Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Public Housing Development After-School Study Centers

Omaha Housing Authority And Omaha Public Schools
Omaha, Nebraska

Key Characteristics


In 1986, the Omaha Housing Authority (OHA) and the Omaha Public Schools (OPS) formed a partnership to help public housing residents gain economic and social independence and to reduce the high dropout rate among area teenagers. The partnership established study centers at four public housing developments, where volunteers provide individualized tutoring to students twice a week after school. Three of the centers also have computers and printers, donated by local businesses and foundations, which students use for special projects.


Because of citywide busing for desegregation, students attending the study centers represent every public school in the city. The housing projects where the centers are located have long histories of student truancy and dropping out, teen pregnancy, and drug dealing. To help combat these problems, returning youths to the classroom became the priority of the OHA-OPS partnership. On a typical day, between 30 and 40 students attend each of the four study centers. The racial composition varies; one center serves a group in which 90 percent of the students are Anglo, while another serves a group that is 80 percent African American. Approximately 60 percent of the students attend elementary school, 25 percent attend middle school, and 15 percent attend high school.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

Networking within the community is the key to sustaining a successful volunteer program, according to the head of the resident relations division at OHA. Housing authority staff belong to many boards of directors, for organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, and deliberately attend community functions at which they can talk about the study centers and the needs of the housing project students. The OHA director meets monthly with community officials, including the police chief, the school superintendent, and the mayor. "We don't have to ask for things, people just give to us--they bring things to our door," the director says. "The most important thing to remember is that anybody has something to give. A parent may not be able to tutor a child in algebra, but they can discuss a book--or sometimes just the presence of that adult may lend children encouragement and send a [positive] message."

The director also advises that volunteers should not be pushed into a long-lasting or permanent commitment: "If a volunteer says they could only come three times, or they only have one dictionary, that's fine. You can't pressure people into an all-or-nothing situation. No one will volunteer if they think it has to be forever."

Transportation to the program is not provided; students walk from their homes to the study centers, which are located on housing project grounds.

Evidence of Success

The OHA estimates that 90 percent of participating students return to the study centers regularly. School teachers report that in many cases student grades have risen dramatically, and they witness great improvement in students' classroom behavior. Several of an estimated 18 public housing students who receive full scholarships to local colleges and universities have attended the OHA study centers. The first OHA public housing resident scheduled to graduate from Creighton in 1994 was on the dean's list for four years.
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