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Avenue Scholars Foundation



TURNING DREAMS INTO ACTION

Avenue Scholars Foundation uses new technology to help hundreds of high schoolers reach their goals

Data is a crucial element in Avenue Scholars Foundation’s focus on changing the outcome of Omaha’s most underserved youth. After realizing that their rudimentary systems weren’t cutting it when it came to data management, Avenue Scholars Foundation adopted a reliable new system designed to scale to their needs. Now the nonprofit has successfully streamlined operations and is better able to plan programs, evaluate progress and track outcomes.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said it best: “You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to love what you do.” Avenue Scholars Foundation knows firsthand what Jobs meant by that statement. That’s why this unique Omaha, Nebraska-based nonprofit organization, founded by organization President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ken Bird, focuses on helping students successfully navigate through high school and then college with an ultimate goal of guiding them toward a career they love.

When Avenue Scholars Foundation first began serving students, it served 174 students from three local high schools and Metropolitan Community College. Since then, the organization has grown exponentially: with the incoming class of 2012-2013, it will serve more than 600 students from seven Omaha-area high schools and the community college, as well as scholars searching for and beginning their careers.

“Avenue Scholars Foundation targets students at the end of their sophomore year if they demonstrate financial need, have less than a 2.5 grade point average, score high on the Gallup Hope and Wellbeing index score or receive a recommendation by a school or community group,” said Sharlene Karbowski, the nonprofit’s Director of Technology and Information Services.

How the Program Works

Avenue Scholars Foundation creates individualized plans for each student—all of which take financial, academic and career aspirations into account. Students then meet with talent advisors who ensure they stay on the path for enrollment at Metropolitan Community College. Avenue Scholars Foundation continues to work closely with their young college-bound participants, providing guidance that ranges from housing and transportation advice to academic performance. And the support doesn’t stop there: Avenue Scholars Foundation also offers its members a variety of career services, including training and job placement.

On the Hunt for a Better Data Management System

Despite being a relative newcomer to the nonprofit world serving today’s youth, Avenue Scholars Foundation is no stranger to growing pains.

“Over the last four years, we have shifted from simply ensuring our students finish high school to giving them the tools they need to complete college and embark on a career path they love. That is how we define and measure our success. That in itself is what makes our program so unique,” Karbowski said.

Data is a crucial element in the Avenue Scholars Foundation’s focus on changing the outcome of Omaha’s most underserved youth. It wasn’t long after opening its doors that the organization realized its use of disparate, rudimentary systems wasn’t cutting it when it came to data management. Avenue Scholars Foundation needed greater reliability and scalability with a system that could also track data longitudinally. Ensuring that data is secure and backed up properly was also high on the nonprofit’s wish list for new technology.

Setting Objectives for the New System

When the opportunity arose to jointly select a data management system with other local youth organizations in order to share data and more effectively measure outcomes, Avenue Scholars Foundation didn’t think twice about being part of such an unprecedented project.

“Combining our knowledge and expertise with other youth organizations and pooling our resources to find the best technology available on the market was a no brainer,” Karbowski noted. “Additionally, it was imperative to find a solutions provider that had a proven track record, outstanding technical support and unparalleled vision for the future to help us accomplish our objectives.”

Criteria for the new data management system included:

  • An intuitive, easy-to-use interface
  • A web-enabled platform
  • Increased exporting and importing functionality
  • Analytics and outcome measurement capabilities
nFocus Delivers on All System Requirements

After an extensive evaluation of other software providers, Avenue Scholars Foundation and the other community organizations selected nFocus Solutions. nFocus’ Community Solutions Data Warehouse will form the backbone for collaboration between the community organizations. Avenue Scholars Foundation also selected nFocus’ leading KidTrax, Case Management and Outcome Measurement Toolkit applications.

“nFocus demonstrated an ease of use paired with advanced functionality that we had no seen in other providers,” Karbowski said. “Also, the company has a ‘code of ethics’ that I find admirable, helping us avoid potential mistakes that could have been made during data analysis.”

New Solutions Drive Results, Streamline Processes

Since deploying nFocus Solutions in 2010, Avenue Scholars Foundation is making strides to streamline operations and improve processes. With KidTrax, the nonprofit can collect all-important data for each student—from academic achievements and challenges all the way down to emergency contacts and the creation of ID cards. As a real-time, web-based solution, Outcome Measurement Toolkit integrates with KidTrax to facilitate successful program planning, evaluation and outcome tracking through the use of logic models.

nFocus’ Case Management allows Avenue Scholars Foundation to analyze impact at the individual participant level. Detailed information about individual cases, including staff and case manager interactions, goals, document attachments, assessments and results achieved are housed in the solution.

While Avenue Scholars Foundation is beginning to track measureable improvements the solutions bring to the organization, Karbowski noted they are already helping users save time on administrative tasks so that they can focus on the big picture.

“Without a doubt, nFocus has helped us streamline our organization and will continue to do so—both at the organizational and community levels,” Karbowski concluded. “Our users are really pleased with the solution’s ease of use and clear navigation. That, plus nFocus Solutions’ willingness to continue to make improvements to the system based on client feedback, is what truly sets the software provider apart from the competition.”

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