About Us

Who We Are

Welcome to Avenue Scholars, an innovative nonprofit founded in 2008 by Dr. Ken Bird and a group of dedicated donors in Omaha, Nebraska. Designed to address the growing challenges faced by local students grappling with adversity, like poverty, Avenue Scholars is a transformative program committed to guiding students through educational obstacles and toward impactful careers.

Our program offers unprecedented levels of educational support, financial guidance, and career development opportunities, starting in high school and extending through career entry. Partnering with 6 school districts, higher education colleges, and hundreds of businesses, Avenue Scholars is a national leader in bridging the gap between a Scholar’s education and a Scholar’s business career. We ensure the success of our Scholars by providing supportive relationships, personalized coaching, education, and training, guaranteeing career pathways.

Our dedicated staff is unwavering in their commitment to empowering young individuals, and the primary goal is to equip students with experiences and tools necessary to actively choose high-demand careers in the Omaha area, offering extraordinary support services to help Scholars identify, persist toward, and ultimately enter financially sustaining careers.

Avenue Scholars’ achievements are attributed to our unique “secret sauce”—a blend of program features, guiding philosophy, and effective strategies that consistently deliver historic results. Our program’s success is not just a concept; it’s backed by promising initial research on return on investment, and we’ve successfully expanded to two additional locations in Southwest Iowa and Des Moines, Iowa.

Avenue Scholars has the privilege of working with the best of the best students. Afterall, Scholars who navigate adversity with unwavering hope and determination become extraordinary professionals. 

This is the Avenue Scholars journey, where dedication meets transformation, and every step brings us closer to unlocking the full potential of every student. Regardless of circumstances, there is no doubt that each Scholar can achieve greatness.

To read more about the Avenue Scholars program, our impact, our partners, and opportunities to support our work, read through this website. To read more about Avenue Scholars, please read the program’s Origin Story. 


Avenue Scholars, the leader in bridging the gap between education and business, guarantees careers for our youth of hope and need through supportive relationships, individualized coaching, education, and training.


  • Integrity: We are consistent, dependable, and honest about who we are and what we do.
  • Innovation: We implement dynamic programming that facilitates the growth and development of our students and the community.
  • Collaboration: We create a culture of mutual trust, open dialogue, and positive results.
  • Respect: We value others and promote their success.
  • Hope: We focus on strengths and opportunities rather than obstacles.

The Avenue Scholars Name & Logo

The significance of the name “Avenue Scholars” is profound for our organization. It symbolizes that students are on a meaningful pathway toward success. The name communicates that students are not only recognized for their academic endeavors as Scholars but are also acknowledged for their extraordinary potential as professionals. 

This is the story of our name:


The word “Avenue” in our organization’s name serves as a metaphor, symbolizing students’ exploration of educational and career paths, the pursuit of aspirations, and progression toward a successful career destination. Imagine a roadway with a gap—an obstacle in the journey. In this scenario, Avenue Scholars acts as a bridge, facilitating the navigation of this gap, much like bridging the journey from education to a career. Similar to an avenue, a bridge is directional and provides a stable force, offering a secure passage. Avenue Scholars functions as a force of stability for both Scholars and the community, serving as a valuable resource for guidance, direction, and career clarity. Avenue Scholars students are on the move.


The word “Scholars” was discovered in focus groups involving area youth. A powerful insight was the revelation that students didn’t view themselves as scholars simply because they hadn’t ever been called that name. “Scholars” is linked to positive attributes like intelligence, expertise, dedication, credibility, and achievement. This title for our students aims to boost a Scholar’s academic and professional journey by fostering confidence, instilling a profound belief in their potential, promoting a life-long dedication to creative and intellectual pursuits, and unlocking doors to new opportunities. Avenue Scholars students are Scholars.


The Avenue Scholars’ logo draws inspiration from the metaphor of an “avenue,” using a road sign to visually connect with the idea. This design, updated in 2023 for the 15th anniversary, invites Scholars to embark on diverse routes, explore new directions along their educational and career journey, and seek a profession aligned with their interests. The logo conveys the concept of a career journey with numerous avenues leading to a successful professional destination.

Scholars entering the workforce, ready to explore various career options, stand at a crucial crossroads in their lives. Avenue Scholars is there as a guide in these pivotal moments, providing pathways of opportunity. The program offers guidance, direction, and support, helping students navigate through different areas of study and consideration of future career ideas.

The connection between the metaphor embedded in the organization’s name and the logo brings clarity to the purpose of the mission work. It emphasizes the organization’s commitment to Scholars as they explore opportunities through education and community connections.

Avenue Scholars Timeline


  • Dr. Ken Bird presents his findings to form a new youth-serving program.
  • Founding funders: Holland Foundation, Lozier Foundation, Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation, The Sherwood Foundation, Weitz Family Foundation, WillIam and Ruth Scott Family Foundation


  • Moved to the high school-embedded Program Model with a focus on students of financial need, aiming toward degrees, and a GPA of 2.5 or lower.
  • Initial high school partners: Omaha Northwest, Omaha Benson, and Ralston.


  • Program expansion to Omaha Bryan, Omaha North, and Millard South.
  • Funding support provided by Omaha Public Schools for the Omaha South expansion.
  • Student Support Team established.


  • Partnership with AKSARBEN Foundation and MCC to provide $8,000 of funding for Scholars to attend MCC.
  • MCC provides College Success Navigators.
  • Program Model revised to coaching Scholars toward high-demand careers requiring an associate degree or less.
  • Papillion La Vista High School added.


  • Program Guarantees added to guide programming outcomes.
  • Business Outreach Team established.


  • Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation provided funding after the AKSARBEN Foundation partnership ended.
  • Added industry-aligned Career Coaches.
  • Alumni metrics are established.


  • Partnership with Millard Public Schools to launch Intern Omaha.
  • Partnered with The Charles E. Lakin Foundation to launch Avenue Scholars Southwest Iowa.
  • The Career Plan framework with Program Guarantees was established.


  • Millard North High School added.


  • Mission statement revised.


  • Partnered with MidAmerican Energy Foundation to launch Avenue Scholars Des Moines.
  • Blair and Westside High Schools added.


  • Intern Omaha shifts to “Avenue Scholars Interns.”
  • MCC and Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation increased the grant to $10,000 per Scholar.
  • Celebrated 15th anniversary.