Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) Staff

Director: John Gallion Jr., M.S.


John Gallion holds a Bachelor's of General Studies degree, with an emphasis in Psychology, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a Master of Science degree in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from Creighton University's School of Law. Prior to serving as Director of the Educational Opportunity Center, John previously served 7.5 years as an Outreach Coordinator in the EOC.

John, who was a first generation college student himself, has an active passion for assisting adult learners with their educational endeavors. He attributes this devotion to his days an undergraduate and the experiences of being a first generation college student on a campus that did not host many TRiO organizations at the time of his attendance.

John is active in TRiO on the national, regional, and local level. John is currently a member of the Educational Opportunity Association, MOKANNE and the Nebraska Mediation Association. John feels that education is one of the keys to overcoming poverty and becoming self-sufficient. According to Gallup?s Strengths finder, John's top 5 strengths are: Ideation, Realtor, Input, Responsibility and Intellection.





Administrative Assistant: Frienda Pierce


Frienda Pierce has served as the Administrative Assistant at the Educational Opportunity Center since 2014. Frienda has worked in the educational field since 1996. Frienda attended Metropolitan Community College and holds a Para-Legal degree in Law and a certificate in Drafting. While attending college, Frienda was a consistent member on the Dean?s list. Frienda has a passion for helping others achieve their goals and is currently a member of the Neighborhood Action and Fact Association (NAAF), which is an organization aimed at helping to improve the quality of neighborhoods in Omaha, Ne.


Coordinator for Adult Learners: Dasha Gatrost


Dasha Sudar graduated from the University of Iowa as a first-generation college student in 2010 with a Bachelor's of Arts Degree with a major in Sociology and a minor in Psychology. She is currently pursuing her Master's of Science in Leadership at Creighton University with an expected graduation date of December 2016.

Her past work experience includes positions as an Adult Career Specialist and a Follow Up Specialist for the Workforce Investment Act Grants. She also has worked as a mentoring program assistant for a grant initiative that assisted High School aged youths.

She is actively involved in her neighborhood association and has completed numerous volunteer projects in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

According to Gallup's Strengthsfinder, her top 5 strengths are: Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Activator, and Individualization.


Coordinator for Adult Learners: Kandi Holmes


Kandi Holmes serves as the Outreach Coordinator for Creighton University as of December 2015. Kandi holds a Bachelor's Degree in General Studies with a concentration in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Prior to working at Creighton University, Kandi was a Housing Specialist for Omaha Housing Authority where she worked with low income families, individuals with providing them affordable housing and also communicated to several landlords to negotiate rent for her clients. Prior to that, Kandi worked as a Social Services Worker for the Department of Health and Human Services in Omaha, NE. Kandi volunteers at her church monthly where she is a Teacher and impacts the young lives of children. She also is an alumni with Trio.


Nicholas Russell has been working with students for the past 12+ years. His most recent work though has been in Higher Education at Creighton University, Metropolitan Community College, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the English Language School in Sydney. Before his career in Higher Ed, he was an English as a Second Language instructor. In those days, he spent his time working at public high schools in Thailand, South Korea, and the Republic of Georgia.

Nick became interested in international travel as a high school exchange student in Germany. After that exchange year, he attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha and received his Bachelor?s degree in International Studies and German Language. Nick then obtained his ESL teaching certificate and spent several years teaching overseas. When he returned to the USA, he continued his education in a Master?s program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha receiving a Counseling degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education.



ESL Instructor: Barb Widman

Barb Widman received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Major in Business and a Minor in Education. Barb also holds a teaching certification K-12, and has taught ESL for the Omaha Public Schools for over 25 years. Barb is currently in her sixth year of teaching ESL classes at the EOC.


ESL Instructor: Jana Donahoe

Jana Donahoe came to Omaha to accept a teaching fellowship in the Creighton University English Department in 1980, and graduated with an M.A. In 1982. A certified English 7-12 and K-12 ESL instructor, she has taught junior and senior high English, journalism, GED and ESL.


GED Instructor: Cynthia Hruby

Sister Cynthia Hruby is a member of the Omaha Notre Dame Sisters. She has a Bachelors in Science Education from UNO and two masters: Christian Spirituality from Creighton and Counseling in Higher Education from Wayne State College. Her past ministries include teaching junior high and high school in Iowa and Nebraska, youth and grief ministry in the Omaha Archdiocese, and college campus ministry in southern Missouri and at Wayne State College in Nebraska. She began ESL and GED adult education ministry in 2012 and has been a GED instructor at EOC since October 2015. In addition to religious community responsibilities, her interests include Clifton Strengths FInder, immigration and refugee outreach, and gardening.