Nicky Clark

Nicky Clark
Location: Omaha, Nebraska Cohort Start Year: 2019 Project Topics: Behavioral and Mental Health, Community/Civic Engagement, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood, Education, Immigrants and Refugees, Maternal and Infant Health, Public, Population and Community Health, Racial Justice, Social Sector/Non-Profit, Violence and Trauma Populations Served: Adolescents (12-20 years), Adults (21-64 years), African-American/Black, Asian/Asian American, At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Children (6-11 years), Children and Families, Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, Immigrants and Refugees, Low-Income Communities, Older Adults (65+), Urban Communities, Victims of Crime, Young Children (0-5 years)
Assistant Vice President
Heartland Family Service

Omaha, Neb., is an incredibly ethnically diverse community, with over 115 languages spoken in the public school system. However, the city sees a highly disproportionate number of Latinx immigrant and African and Asian refugee groups living in poverty, and has some of the highest poverty rates for black children in the country. It’s undeniable that poverty, race, and health are connected. Oftentimes, approaches to addressing poverty are developed for communities of color by looking through a needs-based lens that asks “What are the gaps?” The people making the decisions and controlling the resources in these situations are typically not those from the communities themselves. This leads to ineffective and dangerous systems that create and perpetuate inequities. In order to impact sustainable change at a community level, approaches to address poverty must be culturally responsive and community-driven. Switching to an asset-based approach that is led by community members allows for approaches that are strengths-based, innately culturally appropriate, and have a greater impact on health equity.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Developing a Comprehensive, Culturally-based Healing Program for the Karen Community (Burmese Ethnic Group)
Communities of color are bearing the burdens of oppressive and racist systems without support, validation, and structures to support their own healing in ways that are theirs. This strategic initiative will co-create with community and combine elements of mindfulness, body movement, and trauma healing using culturally established practices. Project partners and the Karen community, who are an ethnic minority from Burma, will co-develop a healing program designed specifically to impact the Karen community’s ability to heal generational trauma, build resiliency, and develop skills to increase joy and liberation—all by utilizing their own cultural methods. Not only will the program be co-created with the community, but the assessment tools will also be co-created to ensure what is being measured and how it is culturally relevant. This could include but is not limited to story mapping, interviews, and/or focus groups. Project partners will coach and support community leaders. Current partners include an expert in mindfulness and diversity, equity, and inclusion as the project coordinator. Others include community organizations that have strong relationships with the Karen community. More partners will be determined as the project moves forward.

Nicky was born and raised in Omaha in one of the most diverse ZIP codes in the state. She grew up in a working-class household in an interracial family. Due to these experiences, she has been acutely aware of inequities from a very young age. This is what led her to the social work field and laid the foundation for her interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Nicky’s career has been focused on ensuring human service programs are culturally responsive, and she’s viewed in her community as a subject matter expert on cultural intelligence. Most recently, Nicky has been focused on place-based strategies and the concept of co-creating with community to address social determinants of health within marginalized populations and neighborhoods. She has been most excited to see how all her past work around culturally responsive programming and her current work in the place-based space are constantly interplaying.

Click here to watch Nicky’s Legacy Project video.