MENTOR Nebraska’s Excellence in Mentoring Awards are an opportunity to celebrate Nebraska's champions of mentoring! This free annual event honors individuals and organizations that have made tremendous contributions to young people and the youth mentoring field in Nebraska.
The EIM Awards are presented in these four categories:
- Young Leader of the Year: Recognizes a young person (8-21 years old) who is involved in a mentoring program and has demonstrated service to their community and great leadership potential. The Young Leader of the Year recipient receives a $500 scholarship.
- Mentor of the Year: Honors an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to mentoring by helping a young person reach their full potential.
- Mentoring Practitioner of the Year: Celebrates a mentoring practitioner who has made tremendous contributions to young people and the mentoring field.
- Mentoring Advocate of the Year: Recognizes a foundation, company, organization, or individual who has made a significant impact on young people by using their influence and public platform to support mentoring opportunities or mentoring initiatives.
Past EIM Awards Honorees
Young Leader, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska
As a Senior at Grand Island Central Catholic High School, Ben is actively involved in various school organizations, including National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, and Student Council. He is also a gifted athlete, excelling in football, track, and wrestling. During his junior year, The Grand Island Independent recognized Ben with the Paul Beranek Courage Award for his perseverance and resilience in overcoming challenges.
However, what truly distinguishes Ben as a leader is his commitment to mentoring. He mentors a 4th-grader weekly at Jefferson Elementary School through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska and has recruited his classmates to become mentors as well.
By consistently showing up for his mentee, Ben has built a strong and trusting relationship that has had a positive impact on his mentee's academic performance and personal growth. He also mentors through his school's Big/Little Crusader program and is grateful that mentoring has allowed him to utilize his talents and strengths to benefit others.
Ben is best known for his intelligence, confidence, sense of humor, and his unwavering commitment to achieving his goals. He is a team player who can work with anyone and is dedicated to seeing things through to completion.
Young Leader, 4-H Health Rocks
Tatiana Tonsil has been named Young Leader of the Year for her outstanding leadership qualities and dedication to education, mentorship, and community service.
She is currently a senior at Ralston High School where she is a natural leader who always offers a helping hand to those in need. Tatiana is passionate about education and holds leadership roles in various activities, including cheer, soccer, Educators Rising, and future teacher internships. Her love for school has inspired her to pursue a degree in either Elementary or Secondary Education and a coaching endorsement with hopes of leading her own cheer team someday.
For the past three years, Tatiana has been mentoring students from Seymour Elementary School through the 4-H Health Rocks Mentoring Program. She has dedicated over 50 hours to guiding these students in setting and achieving their goals. She is now a lead mentor responsible for developing weekly lesson plans for other mentors.
Overall, Tatiana's remarkable personality, creativity, passion, and commitment to empowering young people have left a positive impact on the teachers, classmates, and students she has worked with.
Mentoring is at the core of everything Sally does. She has mentored four students through TeamMates Mentoring Program and has gone above and beyond in supporting her mentees.
Sally's mentoring journey began in 2009 with April, a 6th grader she mentored through high school graduation. She was then matched with Elizabeth, an 11th grader, whom she continued to mentor through college. Sally was connected with her third mentee, Christian, a 10th grader at Wisner-Pilger High School, after a family tragedy led him and his siblings to move from Delaware to Pilger, Nebraska to live with their grandfather. After the passing of his grandfather, the family moved to Pierce. Despite the distance of over 30 miles, Sally continued to mentor Christian and made the effort to be there for him. With Sally's support, Christian was able to achieve his goals and earn multiple scholarships to attend college. Sally was matched with her fourth mentee when Christian’s younger sister, Haylee, asked Sally to mentor her. Throughout the years, Sally has shown up for them as a mentor, advisor, tutor, counselor, and mother figure.
Sally is an active volunteer in her community and is involved in several professional organizations. In November 2022, she was named the Wisner Citizen of the Year. Sally has been an educator for over 43 years and has received several teaching awards for her dedication and passion. She has been a professor of sciences and science education at Wayne State College for more than 23 years.
Mentoring Practitioner, The Keys Foundation
Marquis, known in the community as Keys or Coach Keys, is the CEO and Founder of the KEYS Foundation, a nonprofit in Omaha that focuses on youth development programs related to giving girls access to sports, mentoring, and personal development. She is highly regarded in the mentoring sector, and she was recently invited to be a panelist for MENTOR Nebraska's "Amplifying the Voices of BIPOC Girls" training.
Marquis has leveraged her passion for women's basketball to empower women. She’s hosted multiple sessions of an Amateur Women’s Basketball League, established a girls’ basketball team program, collaborated with community organizations to offer basketball camps, and developed a mentoring program called Confidently Me! that focuses on mentoring girls between the ages of 10-18 to be confident in themselves and their abilities.
Marquis has received numerous awards, including the 2022 Wilbert Ellis Youth Award and the I Be Black Girl Gives Grant. She is a genuine and kind-hearted individual who works tirelessly to open up opportunities for young girls. Marquis believes that mentoring is essential and can change the trajectory of someone's life. Her life's work is about building confident girls who turn into confident women.
Mentoring Advocate, Ralston Public Schools
Since 1999, Jody has been a source of inspiration to students at Ralston Public Schools. She began her journey as a classroom teacher and now serves as the principal at Seymour Elementary, where she works to connect her students with mentoring opportunities.
Through a collaboration with the Douglas-Sarpy County 4-H staff and Ralston High School students, Jody has helped implement the 4-H Health Rocks Mentoring Program at her school, providing almost fifty 3rd-6th graders with valuable mentoring support. In fact, the program has become the most attended after-school activity for students, thanks to her role in securing flexible meeting spaces and student access.
Jody's leadership has created a sense of family in her school, promoting fun, worth, and belonging for the students, and helping them make healthy choices in all areas of their lives. By fostering positive relationships with peers and promoting citizenship and kindness, Jody has empowered students to take responsibility for supporting each other. She is a strong advocate for mentoring, and promotes the benefits to parents, district administration, and the school board, ensuring the success of her students.
As the great Maya Angelou once said, "I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Jody lives by this quote, and her dedication and passion have left a lasting impact on the students she has worked with.
Young Leader, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska
Laila is a Junior at Grand Island Senior High where she is a Student Ambassador, honor student, and involved in several activities including the LGBTSA Club and Unity Council. She prides herself in helping people find their voice, standing up for what is right, and taking initiative to solve problems. She is currently advocating to get a mural passed, writing grant proposals to help further the growth of her school clubs, and working to open a clothing store for plus sized women.
Laila is also a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska. She is involved in their school-based mentoring program and VOICE program where she mentors 7th graders exploring their racial and ethnic identities. She is always willing to participate in discussions and creates a safe and calm environment for young people to open up. She wanted to become a mentor because she saw the positive effects mentoring has on young people, but soon realized that being a mentor had an even bigger impact on her.
Young Leader, STRIVE Refugee Mentoring
Emily was born in Burma, grew up in a Thailand refugee camp, and moved to the United States with her grandmother in 2018. She is a proud graduate of Omaha Benson High School where she was active in the STRIVE Refugee Mentoring Program, Drama Club, and THRIVE Leadership Program.
Emily was awarded the Susan T. Buffett Scholarship and is currently a sophomore majoring in International Studies with a minor in Theater at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She is on the Dean's List and one of her many goals is to develop plays about the Karen experience and culture.
Outside of the classroom, Emily has helped educate people on mentoring refugee students and recently presented a workshop at the National Mentoring Summit. She continues to volunteer with the STRIVE Mentoring Program at Northwest High School. She is also a member of the UNO Karen Student Leaders organization, Omaha Refugee Task Force, Gifford Park Neighborhood Association, and the 2022 World Refugee Day Celebration planning committee.
Mentor, Community Connections
Jason is a physical therapist at Great Plains Health Sports & Therapy in North Platte where he is also a youth sports coach and member of the North Platte Ambassadors and Messiah Lutheran Church.
Jason became a mentor through Community Connections in 2017 after a patient encouraged him to get involved. He was matched with then 9-year-old, Dylan. From the beginning, Jason took a genuine interest in getting to know Dylan and the things he liked to do. They pushed each other out of their comfort zones by taking turns planning what activities they would do together –including golfing, baking cookies, playing Nintendo switch, and volunteering in the community.
Dylan's mom is very supportive of the mentoring relationship and says that when Jason came into their lives, he met her son on his level and was there for him during a difficult time. Over the years, Jason has modeled leadership and life skills by showing Dylan what it looks like to get up and show up, give back to the community, and how it feels to be a part of something bigger than himself. Jason has continued to be a part of Dylan’s life even after aging out of the mentoring program. They still spend time together and Dylan continues to look to Jason as an example for how he wants to lead in his life.
Mentor, 100 Black Men of Omaha
Johnny was born and raised in North Omaha and graduated from Omaha North High. He considers his passion for giving back to his community as a way to reciprocate to the village that poured into him, ultimately molding him into the man he has become today.
He is currently a 100 Black Men mentor, the president of the Urban League of Nebraska Young Professionals, treasurer of the Urban Financial Services Coalition, Chapter Advisor of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., co-director of Kappa League mentoring program, and sits on numerous nonprofit boards.
Johnny obtained his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska Omaha while interning at First National Bank of Omaha through his entire college career. This led to a full-time position, and he is now going on 15 years at FNBO where he currently serves as a Project Manager.
In his free time, Johnny enjoys traveling, spending time with family, playing and watching sports, as well as going on Kappa League’s annual college tour.
Mentoring Practitioner, Community Connections
Angela started her role as the Mentoring Coordinator for Community Connections in 2015. She has been instrumental in growing the program by bringing innovation to mentor recruitment, virtual mentoring, and the matching process. In doing so, the youth within the program stay engaged, have stronger outcomes, and feel heard and supported.
Angela is an advocate for youth voice and choice, family involvement, and ensuring mentors feel properly supported. She has redefined how mentoring is perceived and brought people to rethink their role as a mentor. Her inviting and innovative approach to the mentoring field is inspiring, inclusive, and reflects a growth mindset.
Angela consistently looks for ways to stay up to date with research and evidence based mentoring approaches, build relationships with other mentoring practitioners throughout the state and country, and intentionally brings those approaches to her community. She has taken countless trainings and shares her knowledge with other mentoring professionals through her role as a MENTOR Nebraska consultant.
Outside of work, Angela has volunteered with Girl Scouts, 4-H, and Sunday school. She is the proud mother of two daughters, Larissa and Zoe, and miniature dachshund, Pippi. She enjoys inspiring young people to travel and appreciate other cultures and is always looking forward to her next trip.
Dr. Cheryl Logan
Mentoring Advocate, Omaha Public Schools
Dr. Logan is the Superintendent of Nebraska’s largest school district, Omaha Public Schools. She uses her platform to advocate and advance mentoring initiatives that serve students inside and outside of the classroom.
Under Dr. Logan’s leadership, OPS has instituted systems to ensure mentoring opportunities are available to students across the district through partnerships with area mentoring programs and district initiatives such as Success Mentors and STRIVE Mentoring. Dr. Logan advocates for mentoring because of the impact it has on attendance, academic achievement, and social emotional well-being students. She encourages district staff to get involved through paid time off to mentor OPS students once a week during work hours.
Mentoring is near and dear to Dr. Logan’s heart. Not only is she a mentor herself, but she also credits her success to several mentors in her own life who have poured into her and helped her strategically analyze difficult decisions. She says mentoring extends an opportunity to give back, share a different perspective, and offer guidance without judgement.
Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, Cassie, and also attending sporting events, orchestra and theatre performances, art exhibits, parades and sometimes even birthday and graduation parties to support her students.
Young Leader, Civic Nebraska
Nyankoor is an innovative and community-driven young leader in Lincoln who has built relationships across her community to connect people and resources together.
Nyankoor is on the youth advisory council for Stand in For Nebraska. She is also active in Civic Nebraska’s Community Learning Centers at Lincoln High School and Everett Elementary. As part of a community improvement project, Nyankoor planned and orchestrated a back-to-school clothing drive.
She seeks out ways to connect with other youth from South Sudan. Nyankoor envisioned a space where students from South Sudan could come together in a space that honored their culture and experiences. Working through the Community Learning Centers, Nyankoor was able to bring her idea for a mentoring program to Everett Elementary to work with elementary youth from South Sudan. This mentoring program was such a success that Nyankoor is starting as an employee at the Everett Community Learning Centers program.
Young Leader, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska
Zach is a student at Grand Island Senior High where he enjoys singing, performing, sports, and using his voice for social justice. Zach educates himself on racial justice and LGBTQ issues, so that he can use his influence and knowledge to educate those around him.
Zach is a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska where he was matched with his mentee, EJ, in 2019. Throughout the pandemic, Zach has been a consistent friend to EJ. Even when they couldn’t meet in person, Zach continued to be a role model by connecting with EJ through Zoom, phone calls, and letters.
Zach is a strong advocate for mentoring and helps recruit mentors at his high school.
Adrian Fuentes Sanchez
Mentor, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands
Adrian has been a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands for nearly five years. Adrian exemplifies what a good friend and role model looks like through his kindness, humility, patience, and responsibility. He encourages his mentee, Jonas , to be exactly who he is and be the best version of himself. Adrian gives Jonas the confidence to express himself and stand up for what he believes in.
Adrian is a strong advocate for mentoring and is always there to spread the word about Big Brothers Big Sisters and its impact on the community, whether that is by fundraising or sharing his match story with donors, stakeholders, and potential volunteers. Adrian is also someone that shows up for the community and encourages Jonas also to get involved. He does so from a humble place and never takes credit for the impact that he has made.
Mentor, Latino Center of the Midlands
Mahatma has been mentoring young people for more than 8 years through the Latino Center of Midlands. He facilitates weekly talking circles through Joven Noble, a rite of passage program for adolescent males. He teaches young people life skills, provides emotional support, helps them find strength and pride in cultural identity, and has inspires them to engage in volunteering and community service.
Mahatma goes above and beyond by tutoring his students, advocating for them, and honoring their accomplishments. He has provided unconditional support for hundreds of young people throughout the years. He is humble and leads by example. Parents trust Mahatma and he supports them as well.
Mentoring Practitioner, Partnership 4 Kids
Damien has been a coach, mentor, role model, and resource for young people in Omaha for more than 20 years. He has dedicated his career to serving young people and families through his work at Urban League of Nebraska, Heartland Family Service, and in his current role at Partnership 4 Kids.
As the Program & Curriculum Supervisor, Damien is a master multitasker at organizing programs, improving database systems, monitoring flow and structure, maintaining school-based relationships with administrators and teachers --All while demonstrating the ability to lead and coach program staff to accomplish established objectives and build relationships with students, families, and the community.
Throughout the pandemic, Damien has gone the extra mile to connect with families to ensure their needs are being met and no one feels ostracized, judged or alone. He has delivered food and supplies to the students he mentors and their families.
Dr. Anne Hobbs
Mentoring Advocate, UNO Juvenile Justice Institute
Dr. Hobbs uses her platform to advocate and advance initiatives to serve Nebraska youth involved in the juvenile justice system with mentoring.
She established the Juvenile Reentry Mentoring Project at the University of Nebraska Omaha and has expanded this mentoring model in communities across Nebraska. This collaborative service-learning course pairs college students to youth re-entering the community after commitment to a detention facility. The college students mentor these young people by helping them practice for job interviews, providing guidance on getting a driver’s license or state ID, studying for the GED, and other important life skills. Because of her leadership, more than 215 college students have been matched to a young person involved in the juvenile justice system.
Dr. Hobbs is a licensed attorney and the Director of the Juvenile Justice Institute at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She currently serves on the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association’s Board and is Co-Chair of the Nebraska Juvenile Alternatives Racial & Ethnic Diversity Initiative. She serves on a number of leadership initiatives and through her research and active involvement, she is able to effect changes in the areas of juvenile justice reform, restorative practices and child welfare.
- Mentor of the Year: Erica McGruder, Partnership 4 Kids
- Business of the Year: University of Nebraska Medical Center
- Mentor of the Year: Vicky Muli, Girls Inc. of Omaha
- Business of the Year: Greater Omaha Chamber
- Advocate of the Year: Willie Barney & The Empowerment Network
- Mentor of the Year: Edward Stevens, 100 Black Men of Omaha
- Business of the Year: First National Bank
- Advocate of the Year: Lisa Utterback
- Mentor of the Year: Ben Ries, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands
- Business of the Year: KETV News Watch 7
- Advocate of the Year: Richard Holland
- Mentor of the Year: Amy Nelson, Kent Bellows Mentoring Program
- Business Advocate of the Year: Creighton University
- Mentor of the Year: Dakotah Taylor, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands
- Business Advocate of the Year: Mutual of Omaha & Mutual of Omaha Foundation
- Outstanding Collaborator: Oanh Heiser
- Mentor of the Year: Tess Larson, Girls Inc. of Omaha
- Business Advocate of the Year: OPPD
- Mentor of the Year: Laura Hopp, Nominated by Ollie Webb
- Business Advocate of the Year: Kiewit Company, Nominated by TeamMates
- Mentor of the Year: Elaine Bankey, Nominated by TeamMates
- Business Advocate of the Year: Kutak Rock, Nominated by Partnership 4 Kids
- Mentor of the Year: Don Bend, Nominated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands
2023 EIM Awards Sponsors
James and Jacqueline Clough Family Foundation
Annette and Paul Smith
Bland Cares Foundation
Mutual of Omaha Foundation
Omaha Public Power District
Matthew and Laura Enenbach
Dave and Julie Hefflinger
Metropolitan Utilities District
Omaha Public Schools
Omaha Public Schools Foundation
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