WIN grants assist UNK with STEM training and Magdalene Omaha program for survivors of sex trafficking

Representatives with the UNK College of Education receive a grant of $86,375 from Women Investing in Nebraska on Oct. 26, 2021, to support a program in collaboration with Nebraska Head Start. The program focuses on helping preschool teachers include STEM education in the classroom.

Women Investing in Nebraska (WIN) awarded grants totaling $172,750 to two programs at its annual awards ceremony Oct. 26. A grant was awarded to the University of Nebraska at Kearney College of Education for a project furthering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Head Start programs, and a grant was awarded to Magdalene Omaha for its New Beginnings Campus and expanded programs for survivors of sex trafficking.

This year, 190 WIN members contributed to make the grants possible, and committee members reviewed proposals in a four-step process culminating in a membership vote for the two recipients. WIN’s membership is comprised of women in and outside Nebraska who share an interest in addressing issues that matter to Nebraskans through collective giving.

WIN Chair Susan Fritz of Crete, Nebraska, said the group was created to provide a way for women to make significant impacts with their giving.

“WIN members review and vet proposals to identify worthy and meaningful projects that will make a difference in their communities, whether those communities are small regions or the entire state,” Fritz said. “We see some amazing problem-solving, caring and effort put forth by so many people at the University of Nebraska and in the nonprofit organizations to help their Nebraska neighbors.”

WIN Grants Committee Chair Vanessa Denney of Omaha, Nebraska, said this year marks the organization’s 10th annual grant awards program.

“It’s exciting for us to celebrate that our collective giving and grant-making group has now awarded 20 grants since its founding, exceeding $1.5 million in support of Nebraska nonprofits and the University of Nebraska.”

UNK program collaborates with Head Start educators

 The UNK College of Education teacher education department was awarded a grant of $86,375 to support a program in collaboration with Nebraska Head Start. The program focuses on early STEM concept development by providing preschool teachers the opportunity to advance their teaching practices.

The Head Start early childhood education program reinforces efforts to prepare Nebraska​’s youngest children for future school and career success. The program could impact hundreds of children and their families. Giving children a strong foundation in STEM subjects is a long-term investment intended to bolster the number of Nebraska high school graduates who meet national STEM benchmarks, which is now around 27%, as well as to meet the demand for a growing segment of STEM-related jobs in the state.

“The UNK Head Start on STEM project is designed to increase Head Start educators’ knowledge, skills and dispositions for planning and implementing developmentally appropriate STEM activities for preschool age children,” said the program’s leader, Paula Thompson, Ed.D., assistant professor of teacher education at UNK. “The funding will support up to 20 Head Start educators with four, tuition-free graduate level courses along with individually designed support for increased participant retention and success.”

Representatives with Magdalene Omaha receive a $86,375 grant from Women Investing in Nebraska on Oct. 26, 2021, to expand its non-residential programming for survivors of sex trafficking at its New Beginnings Campus in Omaha.

Magdalene campus expands access to services

Magdalene Omaha will use its $86,375 grant to expand its non-residential programming for survivors of sex trafficking at its New Beginnings Campus in Omaha.

Since opening its residential program in 2017, Magdalene Omaha has worked to serve more survivors than the residential program can currently accommodate. The needs of survivors range from food security to substance abuse assistance and job training. The WIN grant will assist Magdalene Omaha with its physical space as well as staffing and development of online and in-person options for its curriculum to reach survivors throughout the state.

Founder and CEO Teresa Houser said Magdalene Omaha has become a place that survivors trust and turn to for help.

“Despite the challenges of 2020, Magdalene Omaha supported 158 survivors last year, mostly through our non-residential programs,” Houser said.

The organization delivers hope with peer-led healing, Houser said. Survivors are attracted to a safe community for learning, creating and building a network of support at all points in their healing journeys.

About Women Investing in Nebraska

 WIN engages, educates and empowers philanthropists by collectively awarding annual grants to bold University of Nebraska and nonprofit initiatives addressing important issues in Nebraska. It operates in partnership with the University of Nebraska Foundation and the UNF Charitable Gift Fund to support women philanthropists. Each year, members’ gifts are pooled and divided equally between a Nebraska nonprofit organization and a University of Nebraska program or organization. To learn more visit

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