"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!


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! ;)



Iron Sharpens Iron

As we walk through this life, I have realized that you are only as strong as the people around you. Iron Sharpens Iron on the football field good players usually find other good players to work out and train with. They like to be around people who push them and challenge them to be better.


I think about that with my business, and what types of people we want to have on our team.  There has to be a balance of people with different strengths to challenge, push and submit at the right times. To lead this group you have to be humble enough to step by and let the team, you put together get to work.


I’m talented but I will never be able to accomplish what I am capable of until I have the proper team around me. I am so thankful, to have people who love what they do around me. I am learning a lot from them and feel stronger because of the Iron that is around me.


Who are you surrounding yourself with? How are they stretching you? Are they pushing you towards your dreams and success? Or are they doing the same old shit they have always done?


Be someone who other people want to be around. Be dynamic! Make people remember how they felt when you were around. Smile! The difference a smile can make is life changing, positivity breeds positivity. Be the light in someone else’s world!


Don’t let others perceptions of how you should act and what you should do define your life. It’s YOUR life not theirs listen to what will make you better and let the other bull shit go. Spend time with sharp people who raise the level of expectations and challenge you to be great.


God will show you who needs to be removed from your life. Losing friends is often a blessing, missed opportunities are often closed doors because there is something better in store. Letting go of the things that no longer serve you is the first step to getting sharper and going to the next level.


Let go, be great, be around great people, smile, laugh and push others around you to strive for greatness and reach their dreams. 



Living With Regret

I remember the week leading up to my last college football game. I was finally healthy and ready to leave my mark on the program. Before we could leave for the trip to go to the game coach was introducing all of the seniors and talking about what that meant to the program. He talked about everyone and how they were such an asset to the football team.


I was last so I thought he was going to say something elaborate for the last senior. He said this is Preston Harris been a part of the program for quite a while and is from Lincoln. He severely under valued my impact on the team and for the program. He also really pissed me off, almost everyone left who I started with except for the other defensive back that didn’t play and got a better speech then me.


My focus changed from leaving my mark on the program to getting drunk and having a fun on the way back. This was the only game my girlfriend and family can to and I played like shit. I didn’t care about it anymore, even though I wanted to play football at the next level, I no longer wanted to play for them.


That game is the only thing that I regret about my college football experience. I was one vote short of being an All American, which I would have easily gotten if was engaged. The moral of the story is simple!


Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you affect your reality. I had no control over what my coaches said, but I did have control over how I approached that game. Savor every moment that you have the opportunity to participate in athletics. Don’t let the stuff on the outside; effect how you feel about the game on the inside. Put your best foot forward always; show them why you’re the best.


Nobody has the power to undervalue you because you’re the only one who determines your value!



Diamond in The Rough

When you hear “diamond in the rough” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?


For me it’s the lump of coal that after years of being overlooked and unimportant reveals it’s true colors. These colors are the brightest in the world, they shine so bright because of the pain that the coal went through made it strong. This diamond’s edges are jagged and rough it hasn’t been cut like the other diamonds.


My story is not one of walking within that limits that many place on their lives. Mine is a story of possibility and victory through trails and tribulation. Think of your story and how many times you made it through tough times to accomplish your goal.


Each one of us is that diamond in the rough, but what happens if we choose not to shine. Then we settle for rough! We settle for low graduation rates, poverty, incarceration and a below average future. Instead of embracing the greatness that stares us in the face everyday.


Lincoln is a place where people should thrive not just survive. That’s what I want for the place that raised me and made me what I am today. I want every kid to understand that they don’t have to settle for the rough. It takes a community that lets these kids know that they deserve to thrive and that they were built to shine.


I see people everyday who I grew up with and who are settling for less than they are capable of. I don’t understand why they choose not to believe in themselves or why they continue to work jobs that don’t stimulate them. I can’t allow the kids growing up to feel this way or fall into the trap of good enough.


They deserve diamonds not rough! They deserve the best not just good enough!


Men With Dreams directly invests in Lincoln’s, Nebraska’s and this nation’s future long term by creating an environment of excellence, personal significance and achievement for our youth. Your support makes you a part of making dreams come true and saves a family from the rough. 


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 Cliff Countryman

Almost twelve months ago I decided to quit my job at Nelnet because I was tired of waking up every morning dreading the day ahead of me. To me and to most people, happiness is the most important part of life. If you are not happy with where you are in life, you must take a look in the mirror and pinpoint what things need to be changed in order to get you closer to where you need to be. Now when my friend Preston Harris, who had also just quit his job, approached me about this idea he had for changing our community and working with kids, I knew it was meant to be. For those who don’t know me very well should know that I’m the type that believes everything in our life happens for a reason and there is no such thing as a coincidence. So when God opened the door for me, I ran through it as fast as I could.

The first couple months, Preston, Brandon, and I started getting together with some other close friends to brainstorm ideas and thoughts that we shared in how to positively effect our community. The ideas alone that we came up with seemed to fill a void that had been missing in my life. We all knew that this was something that could end up being huge if we did it the right way. Meetings came and went, programs got written and put into place, but yet still no solid forward movement. Then April came and we got two of our pilot programs put into Culler Middle School and North Star High School here in Lincoln, NE. To me, this is when I actually started to see solid improvements made towards obtaining our goal of becoming an established non-profit that is known world-wide.

In order to reach our goals and get our programs running smoothly, we needed to make some money to put back into MwD. This is where we came up with the idea to put together a community fundraiser aka our Men With Dreams Fashion Show. Through this fundraiser we found our strengths in team building, event planning, networking, and entertaining. So why couldn’t we teach our kids to do the exact same things? You could tell we were slowly growing into what we’d hope to become some day.

Twelve months have passed since Preston approached me about Men With Dreams and I can confidently say that we are on the path to greatness. One of the best feelings in the world is seeing a child or young adult realize their potential. Once they realize that potential, we will be there to push them harder to reach their goals and to make sure they stay on the right path in order to achieve success. Although we are technically just a start up non-profit, there are great things in store for Men With Dreams and the Lincoln community. So until we reach these goals for ourselves, Preston, Brandon, and I will continue to Change the World, One Step at a Time.



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!