good thing.

So when is moral muteness right or wrong? When should we remain silent, and when
should we speak up at work?

An answer to these questions comes from reflecting on our motivations. Moral muteness is wrong when it is a result of rationalization. If we are silent about our moral beliefs just because we want don’t want to rock the boat, we want to fit in, or we don’t want to mess up the team, then we are rationalizing. These rationalizations tend to arise because of fear, but it is always our role to protect each other from the oncoming car, so to speak. And we might be scared because we don’t have the tools to express our beliefs in a way that doesn’t end in a shouting match, or analogously, that doesn’t run both the driver and the pedestrian off the road.

Like most things in life, moral muteness is overcome with practice.

Some of the best firms in Omaha have initiatives for employees to practice their communication skills in role-playing ethical scenarios with colleagues they trust. I know of at least 16 organizations that do this, both for-profit and non-profit: Access Bank, Arbor Bank, Avenue Scholars, Centris Federal Credit Union, the Douglas County Treasurer’s office, General Service Bureau/Early Out, Heartland Family Service, Hayes & Associates, Kiewit, Mutual of Omaha, NECA, NEI Global Relocation, OPPD, Seldin Company, and SilverStone Group.

These firms deserve a shout-out because they recognize that employees who know how to overcome moral muteness become stronger as individuals. Their teams are made hardier, more resilient. And those are assets that go straight to the bottom line.

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