Finding Yourself

Finding Yourself by Oscaline Usanase.

Growing up I knew that I had to study so hard and pursue a good job in the future. Being raised in a community that valued and empowered sciences, I wasn’t any exception to meet their expectations. I went to great science schools and poured my energy in it. I spent days and nights reading class materials, I went for extra assistance where I needed help, and academic excellence became my reward. To mention a few, after my primary graduation, I was awarded by the first lady on a national level as one of the best girls performers. I started investing in my academics from a younger age, and I saw excellence as well. Continuing my studies, I kept on excelling, but if you could have asked me who I wanted to be in my high school years, I would not have been able to give you a vivid answer. But I think I would probably tell you that I will be someone great in the future, that I will pursue a great career and be someone great. Yes, all I knew was that I was heading in the right direction and that I was going to be someone great. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you look back, the person I wanted to be was vague, I lacked FOCUS in who I envisioned to be. Well, am not saying that studying hard and investing in your academics is bad, what am saying is “do you really know who you want to be? Do you really know what you want to do with your life in the future? Are you investing in that very person today with how you are living your life?”


Something that came to my realization is that I was going with the flow. I did not know where I was heading, I just followed the lead of the society. I did not know where the flow would take me and when it will take me to where I needed to be. I was just confused. It is like stepping in a ship without knowing where it is heading, how long it is going to take you to reach there and even you don’t know if it is going where you long to be. But because everyone is going there, you then decide to join the crowd. That is how vague my life looked like back then. Time came when I was tired and exhausted of losing myself to the flow which was not leading me to a specific person I desired to be. It is like I have been excelling all my school years but still I could not be able to know who I really wanted to be. However, inside of me I knew I had something running so dry because I was not watering it; I was not fueling it. I have had buried it in a dry soil, I had abandoned it, and now after my exhaustion I was trying to find the fruits of the seed I have abandoned. Time came that I had to find out where I buried my seed, and replant it again, water it, nourish it and expect to enjoy its fruits. After a three year journey of finding my purpose, I finally found it and am living in it now as I grow to be the better version I could ever be. Now I know that I do not invest my whole self in the flow of anyone, but in the direction of the very person I envision to be.


Some of you might relate to me, you might have grown up vaguely knowing who you want to be, or went with the flow of others, and that is okay. But you do not have to be okay with the flow, now is the time for you to find your seed; time to find who you long to be. If you missed a chance in the past to know who you desired to be and to invest in that person, do not feel like it is impossible to start now. I spent most of my school years before college without knowing who specifically I was created to be; the person I envisioned to be. But it was a matter of the time I made a concrete decision to start that I began to take small steps which made up a journey of self-discovery. I challenge you today to be the turning point of your life. Take some time today to invest in yourself, know what you do best, your strengths, who you envision to be, and how you want to get there. After finding your seed, you will then plant it in a good soil, water it day and night, and invest in it to your best abilities. Start now and break the chains holding you back from being the very person you envision to be. Set a goal, keep your focus on it, start with small steps and do not give yourself any excuse. Start Today, You Can Do It!



Practice Makes Perfect

When I hit high school I found myself at the worst place in the world, the bench. There’s much to be said about supporting your teammates, and being a positive encourager from the bench is one of them; but, I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted to define my high school athletic career. Leading up to high school I’d enjoyed the moderate success of any middle school athlete; if you have some skill you’ll have some success. However, I had never really felt like I was the best at what I did, or was looked at as someone who had a bright future in their sport past high school. The reality of fighting for playing time on the high school basketball court made me realize what I wanted was respect. I wanted to play, I wanted to win, and I wanted to earn a scholarship for collegiate basketball.

It took the mentoring of multiple coaches for me to take my dream into my own hands and lay out a plan to success during my sophomore year. Every morning before school I would wake up at 5am, grab my basketball and shoes, and head to the local YMCA. There I would go through ball handling drills and shoot until I had made at least 500 shots. I would then go about my day of school and various practices, hit the weight room, do any homework I had, and prepare myself for the next day of work. This routine went on for two years. Granted, there were times when all I wanted was to sleep in. I wanted to be lazy, and procrastinate, and be normal. But to do this would have been to do myself a disservice, to cheat my dream. Dreams require action, and fortunately my actions paid off. I earned my spot, playing time, and a scholarship to play college basketball that would also further my educational goals.

Every time I find myself stuck in a rut of adequacy, I think back to my sixteen year old self waking up before the sun to drive to the gym. I refocus on the relentless tenacity that I know is inside of me, and I lock onto it. I believe that everyone is capable of a relentless pursuit of their dreams. All we need is the commitment to honoring them. 

-Audra Thramer (MWD Intern)



Continuing The Trend

During my childhood I was fortunate to have many different role models and people to tell me to “go for it, and reach for the stars”, and this was something I recently have come to appreciate even more. While I was growing up my father was gone at least half of the year for work and though he has done a great job, the biggest thing I needed while he was gone was another positive role model or something or someone to give me a way to be inspired and let me know that I can do whatever I set my mind to.

Also I was very fortunate to have many coaches through sports and individuals in the community who took the time to get to know me and help me to do anything that I wanted and achieve whatever I could. 

I am truly grateful for those people in my life and as I looked back on them I thought wouldn’t it be nice to get involved and be able to help others the same way. The issue was figuring out how I could help make an impact and then one day I heard about Men With Dreams and went in for an interview.

That is easily one of the best decision I have made, because now not only do I have another family through Men With Dreams which is probably the coolest group of people you’ll ever meet, but now I have the ability and network to be able to impact the community and help others realize their strengths.

Overall my message is simple no matter what be thankful for the people in your life that inspire you and use your strengths to inspire others and continue the trend, because you never know the power that just a little encouragement and inspiration can have!!!


-Dalton Renner (MWD Intern)



What does a Strength based organization mean?


My name is Brandon McWilliams and I am the Executive Director of Men With Dreams. Here at MwD we are very excited about 2018 and what it has to offer. In this blog I will touch base on one of the biggest changes that we have coming this year. **Drum Roll Please** This year MwD will become a strength based organization!  You may be wondering, what does this mean? Don’t worry, by the end of this reading you will have a better understanding. 

To start I will give you a brief history on how Strength Finders started. Strength Finders was started by a man named Don Clifton who is now known as the father of “positive psychology”. Mr. Clifton noticed that we live in a world where we like to identify what is ‘wrong’ with people and try to fix them, rather than figuring out what is ‘right’ about them and helping them grow in what they are good at. When it comes to working with people there is no “one size fits all” program because, we all experience the world differently.  Don Clifton understood this thus, beginning his research and creating the Clifton Strengths Finders assessment. This assessment helps others (including myself) identify their strengths and helping make sense of how they operate in and experience the world. 

Strength Finders helps people build confidence and improve performance simply because they have a better understanding of themselves. Understanding yourself and the people around you can help strengthen relationships, work environments, parenting skills, and overall personal achievement. Positive psychology is a way to help people view what they do best, practice their skills and master them, only to become the best versions of themselves. 

On the flip side of this there is Men With Dreams. MwD was created to help students identify a dream and assist them in making a plan on how to get there. Programs encouraged students to identify their dreams based off of their passions or “what they are already good at”. Strength Finders and MwD compliment each other perfectly. 

We are looking forward to working with all of our students on their strengths and encouraging them to build their vision of the future based off the strengths and skills they already possess!

-Brandon McWilliams (Executive Director of MWD)



Which Path To Choose..

Which Path To Choose...

As we go through life we are faced with many decision.  Should I go to work or not?  Should I go to school or not?  Should I make this decision or that decision?  We are always faced with a choice to make.  It’s rather challenging at times.  I believe the most challenging decision is when it has to do with our future.  What do our futures hold for us?  The uncertainty can cause anxiety causing us to choose the “safer route”, so we coin it to be.   

When I graduated from The University of Nebraska Lincoln with my Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration, I was offered a job.  A full time job that most would have jumped on however, me on the other hand I had an idea and that idea consisted of me being happy.  Although, uncertain of what that path had in store for me, I knew that it had happiness, freedom and serenity written on both sides of the walls that lit this path.  

This path has not been easy, it has presented challenges that I would have never imagined however, it was a choice I made and a choice I choose to embrace.  My passion is being lived out each day.  I smile each day I walk into my office and I know that I am doing what I have been created for.  

So will you choose your happiness?  Will you choose to work on your dream or the dream of someone else?  Take that leap of faith!  Life is about leaping and growing your wings on the way down.  I did it, I’m doing it, people have done it, why can’t you?  

Ask yourself these questions: What is truly safe when referring to your happiness, serenity and freedom?  Will we continue to sacrifice our peace for safety?   Questions to ask yourself as you look within.  

What path will you choose?  

-Chris Phipps (Assistant Director of MWD)


1 Comment

"Freight Train" Saga

Just recently Preston Harris and myself, Brandon McWilliams, received an eight passenger van from the great people at Because People Matter and Anderson Ford. This vehicle has been such a blessing to Men With Dreams and I would like to share a little story of how this van has changed our lives and the operation at Men With Dreams. 

When Men With Dreams originally started doing programs at the schools we only had one vehicle to get us to where we needed to be. The car we were driving was my own 2001 Acura. This car had no heat, no air conditioning, no power steering and needed new tires. With this said we managed to use this car for everything from meetings to programs and even though it may have not have always been the to most enjoyable ride, we were blessed to be able to make it from point A to B. 

After a few months of doing this, an unfortunate event happened leading to the Acura getting into a car accident and being declared totaled. At this point, the realization had hit that we didn’t have a vehicle to get to where we needed to be. After thinking about the situation for a while we were able to work out our schedules with our parents and managed to have a vehicle ready when needed. Some days I would drive my mom to school in the mornings so she could teach and then I would pick her up after schools was out. 

Preston was also able to work it out at times to use his parents van. Needless to say this arrangement was putting stress on everyone involved. In March of 2015 we had the opportunity to get an office located in downtown Lincoln at the nonprofit hub. This allowed for us to be dropped off at the office while we would have people meet us downtown and only needed vehicles on the days of our programs. Eventually summer time came and we were able to take a break from programs and didn’t need a car as much. We would both ride bikes or walk to the office from our homes and continue to work on the mission of MwD. 

Finally, good news came to MwD in September of 2015 when our board member Gina Cotton shared a resource with us and got us in touch with because people matter and Anderson Ford. This group was in contact with Preston for a couple of weeks and eventually called us and said that they had a van available for donation. On one morning in September, we went up to Anderson ford and they blessed us with the van. The van needed some work and quite frankly, most people might have looked at it and said “it’s not worth it” but Preston and myself were dedicated to making the van a new member of the MwD team; so we dubbed it with the nickname "Freight Train”. 

Preston and I put in the work to deep clean the van as good as possible and then looked into options on how to get it serviced. Awhile back we had met a gentleman named Nick Vucko. Nick is the owner of Quick Nick’s Tires and offered to donate services and used a ton of man power and time to get the van road ready. Nick and his team worked for 4 days to get the van fixed up and road ready for us to use. Nick and his connections at NAPA auto parts put close to $4,000 of work into the van and brought it back to us ready to go! This was a huge blessing because if it were not for Quick Nicks and NAPA Auto Parts "Freight Train" might have struggled to make it through the winter time. 

We are beyond thankful for the people at Quick Nick’s, NAPA, Because People Matter and Anderson Ford for everything that they have done for us. It has taken a huge stress off of our shoulders and now allows for us to not only to get to our programs but to transfer students whenever need be. We are in the process now of getting "Freight Train" looking good with MwD logos and its a great feeling know that she is road ready!

1 Comment

Two Weeks on the 'Freight Train'


Two Weeks on the 'Freight Train'

Hey Everyone!  

My name is John Kingston. Preston and Brandon take me back to High School football, freshman year. They were both big, burly, upperclassmen who probably intimidated most of us pubescent boys trying to show our worth on the gridiron. They were loud, hungry, and like most upperclassmen; much, much, much, stronger than us. If they so desired, pushing us around would have been child's play. But something set these two apart from the other guys we were surrounded by. They weren’t your typical jock who had to make their presence known by establishing a grimacing dominance. They weren’t there to single anyone out just for fun. And they certainly weren’t there to just “play football”. These guys were on a mission. The mission to become the best they could be while leading others to do the same.

For me, they had been the guys I looked up to. Not only that, but they were guys I could even talk to as a measly freshman. This wasn’t just on the football field, they had inviting spirits even in the building. Certainly, they didn’t have to, but it was in the blood to do so.

Unfortunately, Brandon was a senior while I was a freshmen so I only had the chance to be around this leader for one year. But, I was blessed enough to have a whole ‘nother season and school year to learn and grow under another true leader, Preston. I can go back to those days as a sophomore and relic on how much of an influence he was on me and my teammates. There wasn’t a day of practice where he showed up without a smile on his face. And more importantly, revved up to drive his teammates and himself to greatness!

Now fast forward eight years... The same thing is going on today!

I am currently in my second full week on the ‘Freight Train’ and in the MwD office. So far, it has been nothing short daring inspiration, extreme dedication, and just straight up fun!

After returning from my so called “sabbatical”, I knew I needed to surround myself with like-minded people who are on a mission to first; help serve and change our community and secondly; to help change the world! These qualities are what attracted me to reach out to these beyond extraordinary individuals here at MwD.

Not only have I been exposed to the direct impact made at schools and in the community, but it has pushed me to further my limits as a human individual! It’s not just in me, or even the youth. It is something I see in everyone involved with MwD.

Needless to say, the energy is relentless! I can’t exactly explain it, but it feels like there is a complementary surge flowing through all of us. We are held accountable by all, yet without the dictation of any.

My experience thus far, although young, has been a true blessing. It has shown me things of myself that I had yet thought possible. It has brought along new and beautiful opportunities. And it has turned my plentiful fuel of light into a unsurmountable, raging bonfire.

As I sit here finishing up this post, I am filled with energy and excitement thinking about what is to come.  We have a dream, we are on a mission and the ‘Freight Train’ will not stop!

...unless it’s a school, community center, or anyone who is looking to help us build the leaders of tomorrow! ;)


My Ticket


My Ticket

Five seconds left on the clock, Duane Thomas brings the ball up the court. He fakes right, he fakes left, he pulls up for a Hail Mary for the game winner, and he hits it at the buzzer!!!! The Chicago Bulls win their second title in two years.


Every kid that plays basketball dreams of hitting that shot in the finals, but everyone doesn’t get a chance to play or even make it to the NBA. Out of 10,000 high school players, only two or three will ever get the chance to play in the NBA. That’s one of my dreams, but a basketball scholarship would be my ticket to college so I can become a civil rights attorney.


I want to help people who aren’t getting treated fairly due to the way they look and what they believe. A civil rights attorney will need the following.


“Civil rights attorneys must have a bachelor’s degree and a juris doctor law degree. Anyone who wishes to work in this area must develop a resume that shows their level of commitment to their cause. In law school, they should try to take as many courses as possible in constitutional law. Civil rights firms prefer a candidate that has a lot of knowledge on one particular issue, rather than smattering of many different issues. It is advisable before getting a job to serve as a volunteer for some firm.”


My jobs as a civil rights attorney will be, “ Civil rights attorneys help protect people against discrimination and harassment because of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and other dispositions. They also help protect freedoms of privacy, expression and speech and religion, amongst other freedoms. Many times a person becomes a civil rights attorney because they are passionate about protecting the rights of one particular group. They therefore specialize in one issue or some cluster of issues. The job of the civil rights attorney is to apprise individuals of their rights in a particular area and pursue a monetary award from any offending individuals or groups. This type of case is a civil suit. Some of what lawyer jobs such as this entail are the following: Presenting cases to judges and juries, formulating legal briefs, investigating legal data and negotiating settlements of legal disputes.”


I will be getting paid, “Attorney jobs in this field can be in the private sector or the public sector. Those in the public sector are competitive to get. The salary range for civil rights lawyers is between $69,000 and $145,000. As with any lawyer position, the salary rises with experience.”


I’m going to become a civil rights attorney because I’m hard working and determined. I’m going to put in the time to become what I want and not what others want me to be.


-Duane Thomas Seventh Grader Culler Middle School 



Letter of Recommendation #1

Randall Farmer

Pathfinder Program -Lincoln Public Schools

Lancaster County Youth Services

December 4, 2014

Grant Funding Opportunity

Men With Dreams

Lincoln, NE

To Whom It May Concern:

I have recently had the pleasure of working with the gentlemen from Men With Dreams.  They approached our Lincoln Public Schools education program in the Lancaster county juvenile detention center offering to work with our youth.  Through multiple meetings, a review of their philosophy and mission, their curriculum materials, and their own goals and personalities I was able to understand and appreciate what they are trying to accomplish. 

Men With Dreams provides honest, sincere, constructive support and advice for youth at-risk through role modeling, mentoring, instructing, and challenging (both mentally and physically) youth.  The youth choose to challenge themselves and work to analyze their own thinking based around the activities and discussions provided by Men With Dreams. 

The youth were engaged, and thinking, and taking risks to explore their own beliefs and plans in a positive and constructive way that was both safe and fun.  The challenging environment of a juvenile detention center makes it very difficult for a youth to “drop their guard” and open up to honest appraisal and thoughts.  Men With Dreams created that experience across the board with all different types of youth.  Their materials are solid, their delivery is solid, but most importantly there is a real genuineness to their work, a real honesty and caring that students recognize immediately.  They provide exceptional youth work.

I give my highest recommendation to Men With Dreams and the work they do and would encourage any support possible for them to continue their work.


Randall Farmer

Educational Director



Success Story Taylor


Thanks for the shirt. I will wear it proudly. Just remember you guys can come see me sometime soon. I'm so happy I got out of jail. It was really hard for me as you knew, I was hoping you guys would send me some of the things you are working on with staff secure. I found out the truth about my family and its given me such closure. I will keep writing you as long as you write me back.

I really like the Uta Halee program. I have a lot of hope for my future and I'm glad that I know when I go home I already have a job. I'm so glad to work with you. I've been thinking a lot about what you guys told me, and I know that I can do anything that I put my mind to. I haven't decided what all I want to do, but I also do want to do more than photography in my future. I will continue to support this program. It really changed me. 

Write back, 

Taylor (Brick by Brick Mentoring)


One Step Forward Fashion Show


One Step Forward Fashion Show

Fashion Show Outcomes

Men With Dreams raised $1,645 dollars and we were able to use $860 dollars towards our programs!

Over 150 people were in attendance on Friday, December 12th for the fashion show.

People donated over SEVEN tubs of winter clothing items for youth and people in need.

Showcased looks from five different local designers and featured over 30 local models.

One great night!!!!


Community Impact

Thank you to the most fantastic organization Men With Dreams. You helped my daughter fulfill one of her dreams tonight and believe in herself. We love and appreciate you...

McKinzie Grasmick - Parent


Great show for a great cause!

Paula Parrish Noble- Audience Member


Everything was great man! I am looking forward to helping out again in whatever way. Thank you for bringing me on I appreciate it!

Don Christensen- Model


Special Thank You to our Designers and Team

Shannon Formal Wear -Website:

Cabi -Website:

The Nines -Website:

J-Etoile- Website:

Victoria’s Secret- Website:


Brandon McWilliams, Carissa Hager, Shauna Paolini, Vedrana Dziko, Chris Phipps, The School Paul Mitchell Lincoln, Lowes, Blue Sushi and Sake Grill, Vega, Encouragement Unlimited, Texas Roadhouse, Minnow Project, Edge Dance Academy and Titus Patterson.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for helping us finish the year strong!



Men With Dreams Year One Brandon McWilliams

MwD is one year old now and I take major pride in that fact. When I look back and I think about where this business was a year ago it is mind blowing how much different it is. This business has challenged me more in its first year of existence more then anything else that has challenged me before. It has tested some of my friendships, put stress on my personal life, murdered my finances, and I have found myself in some rough situations. On the other side of this it has also opened doors for me that I would have never thought possible. I have learned a ton about business and myself, I have gotten to go on trips, meet amazing people, change lives, and build my faith in God. For the most part I have loved every moment of my journey and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else.

Everyday brings something new. I never know what to expect day after day and that keeps me alert and on my toes. There is no set schedule, nowhere that I HAVE to be unless I want to and my success depends on the effort I am willing to put in. With all the stressful aspects to starting a business there are those moments that mean more to me then anything. We did our first programs last year at Culler and North Star the progress that our youth made in that first 6 weeks was amazing. They became motived because they believed what we were saying and that was they can be and do anything. Their motivation helped me make it through the hard moments myself where I didn’t believe in myself and I was ready to give up but couldn’t give up on them. Then what made it all even better was when we came back to the school for the second year and they say us for the first time it was a joy to see the excitement that they had and how fired up they were to get started again. That excitement and joy that they demonstrated is priceless to me, and it is what keeps us working so hard.

At the end of the day I know I will be taken care of as long as I keep my values pure and my heart in the right place. MwD was created for the purpose of building the community and as long as I can continue to that I know I will be taken care of at the end of the day. My problems, my stress, and anything else I am struggling with I have the ability to put in God’s hands so I can continue to focus on the ultimate goal. Seeing youth walk across the stage at graduation, seeing one get out of a correctional center and accepted back into school, hearing what their goals and dreams are, or just witnessing that moment when their face light up when they realize I CAN DO THIS…. Is the true meaning of what MwD’s vision is all about.



Three Keys To Youth Development

Our youth are the most valuable renewable resource that we have and we need to spend time and money investing in them and their futures. Our job as educators, business professionals, parents and community leaders is to develop them into successful adults. Here are three keys to developing the leaders of tomorrow.

1. The "Why": Youth need to know the reason "why" they should achieve and want to be successful. If they know the reason they have something that will drive them to success and keep them away from negative influences.

What do you want out of your life? How are you going to get there?

2. Meet them on their level: Youth see adults as out of touch, boring and uptight, they don't get to see us have fun or be ourselves. Completing a workout or participating in a team building activity with youth allows them to see adults as people instead of authority figures. When our guard comes down, it opens the door for youth to be honest with us about their fears, hopes and dreams.

Share a mistake, fear, goal or dream that you have experienced. Ask youth to share one as well.

3. Raise the Expectations: Many youth are satisfied with being average unless their is someone close to them challenging them to be great. Youth will achieve at the level that they are expected to, but they require someone in their corner who expects excellence from them. Youth will often meet and exceed expectations because they begin to expect excellence from themselves.

Did you do your best? How can you improve?

To effectively develop youth they must trust that you want the best for them but understand that they are in control of their lives and destiny. Give them ownership over their dreams and let them know that you are their to support them and help on that journey. Best of luck in building the leaders of tomorrow!