Since 2007, Omaha-based Banister’s Leadership Academy has provided leadership development programs for young people in the community. Next month, they’re officially launching a new branch program in the Scottsbluff-Gering area.

Leigh Thompson, Banister’s recruitment and membership specialist for Scotts Bluff County, has invited the public to an open house on Saturday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m. in its office in the Carpenter Center in Terrytown.

Thompson, along with Academy founder and CEO Akile Banister, will host a presentation about the program and its work with both youth and adults.

Banister’s Leadership Academy takes youth development seriously because they are keepers of the future — future teachers, politicians, doctors, entrepreneurs and community builders.

In his website’s welcome letter, Banister said the program “supports youth leaders, academically and socially, while offering pathways to college or career.”

There are a lot of great organizations in the state to help our youth, but Banister said his Leadership Academy focuses on the “high risk” after-school hours.

During a Zoom teleconference, Banister said when he visited the local area earlier this year, he learned from other groups there was a real need for youth programs on the weekends.

“The biggest component of our program is the family support component,” Banister said. “We work with the whole family, not just the child. It’s a holistic approach. In touching the child’s life, we also need to touch whoever is connected to them, whether it’s mom or dad or grandmother. They need to be involved in the child’s life.”

The first program to be offered in Scotts Bluff County is “The Night L.I.F.E. (Leadership in a Fun Environment). It’s for kids from kindergarten through 8th grade and will meet on Saturdays from 6-10 p.m. at the Carpenter Center.

According to Banister, the program empowers youth with leadership skills through fun environments like organized sports, healthy living and community awareness.

The academy’s leadership pillars include respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, citizenship, caring, fairness, honesty, integrity, perseverance, courage, unity and creativity.

“We have high expectations for families,” he said. “They’re expected to communicate with the staff and be attentive. We can also provide a hot meal for children in need. That’s one less burden on the parents.”

In generating public awareness about the Banister’s Leadership Academy and its programs, representatives have been reaching out to schools and community centers, as well as canvassing neighborhoods.

“I’ve been to churches, gas stations and a lot of areas just off East Overland, where there’s a great need,” Thompson said. “I’ve also been in touch with the Guadalupe Center and Youth Connections. Our flyers are in the backpacks distributed to school kids through CAPWN. Outreach is what we’re about.”

Banister said he made an intentional effort to make the program free of charge for families that participate so there’s no additional financial stress on the family. Programming is supported through corporate sponsorships in the community.

Banister’s Leadership Academy is currently seeking volunteers to serve as programming specialists to help the mission locally. Classes start on Sept. 12.

For more information on the program, call Thompson at 402-983-5107.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at

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