Our Mission

Strengthening youth and their families through empowerment, enrichment, and extended academic success

Banister’s Leadership Academy is now serving over 1000 youth and their families, and that number will continue to grow as the need for our services becomes necessary.

With a small group of volunteers spearheaded by Jennifer and Akile Banister, BLA opened its doors in 2007 with four board members, two employees, two youth, and their first program: the North Omaha Youth Advocacy Leadership Board. In 2010, BLA became a registered 501(c) 3 organization.

From those first meetings, the first young men and women who attended the newly formed Banister’s Leadership Academy created its vision: Turn Leaders into Legends built on six pillars of leadership.

Their mission: Provide leadership, life and social skills and provide a safe and positive environment.

2011 – 2013

In 2011, BLA added 6 more leadership pillars, and BLA’s 12 Pillars of Leadership became the guiding values of our organization, its initiatives, projects and services. Additional programs, such as Friday Night Lights (FNL), the Douglas County Youth Correctional Center Ambassador Council (DCYC), North and South Omaha Youth Leadership Advocacy Boards (YALB), served over 100 youth and families.

In 2012, the BLA added five new board members to the Board of Directors and changed the organizational mission to Strengthening Youth and Their Families through Empowerment, Enrichment, and Extended Academic Success. The impetus for the decision came from the shift of the public sector to a more evidence-based framework.

Under the new delivery system, BLA’s programming continued to grow. Empowerment programs included the two YALB’s, FNL, and a new program: Saturday Night L.I.F.E. Enrichment programs included Leadership 101 Pillar and L101 on the Job workshops, and the DCYC Ambassador Council. We also added an Extended Academic Success Pilot Program at a community center that focused on after school programming to cement learning out of the classroom and from that program, the Extended Academic Success Summer Leadership Academy and School Out Leadership Academies were created to expand classroom learning. In 2013, the Level of Leadership Advisory Program (LLS) began to fill the need of our families who needed support through mentoring.


In 2014, Reggie Johnson, a police detective from West Valley, Utah, approached BLA to implement programming for youth in his city. In February 2014, BLA – Utah and in June 2014 BLA-Missouri was created and became Banisters’ first affiliate sites, and will begin operating in 2017. BLA has plans to expand to other cities with possible sites announced soon. Banister’s Leadership Academy has grown from its original 4 board members, 2 employees, and 2 youth; it now serves over 1,000 youth and their families in Omaha, and that number will continue to grow as the need for our services becomes necessary.