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About Us

Canopy South

We exist to connect, convene, and collaborate with a community of doers, with the goal of establishing strong roots of social, educational, and racial equity in South Omaha neighborhoods disconnected from equitable access to opportunity. We believe choice provides the foundation for just and fair development, where the community determines future growth.

Our Approach

Working from the blueprint of the Purpose Built Communities Model, Canopy South promotes a culture of collaboration to transform neighborhoods and  bring together the vital components necessary for holistic community revitalization: high-quality mixed-income housing, an effective cradle-to-career education pipeline, and comprehensive community wellness resources.

Our Board

  • Kerri Sanchez


    Sherwood Foundation

  • Jenni Shukert

    Vice Chair


  • Osuman Issaka


    The Simple Foundation

  • Meridith Dillon


    Front Porch Investments

  • Abdiaziz Salad

    Community Resident

  • Andy Ruback

    Flood Communications

  • Annette Smith

    Paul G Smith Associates

  • Jim Landen

    Security National Bank

  • John Levy

    William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation

  • Maria Vazquez

    Metro Community College

  • Stephen Osberg

    Paul G Smith Associates

  • Tom Simms


Meet Our Team


    Executive Director

    César is driven by a vision for the future – an equitable community full of choice and opportunities for residents to thrive, providing a strong foundation for success. In his role as Executive Director, he fosters intentional partnerships with community stakeholders and leads strategic initiatives and projects to fulfill the mission of the organization.

    Previously, César served as a Principal in the Firm and as an Engineering Sector Leader at DLR Group. While there, he was the Lead Engineer for several notable local projects, including the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Conservation Academy and the new addition to Central High School.

    He holds a master’s degree in Engineering from the University of Nebraska and brings more than 15 years of engineering, project management, and business development experience to the organization.

    Originally from one of the largest cities in Colombia, César immigrated to the United States as a teenager in pursuit of opportunity – a common thread, which bonds his own experience to many in the community he serves. With strong ties to Omaha, much of his time is committed to giving back to the city foundational to his success.

    Garcia serves on multiple boards and committees focused on mentorship and equitable development, including ACE Mentor Program Nebraska, Heartland 2050’s Regional Planning Committee, and the Greater Omaha Chamber’s ConnectGO Technical Group.

    • Midlands Business Journal’s 40 Under 40
    Ten Outstanding Young Omahans
    Leadership Omaha Class 38


    Director of Operations

    Crystal comes to Canopy South with a passion for equitable development that amplifies the community’s voice to ensure residents have a genuine stake in the changes that shape their everyday lives. From project inception to implementation, Crystal effectively manages initiatives, leads community engagement efforts, and provides invaluable support to internal operations.

    Born and raised in Southern California, Crystal had the opportunity to live and work in diverse communities that celebrated and honored a variety of cultures. These experiences have influenced her professional journey, fueling her drive to dismantle systems of inequality often found in marginalized communities. Crystal believes that holistic urban planning and human-centered design can serve as a powerful catalyst for change.

    Crystal holds a master’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she honed her expertise in urban design, policy, and community development. Additionally, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Medical Sociology from California State University, Long Beach, where she gained a deep understanding of the social determinants of health and the importance of considering human well-being in neighborhoods.

    With her background spanning urban design, higher education, and the nonprofit sector, Crystal brings a unique perspective to her work at Canopy South. Her interdisciplinary approach allows her to integrate diverse perspectives and innovative strategies into her projects, ensuring that each initiative reflects the unique needs and aspirations of the community.

  • Barb Stratman, MS

    Director of Education

    Barb is an Omaha native with a steadfast commitment to advancing educational equity for historically marginalized students. As Director of Education, she spearheads the implementation of a comprehensive and equitable educational framework tailored for residents of South Omaha. 

    Prior to coming to Canopy South, Barb served as an English Language educator within various school districts across the region. Her specialization in teaching immigrant and refugee students with limited or interrupted formal education underscores her dedication to inclusive learning environments. She has had the unique experience of teaching students across the K-12 education spectrum in the United States, Mexico, and Venezuela.    

    Over two decades ago, Mrs. Stratman embarked on her professional journey when she joined Teach For America after receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Marquette University. Her transformative experience teaching underserved schools in the Texas Rio Grande Valley ignited her passion for collaborative efforts in effecting change and pursuing justice creatively. Upon her return to Nebraska, Barb obtained a Master of Science in Education Administration and Supervision from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

    Barb has held numerous roles throughout her career in education. More recently, she served as an Educational Facilitator for the Buffett Early Childhood Institute in which she supported the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan for reducing or eliminating income-based achievement gaps within the Omaha Learning Community. She comes to this work with the spirit of curiosity and unwavering commitment to collaboration. 

  • Etienne Brock

    Executive + Project Coordinator

    Etienne, a proud South Omaha native, brings her passion for equitable housing to the place she calls home. She believes in uplifting diverse community voices to build neighborhoods where everyone has equal opportunity to education, employment, and joy.

    Drawing from her experience in assisting individuals experiencing homelessness in Denver, Colorado, as well as her administrative roles at the Omaha Housing Authority and Omaha Public Schools, Etienne brings a wealth of knowledge to her work at Canopy South.

    With a Bachelor’s of Arts in History, specializing in Women and Gender Studies and Latin American Studies from Creighton University, Etienne lays a solid foundation for her pursuit of social change. As a graduate student at the University of Nebraska Omaha, she is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Urban Studies with a concentration in human community, expanding her expertise in shaping thriving and inclusive urban environments.

    In her role as Executive + Project Coordinator, Etienne seamlessly merges her administrative talent with her unwavering dedication to community engagement. Through her dynamic approach, she supports initiatives that bring positive transformation to the lives of individuals and families, ensuring a brighter future for all.