Branching Into His Passion: Keenan Page Assists Youth
Jul 24, 2020 08:51AM
By Wendy Townley
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Central High School and University of Nebraska at Omaha graduate Keenan Page has long held a passion for exploration and education. His favorite school subjects of geography, globalism, and the humanities prepared him well for a career in better understanding—and ultimately helping—those in his community.
Page’s career with Omaha Home for Boys, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary, began seven years ago as a recreation center assistant. His childhood activities of hockey and other team sports made the new opportunity a perfect fit.
He later transitioned into a behavioral specialist at OHB’s day school. Page still worked with Omaha youth, but on a much deeper level. “This experience showed me that I wanted to help develop and work alongside young people my whole career,” Page said.
His commitment to this calling was further fulfilled when, in 2014, Page became an independent living specialist with the organization’s Branching Out Independent Living Program. Designed for young men and women, age 14-26, who are current or former state wards, the 10-year-old program offers opportunities for personal development, self-sufficiency, and more.
The strength of the Branching Out program is its participants: young adults join a community of individuals who support each other in lockstep with OHB staff. Nearly all are embarking on a new journey to find their footing on the unpredictable path to adulthood.
“I dove in and found a passion for the work,” Page explained about his role with Branching Out. “I learned so much more from my clients than I could have ever showed them, and continue to always.”
Today Page manages the Branching Out program, focusing on teaching others how to expand the community of participants and the program as a whole.
But Page’s contributions to the Greater Omaha community don’t stop at OHB’s campus near 52nd Street and Ames Avenue. He has served on the board of directors of Partnership 4 Hope, a mentoring program for former foster youth, a group of volunteers working to reduce the number of youth entering the criminal justice system.
Jeff DeWispelare, OHB president and CEO, described Page as an eternal optimist: “He always believes that he can make a difference and that is a very strong character trait, especially in the work we do at OHB. Those we serve deserve our best self every day and I can without a doubt tell you that Keenan brings that attitude in all situations.”
Added OHB Transitional Services Manager Mary Marrero: “Keenan is an amazing person. He has impacted several individual lives, including my own. Keenan is someone that you would want on your team at all times, cheering from every corner.”
In the United States, an average of 20,000 youth age-out of the foster care system each year. In Nebraska, that number hovers around 260. In Nebraska, less than 35 public high schools had graduating classes larger than that in 2020.
“Now, imagine if that entire group [of graduating seniors] was on their own. A generation each year that had to figure it all out—and do so on their own,” Page explained. “Financially, emotionally, on and on. So many do not have a support system or even basic necessities, and are expected to make it on their own the day they turn 19.”
Page added, with an ardent call to action: “Working alongside young people rising above it all through resilience and the journey of self growth [is] simply astounding. What young people formerly in foster care do not lack is strength, compassion, inspiration, and truth. Please help us…We do a lot of teaching, indeed, but the connective glue of it all is who these young people meet and the community they feel like they belong to. Which is so important for us all because at the end of the day, we are all the same community.”
Visit omahahomeforboys.org for more information.
This article was printed in the August/September 2020 edition of B2B.