Living Mercy

Scholarships are just one way Christ Child Society boosts families and children in need

Meet Jay Jay.

He’s 5 years old and a preschooler at St. Philip Neri School in Omaha. He dreams of being an artist, a chef – or a ninja!

His mother, Hannah Elliott Peck, can’t quite picture her sweet son becoming a ninja. He just doesn’t have that killer instinct, she says.

Instead, he’s artistic, sensitive and “loves to help me cook and bake cookies.”

Jay Jay likely picked up some of those traits from his mother, who studied baking and cake decorating before becoming a registered nurse.

Elliott Peck worked hard while studying at Nebraska Methodist College in Omaha. She graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a 3.9 grade point average.

Those were stressful times – balancing studies and family life while her husband, Jason, supported the family with his videography business, the young mother said.

The Christ Child Society of Omaha helped, offering a $5,000 scholarship for Elliott Peck.

A mentor at Methodist knew about Elliott Peck’s financial need and nominated her for the scholarship, which she received as a senior. She had other scholarships and financial aid but still struggled to cover costs, she said.

“Especially going to a private college, it was very, very expensive.”

The Christ Child Society scholarship “was a tremendous help, just lessening that financial burden,” she said. “It was one less thing to worry about. I was able to pay for books and supplies and tuition. I’m just so grateful that they were so generous.

“I mean, $5,000, that’s a lot of money.”


Elliott Peck is one of 70 people who’ve benefited from Christ Child Society scholarships since the organization began offering them in 2019. 

“Our mission is to support children and families in need,” said Janet Nichting, president of the board of directors for the Christ Child Society of Omaha. “We believe that if we can help the mothers, the parents, attain an education and become self-sufficient, then we’re helping the whole family, and of course, that includes the children.”

The Christ Child Society offers college scholarships of $5,000 a year for students pursuing four-year degrees and $2,500 scholarships for those seeking two-year degrees.

Currently, 34 people are on scholarship, the vast majority of them single mothers.

Nearly all have received other college aid, Nichting said, but typically that money is not enough to get them through their two- or four-year programs.

“We’re able to help them complete the program, which is significant. They’ve invested a lot of time at that point, and they just need a little boost to finish.”

That help is huge for families “because the graduates of our program are hired into jobs with good salaries and benefits and 401ks,” Nichting said. “For many of them, it’s the first time in their life when they’ve become self-supporting and they can support their children, they can live independently.

“It truly does change the trajectory of their lives,” she said. “In the long term, what we’re seeing is the children are beginning to recognize what’s possible through education. They’re seeing their mothers work hard and earn their degrees and then get good jobs. The children realize they have a different vision for their own future at that point.

“What we believe is happening is generational change,” Nichting said. “The hope is that we’re helping to lift families out of poverty.”


The student mothers work hard and face a lot of struggles, she said. “They’re going to school, they’re taking care of their families, and many of them are having to work also, just to continue to live while they’re in school.

“So our scholarships help relieve some of that financial pressure,” she said. “They know they can pay for school, they know they can finish. In addition to working to stay successful in their academic program, then they’re able to spend a little more time with their children.”

That support “kind of keeps everybody together.”

The Christ Child Society receives scholarship nominations from several schools, including the College of Saint Mary, Nebraska Methodist College, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Bellevue University and Clarkson College.

The scholarship program has grown dramatically in just a few years. For the current school year alone, 34 scholarships were awarded, a commitment of $150,000, Nichting said.

The National Christ Child Society was founded in 1887, before many social service agencies existed. The Omaha chapter, founded in 1906, is one of the oldest in the country.

Over the years, the Christ Child Society has evolved to meet changing needs.

Besides providing scholarships, the Omaha chapter also supplies families with child car seats, and its literacy program helps put books in the hands of children.

Each year the local chapter assembles 2,000 bundles of baby supplies, which are distributed through more than 30 agencies in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, Fremont and Lincoln.

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