At the Top
Kari Hooker-Leep New GIPS Foundation Executive Director
The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has chosen Kari Hooker-Leep to succeed Traci Skalberg as its Executive Director. Hooker-Leep joined the GIPS Foundation on June 27.
For the past 17 years Hooker-Leep has been the Regional Director for CHAD — Combined Health Agencies Drive. In addition to her experience leading CHAD, she will bring a strong background in fundraising and community involvement to the GIPS Foundation.
“Kari Hooker-Leep has strong ties to the Grand Island community and the Grand Island Public Schools. She is a life-long resident of Grand Island, a graduate of Grand Island Senior High, Walnut Junior High, and West Lawn Elementary. We are pleased to welcome her history of relevant experiences and expertise as the Foundation’s new Executive Director,” said Vikki Deuel, Foundation Board President.
Hooker-Leep said, "I am excited to step into the Executive Director position at Grand Island Public Schools Foundation. Although Traci Skalberg has left a remarkable footprint and big shoes to fill, I am ready for the challenge. As an alumni of GIPS, I am aware of all the amazing things the Foundation has accomplished and the goals it has set moving forward. I am honored to be able to be a part of this wonderful organization." Hooker-Leep has a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will be the second Executive Director of the GIPS Foundation.
Skalberg joined the Foundation in 2003 and has been its only Executive Director. She will become the Executive Director for the Central Community College Foundation in August.
In addition to building strong partnerships with the district and community stakeholders through hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual scholarships to graduating seniors, the GIPS Foundation also awards grants for classroom innovation and professional development. The Foundation also honors faculty and staff through Teacher of the Year recognitions, salutes alumni who have made a difference in the world with the Grand Island Senior High Hall of Honor program, and provides leadership and management of major projects such as the renovation of Memorial Stadium. It responsibly manages and grows charitable assets and inspires the power of community to invest in access, equity, and opportunity for all GIPS students.
Wiemers a Certified Clifton Strengths Coach
Joshua Wiemers knows strengths when he sees them.
And when he coaches them, too.
The GISH Class of 2019 graduate is one of 80 Clifton Strengths Institute Certified Strengths Coach and Senior Lead at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business. Joshua will be starting his senior year at UNL where he is also involved in the Business Honors Academy. He plans to graduate in 2023 with a major in Accounting.
As a Clifton Strengths Institute’s Certified Student Strengths Coach, Joshua leads a 50-minute team meeting of 8-10 first-year students once a week for eight weeks and holds two 30-minute, one-on-one strengths coaching sessions with each member of his team. He also must attend a one-hour coach meeting per week for continued training, keep track of his students’ progress and complete Clifton’s “Student Strengths Coach Training” course.
Moreover, as a Senior Lead, Joshua leads a weekly class with students and other Strength Coaches.
According to a press release from the UNL College of Business and Clifton Institute executive director, Tim Hodges, “Transitioning from high school to college often brings big challenges. Students receive frequent feedback during their first few weeks on campus that informs their identity. Our focus is to ensure that our new College of Business students receive positive feedback, with an intense focus on helping the students build their character and reach their potential. The Clifton Strengths assessment and our time in class gives students a good foundation, but the most impactful development often happens when they meet one-on-one with our amazing student coaches."
Harvest Silent Auction features a CliftonStrengths Coaching Session for up to 10 people
Now Joshua is bringing his leadership training closer to home. As part of the GIPS Foundation’s inaugural Harvest event in September, a CliftonStrengths Coaching session with Joshua for up to 10 people will be part of the silent auction. Those with the winning bid will get to take the CliftonStrengths 34 Assessments individually and then gather as a group to learn more about what their results mean.
You can read more about the Clifton Strengths Institute here.
By the way, Joshua’s top five strengths, a key in the Clifton assessment model, are Deliberative, Context, Intellection, Analytical, Input.
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Shaking the World
19 Years of Shaking the World
In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
- Mahatma Gandhi
The name of this column came from one of my favorite quotes by Mahatma Gandhi. I always thought it was descriptive of the Foundation’s work and definitely described what I hoped my impact felt like. Let’s be real. I am sure that sometimes my impact felt like getting hit by a truck … but we can all have goals, right?
Remember when your math teacher told you to show your work? After 19 years at the GIPS Foundation and over $30 million invested in students … our donors absolutely have some tangible buildings and equipment in their repertoire of work. Together we built or renovated the Indra Transitional Learning Center, concession stands, scoreboards, the Arrasmith Planetarium, the Grand Island Senior High Auditorium and Little Theater, the Career Pathways Institute Campus, the O’Connor Early Learning Center, and Memorial Stadium and Jack Martin Field.
I loved working on all of these projects. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your work. Except when there is…
Traci and GISH cheerleaders awarding classroom mini-grants
Their names were Abbey, Rigoberto, Grant, Melissa, Sienna, Reagan, Alex, Shane, Sarah, Hugo, Olivia, Diego, Luis…thousands of them have written their names on my heart in the time that I have served in this position.
I can’t describe what it is like to read a student’s scholarship essay where he refers to himself as his “family’s hope.” The magnitude of love, gratitude, maturity and grit wrapped up in that little sentence is enough to bubble a lump into anyone’s throat.
I loved our scholarship program where we got to individualize our investment. I loved our classroom grant program where we could benefit so many students at once. I also loved investing in our teachers and staff and recognizing them for their efforts. I loved our alumni and the tradition of Grand Island Public Schools.
And, I love our donors. You have written your stories on my heart as we worked together to invest in robust opportunities for Grand Island Public Schools students. The work never got old. There were so many memorable moments.
I have cried a river at my desk, at the podium, on the stage, in the halls and in conference rooms. I have laughed and smiled, too. I have marveled at all of the stories of resilience from our students and our donors. They inspire me every day.
My dear friends … this is my last column for Rise. I am in my last month as Executive Director of the GIPS Foundation. I am excited about the future with the wonderful staff and Kari Hooker-Leep as executive director. She has sprinted to the starting line and will take you forward.
George Ayoub shared his story in the May edition, about how he got involved with the GIPS Foundation and was later named Editor and official storyteller for Rise. I guess it is time for me to share my story.
Traci speaking at the annual Martin scholarship reception
I was working for the Stuhr Museum Foundation under the incredible Pam (Hedgecock) Price (Class of 1963) when I applied for a job writing grants for the school district. When I came into the interview, Superintendent Dr. Steve Joel mentioned that they also wanted a public relations officer and someone to advance their foundation. I confidently told him that I could do all of those things, but he would have to choose which one I should spend my time on because he was talking about a 60 or 80-hour per week job with too many hats. I didn’t get the job.
About nine months later, however, the district came to me saying their foundation was moving into a position to hire a part-time staff person and would I help them write the job description? Sneaky right? I don’t think I ever told Dr. Joel that I knew what he was up to … but let me say it now: Steve, I know what you did there.
Aren’t we all more invested in things we help design or build? So, yes, when the time came, I applied for the position. It was a pretty obvious decision and what I call a perfect storm. I was familiar with the people as my late husband Barry already worked for the school district as a social studies teacher at Grand Island Senior High. This new position meant that I could further my career AND be home more for my family. That was 2003.
Though I was the first staff member, I did not walk into a blank slate. Much groundwork had been laid by former Superintendent Marv Maurer and several families. The Foundation Board was also a strong partner in designing all of the systems to take care of donors and their funds ensuring that they are spent according to intent and for the benefit of students. We did a lot of system building those first few years.
I hit a strong personal growth moment in 2008 after the untimely death of Foundation Board Member Clark W. Reese. Clark had been integral in the leadership that grew the Foundation’s footprint. He was a great board member and a great friend. He often challenged me to think of things differently or to stretch my growth, or just to see how I would respond. Clark’s death hit me hard, and I realized that the people who were involved in the Foundation were not clients to me — they were family.
I got to work alongside four different superintendents, 1,500 GIPS staff members, 62 Foundation Board Members, 12 different GIPS Foundation staff members (two who have been in the trenches with me more than 12 years – thank you Kari Price and Candi Wiemers!), more than 10,000 students and at least 2,900 donors and alumni. That is a very large family! And, oh, how grateful I am to call them mine.
It has been a wonderful ride. And as I close this chapter, let it be known that I am not forgetting all of the fabulous characters of this book. I will always call you mine, and I look forward to what is ahead for the GIPS Foundation and all of you who are involved in making dreams come true for our students.
May our paths cross many times more.
If our lives are measured on how we love, we must carve our names on hearts and give back. Make the place you live better. Invest in someone else. Let your legacy be someone else’s opportunity.
- Traci Skalberg, January 2015
Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.
Join us at the Inaugural Harvest Gala
Annual Giving Coordinator
For over three decades, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has helped support the students and staff in our community. The GIPS Foundation funds additional opportunities for students and staff through programs such as Classroom Mini-Grants, Teacher of the Year, Scholarships, Legacy Grants and other needs as they arise. In fact, during the 2020-2021 School Year, the GIPS Foundation invested $1,447,443 into Programs, Scholarships and Grants benefiting our students.
On Thursday, September 22, 2022, the GIPS Foundation will host its first ever fundraising event called the Harvest at the historic Liederkranz. A big thank you to Allen Capital Group for being the Presenting Sponsor for our inaugural event. Over the years, the Foundation has participated in many fundraisers, but this will be the first event style fundraiser. At the Foundation we’re so excited to share our event information with you and invite you to join us as we - Celebrate Your Legacy. Invest in Their Opportunity.
Tickets are now available!
What will you find at the Harvest?
The Harvest Gala will include:
- Cocktails - Taste our signature brew crafted by Kinkaider and receive two drink tickets upon entry for beverages of your choice.
- Silent auction - There will be a wide variety of items to bid on at the silent auction and even better is that you don’t have to attend the event to bid! All bidding will be done via mobile bidding on our giving center. Guests who attend the event will be able to see all items in person, but anyone near and far is able to bid on the silent auction. Mobile bidding opens on September 12. We’re still adding items to the auction, but you can see our current silent auction items here.
- Raffles and games - Go home with a brand new bottle of wine and/or whiskey, take your chance at Harvest Plinko, buy a first chance raffle ticket and play the always fun Heads or Tails game. Want to find out more about these awesome games and raffles? Visit our giving center to read full descriptions.
- Host - Enjoy being guided through the event evening by host Adam Carriker. Adam is a former Husker and NFL veteran, currently he is talking the pulse of Husker Nation in his video series, Carriker Chronicles. His series breaks down the latest Nebraska athletics news and offers his own insight.
- Dinner - Enjoy a delicious two meat entree and dinner catered by Blue Fork Kitchen.
- Live auction - Joining us from South Dakota is charity auctioneer Jonathan Larsen. We think you’ll really like his quick wit and playful demeanor as our live auctioneer. See our current lineup of live auction packages here. On the night of the event, don’t forget to purchase a $100 First Chance Raffle ticket. If you win, you get to pick any live auction item before bidding begins!
- Dessert Dash - What’s better than dessert you might ask? Well a dessert dash of course. The table with the highest bid will get to choose their dessert first. Let the games begin!
- Heart of the Foundation Award - Introducing a brand new award from the GIPS Foundation office titled the Heart of the Foundation Award. This award celebrates those who cheer on the Foundation in all of its endeavors and actively participate in growing its mission. The inaugural award will be posthumously celebrating Marv Maurer. He is lovingly referred to as the “Godfather of the Foundation.”
- Donate - At the Harvest gala the goal is to raise additional funds for students. You can help us with this mission by making a donation online anytime between now and the event date. We are looking to raise $15,000 in donations to enhance our scholarship program, specifically the Academic Aristocrat program, which was started by Marv Maurer.
- Introduction to our new Executive Director - The GIPS Foundation is excited to introduce to you Kari Hooker-Leep. Hear from her as she begins her new role as Executive Director.
So what do you say? Will you join us at the inaugural Harvest gala on September 22? It is sure to be a memorable occasion and we’d love to share the evening with you.
Tickets are now available!
If you can’t make it, be sure to participate in our silent auction! Mobile bidding opens on September 12.
Together we will - Celebrate Your Legacy. Invest in Their Opportunity.
Shining Bright Since 2005
Class of 2005
GIPS Foundation Board
In June of 2022, I decided to get a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership through Doane University, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. This is a two-year program designed to shift the mindset of what is a leader to how to become a leader.
I am participating in Cadre 46 with 31 other amazing leaders. During our first three weeks of learning, we became more knowledgeable about Servant Leadership, Cultural Proficient Leadership and Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.
Servant Leadership is having the commitment to set goals, the willingness to be open, and the ability to listen. I now see that being a leader is providing Servant Leadership in many different ways and knowing that some ways will work and some ways will not work. Being able to reflect on it and making the necessary changes, however, is also Servant Leadership. I realize that I will not be a perfect leader but a leader who is a work in progress. I feel really good about that because having the willingness to be open and committed will only make me a better leader.
Cadre 46, the Master's Degree Educational Leadership cohort at Doane University
Photo courtesy of Bianca Ayala
Cultural Proficient Leadership is valuing diversity and preserving the cultural dignity of students while cultural proficiency enables educators to create an inclusive and instructionally powerful learning environment. My key values are culture, language and relationships. As an EL teacher I have really learned how those three values can identify a person and how now as an adult they shape my values even if they didn’t as a child. Knowing and understanding my core values sparked an idea for my classroom: I want my middle school students to start processing what their values are so they can honor them.
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment (CIA) is usually the key essence of any school but the power behind it is how it is implemented. As an EL teacher the CIA I work with the most is English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) 21. This particular assessment assesses EL students on their language in reading, listening, speaking and writing. I believe that the ELPA 21 data is a part of who I am as a teacher because I use it to create meaningful instruction in the classroom. Knowing which areas my students need growth in and which ones they have achieved really does make a difference.
I am thankful for my teachers and cadre members from Doane. We all are taking the time to learn about each other, challenge each other and trust each other. The next two years will be a constant learning experience, and I cannot wait for it.
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I've Been Thinking
Transition a Good Time to Tell Our Story
Class of 1968
Socrates once said “an unexamined life is not worth living.” His thinking inspired me to suggest that with Traci Skalberg handing over the Grand Island Public School Foundation reins to Kari Hooker-Leep, now is a good time to remind Rise readers some of what we do at the Foundation. Which, obviously, requires us to examine ourselves.
To that end I want to share with you a short piece I wrote in May (and now updated) when a search committee to name a new executive director revisited the same subject. We could use charts and graphs and assorted details to tell you who we are, but what follows is more accurate.
It’s our story.
We are the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.
We change lives.
We build things.
We create legacies.
And — this part is important — we do it with passion, professionalism, and care, all of which has made us a national model for public school foundations with eight years of consecutive Four Star ratings from Charity Navigator, the gold standard for rating nonprofits.
We are the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.
We manage $3.5 million in annual revenues, money for scholarships, projects, and grants. Our scholarship program changes the course of students’ lives, charting new opportunities, mapping new trajectories that give them a chance to go where their dreams can take them. In 2022, we awarded 153 scholarships worth over $500,000 to 88 deserving graduates. Do the math. Those are life-changing numbers.
We raise and manage funds for major school projects, too, including $17 million to remake the school district’s Memorial Stadium, now a state-of-the-art sports and event facility while continuing its traditional role as a community gathering place. We’ve raised the funds to renovate two beautiful theaters inside the high school with new seats, sound systems, and a fresh coat of care. We teamed with local corporations on a project that turned an empty warehouse into an academic pathway, which prepares students for the job market or higher education upon graduation through certification and technical training from computer programming to diesel mechanics.
Yes, we can make big and shiny and new happen, but what we’re really good at building are relationships.
We truly know and care for our donors in a way that creates deep and abiding bonds, the kind of connections that allow us through planned giving, endowed scholarships, and fund-raising campaigns to live our mission together: “Your legacy. Their opportunity.” We not only put it on our mailings and website. We insist our donors see the fruits of their generosity, which, over time, becomes their legacy.
We do all that and still find time to hand out several thousand dollars’ worth of mini-grants to classroom teachers every year; honor teachers and staff members through our Teacher of the Year annual festivities at the start of the school year; respond with the speed necessary when a student needs tuition support for an extra educational opportunity to star in the classroom or a pair of athletic shoes to star on the field of play; and every two years recognize alumni who have made a difference in the world through our Hall of Honor ceremony.
And on September 22, we’re adding the Harvest gala to celebrate our heritage by recognizing Marv Maurer, whose vision was our inception, and to reaffirm our commitment to the students of the Grand Island Public Schools. Make plans to join for what will truly be a memorable evening.
That’s our story. We’re passionate about education, want to change lives, and love to build relationships with donors and supporters who feel the same way.
We are the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.
On the Island
Hands-on Learning is Ongoing for Gear Up Program This Summer
Class of 2023
The Gear Up program at Senior High gives students the chance to put their hands to good use this summer as students head to camps and universities across Nebraska.
Gear Up stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The program began in 2018 as a part of the U.S. Department of Education. It helps support the classes of 2024 and 2025 to be prepared for what happens after high school.
Gear up director, Allison Bailey, explained that they follow all of the guidelines meant for student success.
“We oversee the budget for funding activities and make sure our programs are in alignment with Grand Island Public Schools strategic plans,” she said.
She added that they also make sure that families are provided with all of the information they need to help their students make good choices and succeed.
According to Bailey, they have three main objectives they want students to achieve before they graduate.
Dr. Allison Bailey, Director of Gear UP
Photo courtesy of Grand Island Public Schools
The first goal is the focus on academic preparation. Their second goal is to ensure that students are meeting a certain score on the ACT and literacy tests, so that they don’t have to take remedial classes in college.
“We want students to have the opportunity to qualify for scholarships and get into a college of their choice,” she said.
Their third goal is to raise awareness to students and their families about all options after high school.
“Not everyone will want to go to college, but we can try to help them figure out what their plan is,” Bailey said.
As a part of the Gear Up program, different partners and sponsors will fund activities and workshops for students over the summer.
“Events are based on academic enrichment,” Bailey said. “We try to give students the opportunity to explore their future careers or have hands-on experience.”
She said they host about four science field trips in June and sponsor a few other students to go to camps in July.
“A group of students from the Medical Sciences Academy went to Baltimore to the John Hopkins University this June and another group is going to a youth leadership summit in Washington D.C. in July,” she said.
All activities are free of charge for students who participate. The only requirement is that they are either a part of the Class of 2024 or the Class of 2025.
“We try to get as many students to participate as possible so that they can get as many opportunities as they can,” Bailey said.
She explained that they particularly like to host science field trips because they have community partners who want to expand the number of students in STEM.
“These field trips were designed as a way to help prepare students for their classes next year and to get them out in the field,” she said.
The first trip was based on environmental science, which looks at water quality, conservation and more.
“We went to the Stuhr Museum and collected samples from different field labs. Then we learned how to test them and analyze them under a microscope,” Bailey said.
Their second trip was an astronomy trip that taught students how to work in a planetarium and showed them how to develop presentations for younger students.
“We have also gone to the Ashfall Fossil Beds and to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln,” she said.
Bailey said she hopes more students will sign up for these activities next year and become inspired to improve their home, school, and community environment.
“I encourage students to get involved,” she said. “Registrations are closed this year but will be open again next year near the summer.”
A Distant Mirror
The 1967 World Series
Class of 1967
On September 12, 1967, I flew from Omaha to Boston for my freshman year at Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass. That was the first time in my life I flew on an airplane, the first time I had been east of the Mississippi, and the first time I saw an ocean. That night I went with some of my new classmates to Fenway Park and attended my first major league baseball game. The Boston Red Sox defeated the Kansas City Athletics 3-1, with Jim Lonborg defeating Catfish Hunter. I was dazzled by the historic nature and beauty of Fenway Park. My love affair with the Red Sox had begun.
Ad for 1967 World Series at Fenway Park
A lifelong baseball fan, I had followed the World Series since I was six years old in 1955. On the black and white television on 12th street in Grand Island, I watched Sandy Amaros catch Yogi Berra‘s fly down the left-field line to help the Dodgers defeat the Yankees and win their first World Series. Thereafter, I followed every World Series with great attention.
The Red Sox in 1967 reached the World Series for the first time since 1946. The first game of the World Series was on October 4, 1967, at Fenway Park. Having never attended a major league baseball game until a few weeks earlier, I decided to try to go to game one of the World Series. After dutifully attending my morning classes, I took the subway to Fenway Park.
The game was a sellout, and I had little money in any case. But my new friend, Tom Werner, loaned me his brother’s Dartmouth press pass to try to get in. I arrived at the stadium, went to the ticket window, and boldly proclaimed “Press” to the man in the ticket booth. This man said impatiently, “This press pass is no good. This is the World Series, and you need a ticket,” I said, “Oh,” and walked away.
Boston Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski tries to track down a long fly ball in the fifth inning of Game One of the 1967 World Series at Fenway Park
I then went to the turnstiles through which the fans with tickets were entering. There was an elderly ticket taker at one of the many turnstiles. I walked up to him, showed him the press pass, and again said, “Press.”
This very kind gentleman said, “No, you need a ticket.”
I then said “Yes, I know I need a ticket. My photographer for my paper has already entered, and he is just inside, over behind you. I can see him from here, and he has my ticket. Just let me in, and I’ll go over and get the ticket and bring it back to you.”
The man said “I am sorry, but I cannot let you in without a ticket.”
In a slightly more strident voice, I said, “I do have a ticket! Listen, he is right over there, I can see him. I’ll be right back! If my newspaper finds out I missed the beginning of this game because you wouldn’t let me in, there will be trouble. I will be right back. He is right over there.”
The ticket taker looked uncertain, but grudgingly said, “Well…okay… go get your ticket, but get right back!”
I then thanked him, went through the turnstile, and scampered off. The ticket taker never saw me again.
After getting into the park I went down to the first few rows immediately behind home plate and miraculously found an empty seat. I sat in that seat for most of the game as Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Boston Red Sox 2-1. It was a glorious experience. My first World Series game in person. To this day, I am surprised at my audacity. But I had a mission. That mission was to get into the World Series, and I did.
Since that first experience, by living in Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and through my involvement with the San Diego Padres, I have been blessed to attend many World Series games. I attended at least one game of the World Series in 1969, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018. I feel very fortunate to have had this abundance of rich experiences. I attended some historic games, including the 1975 game 6 at Fenway Park, in which Carlton Fisk hit the famous 11th inning home run, and the 1988 opening game at Dodger Stadium, in which Kirk Gibson hit his famous walk off home run. I saw two World Series games at Fenway in each of the Red Sox Championships in 2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018.
But nothing will ever compare to the joy and excitement of attending my first World Series game in 1967, when, as an 18 year old freshman in college, I talked my way into Game One at Fenway Park.
One More Thing
Reverence for Our Marble Miracle
Class of 2014
On an unassuming block of East Second Street in Grand Island is a church with dramatically-pitched steeples and fading red doors; a church whose front steps have hosted both a visit from President Teddy Roosevelt and a swapping of playlists between two teenagers falling in love while they waited for rides from their parents.
I was baptized and confirmed at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and there learned to read music and read aloud slowly, so others could digest the words. In the Parish Hall, I met my husband, in the parking lot, accepted roses after Christmas mass, in the columbarium, signed our marriage license.
In the sanctuary, I learned the most valuable thing of all: quietude and reverence.
Episcopal services are slow, thoughtful and rooted in centuries-old tradition. The music is stately and heavy on the organ. The language is formal. Simply put, much like Nebraska, they aren’t for everyone. But, from literally the first days of my life, the liturgy and traditions of the Episcopal Church instilled in me an appreciation of quiet. An example: Before communion, Episcopalians recite a Eucharistic (literally, thanksgiving) prayer, of which there are a few versions. My favorite includes a line giving thanks for the vast expanse of the universe, the galaxies and planets and last but not least, “this fragile earth, our island home.” As a child (and still today), I was awestruck by the mental image our beloved blue and green marble suspended, solitary in the quiet infiniteness of space — a fragile island indeed.
In the next lines of this prayer, thanks are given for the blessings of our big human brains, for the skills of memory and reason. One Sunday when I was a teenager, as my own brain was developing to notice more nuance and search for deeper meaning in everything, I remember thinking that these two praises, side by side, seemed almost contradictory. It became hard to reconcile the simplicity of the picture of our fragile island home with the staggering diversity and complexity that is revealed when we zoom in a little. How could I be such a small, fragile thing on such a small, fragile planet, and yet have infinite people to meet, perspectives to shift and problems to solve?
I wonder now if these lines sit side-by-side because they need each other.
I’ve always had a mind that goes a mile a minute. Writing anything (like this very piece) is a study in self-flagellation and the limitations of my iPad, for all of the scribbling, deleting and copy-pasting I do. I’m a generally restless person, and the words “quiet” and “slow” are not often used to describe me. It’s an inclination that served me well during crowded, 5-minute passing periods at Grand Island Senior High, where I stuffed down countless PB&Js while zipping from the newspaper office to the choir room to the science wing. You might now understand better now that the value of quiet was something that I had to learn.
The wonder I felt as a child when I considered the idea of this fragile earth, our island home, was something I didn’t have a word for then, and is something I can struggle to feel now. Busy brains hustle past it, and certainly all of us have brains that have been busier than ever in the last few years. I’ve grown weary of the terms “these days” and “now more than ever.” I won’t pretend that humans have ever been all that good at slowing down, but certainly this era of our existence has packed in more collective anxiety and trauma than many that have come before. We are all buzzing and bubbling with the excitement of possibility and progress and profound fear of the unknown, which means it is exactly the right time to fight for the space to be quiet.
As a teenager, the sanctuary of St. Stephen’s provided that space for me. The consistent community grounded me; the unchanging structure of the services each Sunday absorbed me. The liturgy’s invitation to consider the vastness of our universe and the task of treating our home and its inhabitants with unconditional love and respect got me out of my own mind and centered on the larger purpose of living. It gave me a word for that feeling of wonder that was so present as a kid and proves so elusive now: reverence, the sense of deep respect and awe that is hard to describe, yet profoundly transforms your way of thinking and acting.
Now more than ever (I know, I know), there seems to be little place for reverence. We can fill our minds with music, books, and podcasts anywhere, at any time. Our news cycle moves at a breakneck pace and is unfortunately colored by frighteningly biased reporting and widespread mistrust. Few have confidence in our elected leaders, regardless of their political affiliation. In just the last few years we’ve suffered profound loss — loss of life, loss of habitat, loss of comfort — compounding, for some, generations of trauma. The quiet can be understandably difficult to find, even if we know it’s what we need.
To be reverent is to pause your pride, your certainty in what is absolutely right and absolutely wrong. To just sit and marvel at the miracle of the marble. To let the quiet in your mind be uncomfortable, then to let it be revelatory. What might happen if we were reverent toward all things bright and beautiful, and all things dark and difficult? What if we all, for just a moment, were quiet, released our desire for control, and let ourselves listen to the multitude of experiences and needs of our neighbors? What if our actions toward each creature and corner of this earth were then driven by a deep sense of awe and respect, whether there was political gain or loss in doing so?
We all share this fragile existence, and share the responsibility for our little island. Let us use the blessing of our human capabilities to walk into reverence together.
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Planning a class reunion?
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Contact us for your class list and send us information about your reunion.
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NOTE: Reunion information in this newsletter is current as of the publication date. To see Reunion updates and additions go to our Alumni Reunions page.
The Class of 1956 wishes to extend an invitation to fellow classmates to join them at their monthly gathering. They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Midtown Holiday Inn at 6:00 pm.
Decades of the 60's
The Decades of the 60’s breakfast continues to be held the second Saturday of each month at Tommy’s, 8:30 a.m. This is a great opportunity to reconnect over a cup of coffee and/or breakfast. We would love to have you join us!
The Class of 1960 has resumed their gathering at Tommy’s Restaurant the first Wednesday of each month at 11 a.m. Local suggested COVID safety measures will be assessed on a monthly basis. Send your email address to Donna Weaver Smith for monthly communications at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Class of 1965 will be gathering on September 23rd and 24th of 2022. We will be celebrating our 57th reunion as we turn 75. Details will be coming via email. See you in September!
Contact for more information or to update your email:
Paul Schneider - email@example.com
The class of ‘66 meets for lunch the third Wednesday of each month at the Platt Duetsche, 12 noon. Please join us!
The Class of 1971 will have their 50 +1 Reunion Get Together on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2022. Friday, Sept. 30th at Fonner Park Bosselman Center on 700 E. Stolley Pk. Rd. from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm. Appetizers from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm, $25.00 per person. Event is casual with a cash bar. Saturday, Oct. 1st at Tommy Gunz on 1607 S Locust St from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm. Beef and Chicken Dinner at 6:30 pm, $35.00 per person. Event is casual with a cash bar. Harvest of Harmony parade gathering details soon. New Stadium Tour is Sunday, Oct. 2nd.
Linda Nelson Lenz - firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathy Christensen - email@example.com
The Class of 1972 is having their 50 year class reunion on July 15 & 16, 2022. Friday night will be a casual gathering at 40 North. Saturday will be at Full Circle Venue, located at Boarders Inn & Suites, with an Italian meal.
Deb Wells - firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Stohs - email@example.com
The Class of 1977 is having their 45th reunion party at Riverside Golf Club on August 6, 2022. Planning is in progress and additional details will be shared soon.
Kent Brown - KB@nebraskatruck.com
Kelly Lesiak - firstname.lastname@example.org
Robyn Splattstoesser - 308-379-4869
May and June memorial list of GISH Alumni
CLEO (MARSH) RAMSEY, Class of 1959, died February 17, 2022, in Houston, TX. She was 81.
EVAIN DOUGLAS RUBY, Class of 1950, died March 4, 2022, in Loveland, CO. He was 89.
JANET (STRATMAN) BOLTZ, Class of 1959, died April 22, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 80.
MERVIN L. (MERV) LEMBURG, Class of 1951, died May 2, 2022, in Maricopa, AZ. He was 87.
TARN DAVIS, Class of 1982, died May 3, 2022, in Lincoln, NE. He was 58.
DOROTHY (SEALEY) CRAMER, Class of 1936, died May 5, 2022, in Stromsburg, NE. She was 93.
DONALD L. (DON) FRAUEN, Class of 1951, died May 7, 2022, in Central City, NE. He was 87.
EARLENE (JENKINS) ELLINGTON, Class of 1964, died May 9, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 75.
JOSIE (BRISENO) JENSEN, Class of 1954, died May 10, 2022, in Kearney, NE. She was 86.
JANET (RICHARDS) MURPHY, Class of 1968, died May 10, 2022, in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. She was 71.
JANICE (PINKSTON) METCALF, Class of 1958, died May 12, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 81.
TIMOTHY MEYER, Teacher at GIPS, died May 17, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 63.
RICHARD DEAN LEWIS, Class of 1981, died May 18, 2022, in Lincoln, NE. He was 58.
BOBBIE PEARSON, Longtime Substitute for GIPS, died May 20, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 78.
TERRY DERBY, Class of 1966, died May 21, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 73.
PEGGY (DENMAN) MEYER, Class of 1971, died May 21, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 69.
RICHARD MARTIN, Class of 1951, died May 22, 2022.
JERRY HEPP, Class of 1951, died May 26, 2022, in Lincoln, NE. He was 88.
LARRY IRVINE, Class of 1956, died May 27, 2022, in Lincoln, NE. He was 83.
GARY CHRISTENSEN, Class of 1965, died May 28, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 74.
ROSALIE (HOMFELD) ROSCOE, Class of 1966, died May 28, 2022t, in Grand Island, NE. She was 73.
KENNETH SPIEHS, Class of 1966, died May 29, 2022, in Gray, TN. He was 74.
TOM STEARLEY,Class of 1971, died June 9, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 69.
LOREN SWELEY, Class of 1964, died June 10, 2022, in North Platte, NE. He was 75.
CHARLES E. (CHUCK) BAASCH, Class of 1947, died June 12, 2022, in Waterloo, IA. He was 92.
GENE KIOLBASA, Class of 1953, died June 13, 2022, in Iowa City, IA. He was 87.
ROBERTA EUNSON, Class of 1947, died June 14, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. She was 92.
BRIAN FITZSIMONS, Class of 1983, died June 14, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 57.
MEL SEMS, Class of 1960, died June 17, 2022, in Grand Island, NE. He was 80.
To report an alumni death since June, 2022, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to email@example.com
Rise wants to help you celebrate your successes with other Grand Island Senior High alumni and friends. “Class Notes” is the place to highlight a birth, an anniversary, a promotion, a college degree, an award, or other notable personal accomplishments and triumphs. Tell us about that new business. That perfect baby … or grandbaby. That Masters degree you earned after years of hard work. That recognition from your company, your cohorts, your community.
Sharon Guzinski is retiring after 9 years with GIPS. She was a Special Education Paraeducator at Barr Middle School.
Kenneth Ruff is retiring after 7 years with GIPS. He was the Assistant Custodian at the Wyandotte Learning Center.
Janet Ewoldt is retiring after 38 years with GIPS. She was a Classroom Paraeducator at Dodge Elementary.
Peggy Christensen is retiring after 26 years with GIPS. She was an Assistant Secretary at Grand Island Senior High.
Nancy Buettner is retiring after 25 years with GIPS. She worked at the Child Nutrition Center.
Carolyn Wetzel is retiring after 28 years with GIPS. She was a Fifth Grade Teacher at West Lawn Elementary.
Nancy Huber is retiring after 41 years with GIPS. She was a Bilingual Teacher at Shoemaker Elementary.
Helen Batenhorst is retiring after 6 years with GIPS. She was the Elementary Supervisor for Nutrition Services.
Gail Menard is retiring after 35 years with GIPS. She was a Bilingual Teacher at Lincoln Elementary.
Jeffrey Westerby is retiring after 31 years with GIPS. He was a Counselor at Walnut Middle School.
Josh Wiemers, Class of 2019, is one of 80 Clifton Strengths Institute Certified Strengths Coach and Senior Lead at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business. Josh will be starting his senior year at UNL where he is also involved in the Business Honors Academy. He plans to graduate in 2023 with a major in Accounting.
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