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Raquel Henderson receives 2023 ICAN Leadership Award

ICAN Press Release

Community advocate and Metropolitan Community College pathway coordinator Racquel Henderson receives 2023 ICAN Leadership Award

Henderson exemplifies how leadership happens at all levels

– Released May 17, 2023 –

A longtime Metropolitan Community College employee who works with students entering the technology field has been named the 2023 recipient of the ICAN Leadership Award.

Racquel Henderson, a pathway coordinator for the first cohort of the Walter Scott scholarship at Metropolitan Community College, may be best known in Omaha for her support and advocacy for community members in need of job opportunities and career resources, particularly those who are reentering the workforce after being impacted by the criminal justice system. She frequently highlights job opportunities and provides workforce resources, oftentimes from her own pocket or network.

Henderson is the founder of the “B Project,” a movement she created to provide awareness of different opportunities in the community to help improve people’s lives, including job leads, short-term training opportunities, food pantry information and more.

“I myself am system-impacted, and that’s a big part of my ‘why.’ I didn’t have anyone to push me and believe in me, and not that that was the determining factor for me, but I feel like if I had that, my life would have taken a different path,” Racquel said. “It wasn’t until post-incarceration that I had someone that actually took the time to see me and see my potential and believe in me. It was then that I realized the true power of believing in someone, and how you could literally will them to be their best selves. And so I just try to be that for other people, in hopes that they don’t take the same route that I had to take.”

Henderson is the eighth recipient of the ICAN Leadership Award, a prestigious honor presented annually in partnership with Kiewit Corp. at the ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference. The award recognizes people who live and lead authentically through the “4 C’s” of collaboration, compassion, confidence and creativity. This year will mark the first time the award recipient isn’t in an executive-level position.

“When I heard that I was the first person to get this award who wasn’t a president or CEO, I got emotional,” Racquel said. “Everyone looks at leadership like you have to be way up here, where you have to have employees, but that’s not what leadership has ever meant to me. Leadership, for me, is taking ownership of my family, of my community, and doing what I can to give back and implement change, and the fact that ICAN could see that leadership in me, you know, without me even being a director at my job, just let me know I was doing it right.”

Aileen Warren, president and CEO of ICAN, said Henderson’s work at Metropolitan Community College and in the community is a wonderful example of the 4 C’s, but most clearly demonstrates her compassion for collaboration — something Henderson sees as vital to the work she does on and off the clock.

“Racquel’s advocacy for her community, particularly those families and individuals who are system impacted, is a shining example of a leader who effectively makes an impact in her organization and also in our community.  Warren said. “She strives to put people in the position to win no matter their background or past circumstances, and we are thrilled to count her among our ICAN Leadership Award recipients.”

Several of Henderson’s colleagues submitted letters in support of her nomination, specifically mentioning her creativity in providing solutions that respond to the needs of the community. Examples of that include pulling together resources during power outages and offering compassion when providing job placement information that is transparent and sensitive to a variety of needs, as well as pointing out if positions require background checks or other barriers to those who are system impacted. 

Colleagues also praised Henderson’s transparency and commitment to her values and principles. 

“She is unafraid to speak out against injustices or advocate for those who may be marginalized or underrepresented,” one wrote of Racquel. “Her courage has earned her the respect of her community, colleagues and the students she works with, who admire her integrity and dedication to her beliefs.”

Henderson wants to challenge everyone to be the change they wish to see in their community, regardless of what their position or title may be. 



“Don't be afraid to take that first step, and don't let your past or any mistakes that you have made define you. We can all change and do better.”

Raquel Henderson

About the award: ICAN and Kiewit created the award in 2015 after careful research and tapping into ICAN’s nearly 40 years of history working with leaders from across the globe. ICAN believes that current leaders, and those of the future, need to possess the skills of the four Cs — collaboration, compassion, confidence and creativity — in order to successfully lead their organizations and communities in an ever-changing and complex global economy.

Kiewit Corporation, headquartered in Omaha and one of North America’s largest construction and engineering organizations, helped develop the criteria for the ICAN Leadership Award and sponsors the ICAN Leadership Award each year.

Nominations for the 2024 ICAN Leadership Award will open in January here.

Past recipients of the ICAN Leadership Award:

2022: Julie Kaminski, Immanuel Communities

2021: Carmen Tapio, North End Teleservices, LLC

2020: Josie Abboud, Methodist Hospital and Methodist Women’s Hospital

2019: Nancy Pridal, Lamp Rynearson

2018: Patricia Kearns, QLI

2017: Tim Burke, OPPD

2016: Gail DeBoer, SAC Federal Credit Union