Excerpt from 2016 We Don’t Coast magazine. Photo by Sarah Hoffman.

Emily Mwaja knows all about the drive to achieve. Not only is she a world champion weightlifter, she’s also director of programs at Girls Inc. of Omaha.

“Whatever dream they want, we will do what we can to make it happen,” Emily says.

That includes a major renovation and expansion project at the north Omaha campus; a $15 million upgrade that enhances the organization’s ability to inspire “all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.” Renamed in memory of Katherine Fletcher, a respected Omaha Public Schools educator, the center now offers a full-sized gymnasium; teen, media and fitness centers; and an on-site health clinic.

“Every girl will be able to spark a new interest or add to her current interest,” says Desyree McGhee, a high school freshman who’s been a member for 10 years.

In 2016, Girls Inc. of Omaha was one of six affiliates from among the 82 in the U.S. and Canada to be recognized for performance. Among the benchmarks, the Omaha affiliate saw an 11 percent increase in girls served. Judy Vredenburgh, president and chief executive officer of Girls Inc. in the U.S. and Canada, described the Omaha affiliate as a standard bearer for the rest of the organization.

“(Omaha) dramatically changes lives,” she says. “This is an organization that does brilliant work — for girls who have the greatest need and who are at greatest risk of not having a chance.”


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