At the Top
PathBack Encourages Alumni to Return Home to Teach
The Grand Island Public Schools is betting Thomas Wolfe was wrong.
Wolfe wrote the novel “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but GIPS and its PathBack program insists just the opposite is true for young teachers. PathBack gives Senior High alumni the chance to do just that: come home and teach in GIPS.
PathBack guarantees a teaching position if one is available in GIPS to a GISH alumni who graduates from college and wants to return home. While the program is competitive, it also provides for mentoring and, according to GIPS Recruiting and Retention Coordinator, Brian Kort, may someday even be able to offer some financial assistance.
PathBack came into existence when the GIPS Board of Education and Superintendent Tawana Grover took a long hard look at ways to encourage and recruit GISH grads to come back to Grand Island, where they received their own education.
Grand Island is no exception to the state and national problem of teacher shortages. PathBack addresses just that issue.
For a full report on PathBack, read this story from the Independent.
Photos courtesy of Grand Island Public Schools
(e) Mail Bag
Writer Pleased to See an Abbey Kutlas Column
Writer Pleased to See an Abbey Kutlas-Prickett Column
I loved seeing your (Abbey Kutlas-Prickett) beautiful face and reading your introduction to yourself in “Rise”. You are such an engaging writer, so enjoyable to listen to. I am so glad you didn't quit writing (once a wordsmith always a wordsmith).
Your mom named you correctly. You were the “Queen of One More Thing.” I remember how you would pick up one more thing to do in high school, too, whether it was an extra article to write for the newspaper or something else for another class or activity you were involved in. I still remember the day Joe came to class with his buddies and sang and presented your ring to you. I hope you two are still singing, too.
I am glad you are out of Chicago and can only imagine how elated your mom and dad are that you are right there in Omaha.
Loved your column!
Grand Island Senior High
Reminiscences on Mike Monk’s Pinball Memories
Thanks for your pinball article, Mike. I particularly appreciated the comments about Ott's. I am still amazed at how many bodies were able to crowd into that tiny building. My parents would have been shocked to learn of the amount of my lunch money intended for the cafeteria which actually found its way to Ott's cash drawer.
In addition to the tasty fries, another Ott's specialty was their delicious cinnamon roll with chocolate frosting. Often, it was a roll and a Coke that comprised my lunch — certainly a balanced meal, which, no doubt stunted my growth.
The building eventually housed a series of businesses; I remember Benson Realty being there for a while. Possibly, Walnut went to a closed campus at some point, causing a loss of much of Ott's business.
Class of 1967
Grand Island Senior High Athletic Hall of Fame Inducts Class of 2022
The Grand Island Senior High Athletic Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2022 on Jan. 14 during halftime of the Islanders’ boys basketball game against Lincoln Southeast.
The four individual inductees were Gene Wells, contributor; Dave Oman, boys basketball coach; Laura (Luther) Fox, volleyball; and Kurt Mann, football, basketball, and track and field. Also inducted was Grand Island’s 1975 state champion boys state golf team, including coach Roger Harms, and team members Jay Huston, Dave Donachie, Steve Franke, and Jim Meyer.
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2022 Athletic Hall of Fame
Shaking the World
Hall of Honor Resumes
1, 2, 3…That is how many spaces we have left on the current display of the Grand Island Senior High Hall of Honor. Surely there are more than three potential inductees out in Islander nation who meet the elite criteria of having made a significant and lasting contribution to the betterment of humankind.
After taking a few years off due to scheduling and COVID, the GIPS Foundation is planning to restart the nomination and celebration cycle for the Hall of Honor. The display, containing plaques with photos and biographies, is located in the 400 hallway near the auditorium. In past years, the GIPS Foundation has accepted nominations throughout the year and then planned a grand celebration every other year after honorees were selected by an alumni committee. We intend to return to this schedule with the next Hall of Honor Celebration slated for Fall of 2023.
This means two things. One, we are again accepting nominations to this prestigious honor society. To be considered one must have graduated at least 20 years ago and have made a significant contribution to the betterment of society. Click the button below to nominate someone.
Two. And this is the big thing. We only have three spots left on our wall, which means…it is time to reimagine and redesign the Hall of Honor Display. The timing is perfect as the school district is planning some work on that side of the building to create a better and safer entry. They have committed to offering us the infrastructure with which to build a new display in the same space. I have added a photo of the measurements of our space. The wall is 9.5 feet tall and 17.5 feet wide. The usable space for the display is probably 7.5 feet high. There will be electrical, video and internet infrastructure as well as display lighting.
To date, there are 70 alumni in the Hall of Honor. You can read more about them here.
We have a request to all of you out there in Islander Nation who like design. We need a new design for our Hall of Honor Wall. It needs to do all of the following: use the space allocated, have the ability to be updated and added to over time, give us the opportunity to see the photos and read the stories/biographies of these esteemed graduates, be interactive, be pleasing to the eye, and of course, tell the story of not only the success of these Islanders but their heart for humanity.
It is a tall order. But we know that you can do it. Send us a drawing of your thoughts. We plan to pull a committee of alumni together to review the ideas and select a design that can be made into a lasting legacy wall. I mean, that would be neat, right? To have your design grace the wall of your alma mater?
You can email your design to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can mail it to GIPS Foundation, PO Box 4904, Grand Island, NE 68802. Please be sure to note who it is from and a way for us to contact you. We would like your design ideas by May 31.
We can’t wait to see your design ideas!
Traci can be reached at email@example.com
Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.
Go Islanders, Big Opportunities, Give GRIT
Annual Giving Coordinator
The clock is ticking. No, quite literally, the clock is ticking on the Go Big Give website. The 24 hour day of giving is almost here! Mark your calendar for May 5 to join us in the 9th annual Go Big Give online giving event to grow philanthropy in Hall, Hamilton, Howard, and Merrick counties. Because there are so many great ways to give back to students, we will have both the GIPS Foundation and the Our Grand Legacy Memorial Stadium Campaign listed on the Go Big Give platform again this year.
Back by popular demand: Alumni Decade Challenge. We are going to run our Decade Challenge contest again. We will count your gift to the GIPS Foundation or the Our Grand Legacy Memorial Stadium Campaign towards the Decade challenge. Last year the 1970’s made a clean sweep. Who will take the crown this year?
In 2021 we were very proud of the effort from all of our alumni and supporters who went big and gave to our students through the 2021 Go Big Give effort. Our totals that day grew to $14,454 from 53 donors. Of that total, $4,529.25 was given to the Stadium Project and $9,924.75 was given to our general campaign. $9.271.50 came from alumni with seven decades represented. We added $2,371 to the Purple and Gold Fund, which makes grants to Grand Island Senior High specifically.
We cannot make these investments without your support. We have witnessed both teachers and students becoming increasingly tenacious as they creatively address the physical, emotional and financial struggles of the past two years. When you make a donation to the Foundation, you are investing in that GRIT - GRand Island Tenacity. And we know that each of you has GRIT as well. Let’s show Grand Island our Purple and Gold pride by participating in GO BIG Give on May 5, 2022.
Just to make sure that other decades get a crack at this “Street Cred” thing, we will offer the decade challenge again. We will record how many gifts and how much was raised for the Purple and Gold Fund by decade. So, if you are a member of the class of 1975 for example, your gift will be attributed to the 1970s decade.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
If my decade has the most gifts or gives the highest amount, what do we get? The answer is street cred. We will highlight the decade winners in the May edition of Rise and give your decade the coverage it deserves.
How will you know who belongs to which decade? When you give to the GIPS Foundation through Go Big Give, we get a list of donors. We will match this list with our database and credit the proper decade. Please be sure to list your name as you give to Go Big Give. If you give anonymously, we don’t get your identifying information, and therefore would not be able to credit the gift to your decade.
Can I send a check instead? Yes, but to be credited to this challenge, your check needs to be made out to Go Big Give and sent to our office by April 27.
Our office address is: GIPS Foundation; PO Box 4904; Grand Island, NE 68802
The physical address is: 123 South Webb Road
How do I give? The Go Big Give online portal will open for pre-giving on April 25. The day of giving is May 5. To give, click on either of the following buttons.
We will send a reminder email blast on April 25 and again on May 5 with these links.
Why are you asking alumni? We could really use your help with this effort. Charities that participate in the Go Big Give campaign are eligible for prizes and matching gifts based on number of unique givers, total dollars raised, and number of gifts raised per hour. Talk about a way to broaden our impact. We know there is power in numbers. This Go Big Give Day maximizes the collective impact concept to generate real dollars that in our case translate into opportunities for the 9,924 students who attend our schools. We are excited to participate in such an impactful fundraiser.
6,025: The number of alumni receiving this email newsletter. Just think about the results, if you and each of your fellow 6,024 alumni and friends gave $10 or more to the GIPS Foundation through the Go Big Give effort. The collective impact of your gift, not counting the matching gifts or prizes earned that day would add up to $60,250 for students. That is 100 more scholarships or 60 more grants or 200 more individual opportunities funded. It would be amazing to see this number. We want you. We need you. We hope that you will consider the power of your gift to students.
Alicia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shining Bright Since 2005
Winter Olympics in the Classroom, New Brand Downtown
Class of 2005
GIPS Foundation Board
Classroom transformations and reconnecting with members from the Class of 2005 is what I have been up to and it has been great. I am excited to share with you about how I transform my classroom monthly, and the classmates I connected with. My hope is that you will see how learning these days has progressed and introduce you to a new business.
Every month I am transforming my classroom into a theme with hopes of engaging middle school students in a new way. Last November we had Starbucks Day while learning about integers and in December we had a Biographies Fashion Show to present about a historical person. In January of 2022 I transformed my classroom into the EL Winter Olympics.
EL Winter Olympics
Photo courtesy of Bianca Ayala
The EL Winter Olympics was probably the most fun and best engaged classroom transformation yet. The students were grouped with peers who were born from the same country and spent the day together to gather points for their country. The two classrooms that participated were represented by the following countries: Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, United States, Serbia, and Puerto Rico.
We began the day having an opening ceremony, and then the students were divided into their country groups. I then randomly drew questions based on the math curriculum we had already covered this school year. The students had four minutes to complete each question. The first group to complete the question correctly were then able to randomly draw which game would be played for points. The four games that could be played were Math Pong, Trashketball, Musical Chairs, and the Bottle Challenge. After playing for 70 minutes the points were tallied and students went to the podium for their medals. In the first class Guatemala was 1st, Cuba in 2nd, and Puerto Rico in 3rd. In the second class Cuba was 1st, Guatemala and Mexico tied for 2nd, and Puerto Rico in 3rd.
To this day the students are still talking about the EL Winter Olympics. As an educator it makes me so happy that they are loving the new engaging strategies I have implemented in the classroom. I can’t wait for the rest of the school year to continue transforming the classroom.
Photo courtesy of Bianca Ayala
SUPA DRP Arrives
I would also like to share with you about Isaac Chavez, who graduated with me from Grand Island Senior High in 2005. Even though we remained friends over the years, it can be hard to stay up to date in each other’s lives.
Chavez is happily married to Kari Chavez and has three beautiful daughters. He also coaches the 7th grade boys basketball team for Northwest and owns a business in Railside in downtown Grand Island. He created his own apparel brand “SUPA DRP” in April of 2014 and recently opened his store First + ForMost. He said, “I opened my store First + ForMost in Railside to continue helping bring the local community together.” He has been able to do this by having Grand Island locals model for his brand/store. I admire him for pursuing his dreams and not letting anything get in his way.
He added, “Life is all what you make it. Instead of taking the time to build on someone else's dream, I want to build and hold my own dream. Why not me, why not create my own story to share with others?”
The words of classmate Isaac Chavez will forever be something I remember and only hope that we can all dream as big as he does. The biggest advice that he can give to others regardless of their industry is, “Be prepared for rejection and if you are passionate about what you want to do you will overcome it. Stick and Stay!”
The dreams of transforming my classroom and Isaac Chavez starting his brand are some of the great things happening from the Class of 2005.
Bianca can be reached at email@example.com
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I've Been Thinking
What Holden Caulfield Taught Me
Class of 1968
As you might expect from a writer, I take a rather dim view of book banning. Still, when I read the dubious logic of the current crop of book banners fanning out across the country, I can’t keep from smiling.
That's because I’m reminded I was once part of an enterprise that snuck Holden Caulfield out of the Grand Island Senior High library.
Holden Caulfield is, of course, the focal point and narrator of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” perhaps the reclusive novelist’s most famous work. Holden is a disaffected, disenchanted, and disillusioned teenager who chronicles two days in his life after he has been booted out of prep school.
Please don’t hold me to chapter and verse as the details of our piracy are hazy. It was, after all, 55 years ago. Nevertheless, as I recall word in the halls of Senior High was that the library had hidden away two copies of “The Catcher in the Rye,” a regular on banned lists in 1967 chiefly because of its profanity. But not just any profanity: The book has five instances of what Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” called the “the big one, the Queen Mother of swear words.”
"Catcher in the Rye" book cover
Photo courtesy of Mike Mills, The Selby, Los Angeles.
Full disclosure: Seeing that word in print was my aim and the aim of my comrades aiding and abetting the act of misappropriating the book. Sure we’d heard the word before and, like Ralphie, maybe had uttered it at the risk of eating a bar of Ivory, but reading it from the pages of a book that was part of the august environs of the GISH library was at once titillating and dangerous.
Yes, I know, in the current world of public profanity, 1967 was more than a long time ago.
When the package was finally delivered, I guess I never really knew if it came from the library. A co-conspirator insisted it was an inside job via one of the library aides, but for all I know he had lifted the book from his parents’ bookshelf or an older sibling brought it home from college. All we cared about was the word … which turned out to be pretty much a nothing burger.
Sure we giggled at it lying there on the page, letterpress on cheap paper, black on off-white. Eventually, however, we shrugged and went to class. None of us had turned to stone or suffered a lightning strike or fell victim to any other affliction, biblical or otherwise. After a day or two, we heard Holden had been safely returned and no one was the wiser.
Including us. Especially us.
Still, several years later in college I read and thoroughly enjoyed “The Catcher in the Rye,” after which I worked my way through four other Salinger books. I have no idea if my band of book bandits ever went beyond those five words.
Please don’t confuse this episode from my misspent youth as making light of what’s going on in classrooms and public libraries where school boards, librarians, teachers, and administrators are having to defend — often against the flimsiest of arguments — not simply their book collections and curriculum choices, but also their character.
For those of us always in the company of a book (currently “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, having just finished “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which I recommend), attempts to limit reading options earn a serious stink eye.
Update from 2022: “The Catcher in the Rye” still regularly makes banned book lists.
What Holden Caulfield taught me was that while I admittedly came for the profanity, I stayed for the literature and a lifetime of reading books.
What a gift.
On the Island
Senior High Lifts Mask Mandate, Friday’s Back On
Class of 2023
Students at Senior High are adjusting once more to pandemic protocols, this time to life without masks and five-day school week?
“I’m pretty indifferent about the mask situation,” said junior Olivia Shultz, “I just hope we can make decisions that will help all of us continue to learn at school and not have to go virtual.”
Photo courtesy of Grand Island Public Schools
Jeff Gilbertson, the executive principal of Senior High, explained that the district is in charge of deciding when to stop wearing masks and if the school will continue four-day school weeks. Four-day weeks were implemented in the Grand Island school district as of Jan. 22, 2022. Five-day weeks resumed on Feb. 28.
The mask policy was updated, too. “At the end of February, the district re-evaluated and made decisions on whether or not we would continue to wear masks,” he said, “The school board decided that masks are no longer required and that Fridays are back on.”
Gilbertson added that if masks have to come back for some reason, they will.
“We want to keep everyone from getting sick, and we want students to feel safe at school, even if that means making hard and sometimes unwanted decisions,” he said.
Gilbertson explained that he believes wearing masks was a necessary response to the pandemic, and believes it was the right thing to do.
“It was really scary for a while,” he said, “We took the mask mandate off after winter break and had a massive increase in sickness for a long time.”
Students had to quarantine and staffing was low, but I’m proud to say that students and staff did their best to stay in school, he added.
“We haven't taken the easy way out like some schools that go virtual or pay the consequences for not wearing masks. Instead we’ve been resilient, and I think that needs to be celebrated,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Grand Island Public Schools
Temporary four-day weeks were put in place to help ease pressure for teachers because substitutes were in short supply, and teachers found themselves filling in at the time of increased COVID cases.
“Having four-day school weeks seemed to be more efficient for our staff,” Gilbertson said, “It was helpful because they got to have more time to plan their next classes without rushing.”
He added that students also enjoyed having Fridays off to catch up on homework and other school activities.
Shultz said she believes that the school should keep four-day school weeks instead of going back to five.
“The school says they want to follow a similar structure to universities and colleges. We’ve already changed our schedules to match theirs,” she said.
She added that it also gives her time to relax and de-stress from extracurricular activities and core classes.
“We’re behind in some of our classes, so we're rushing to get through material, but for the most part I’ve enjoyed having time off of school,” she said, “It makes it easier for me to catch up on homework and sleep.”
The school will continue to review COVID rates and make necessary changes according to the data the COVID team gathers.
“I'm human like everyone else, and I really hope that we don't have to wear masks again, but if COVID starts acting up, we will take the necessary actions to keep students in school as long as possible,” Gilbertson said.
A Distant Mirror
Won't You Let Me Take You On a Sea Cruise?
Class of 1967
"Old man rhythm is in my shoes
It's no use to sittin' and a-singn' the blues
So be my guest, you’ve got nothin' to lose,
Won’t ya let me take you on a sea cruise?"
Despite these words from the 1959 Frankie Ford song, for the first 55 years of my life I never took a cruise. I viewed cruise ships and cruises as experiences for the geriatric, the fearful, and those unable to properly schedule their own vacations. My family and I were fortunate enough to take several European vacations in France, England, Italy, and Greece, where we would rent a car and drive to our desired locations. But we had never been on a cruise ship.
Crystal Symphony Docked in Hawaii
Photo courtesy of Mike Monk
After our friends Mary and Barry began to take cruises on Crystal Cruise lines, wife Janet and I started to consider the possibility. So in 2004, for our 30th wedding anniversary, we decided to take a Princess Cruise of the Baltic. We would have ports of call in Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; Gdansk, Poland; and Oslo, Norway. These were all places we had not visited. To be able to see them all on a two-week cruise seemed remarkable. To tour all these cities on a driving vacation would take far longer.
We really enjoyed the Baltic cruise. We were seated for dinners at a table of eight, with a couple from San Francisco about our age, a couple from Connecticut celebrating their 50th anniversary, and two lovely widows from England, in their 60s. All were engaging and charming.
Thereafter, having gotten the cruising bug, Janet and I have taken six additional cruises with our friends Mary and Barry and one cruise with our friends Steve and Nancy. These were all cruises on Crystal Cruise lines, on either the Crystal Serenity or the Crystal Symphony. These are mid-size cruise ships carrying about 900 guests.
We discovered that cruises are quite pleasant. There is the great advantage of having to pack and unpack only once. The rooms are cozy but nice, with a private balcony overlooking the sea. While the stops and excursions are wonderful, even the days at sea, without a port of call, are delightful. If you wanted room service for breakfast you simply called for it. For a late afternoon drink and snack, you simply called for it. The ship had a well-equipped gym, a library, a computer room, a swimming pool, a movie theater, lecture halls, and a gambling casino. The evening included a lovely dinner, and afterwards, there were live Broadway type shows, a movie, or a visit to the casino.
Danube River Cruise
Photo courtesy of Mike Monk
During the day, in advance of a stop at a particular city, there would be lectures by experts touching on the highlights and history of the city we were to visit and describing the various excursions available from the ship. In addition, there were trivia contests, bingo, a golf simulator, and a shuffleboard area.
On our Crystal Ships, the food was outstanding, with sit down service, buffets, and with specialty Asian and Italian restaurants. All food and alcohol were included in the cost of the cruise, and there was no tipping. Also, when cruising with friends, you always had dinner companions whom you enjoy. There was ample time to simply relax and read, either in your room, around the swimming pool, on deck of the ship, in one of the lounges, or in the library. On one cruise I read pretty much all of “Middlemarch” by George Eliot.
Over the years, we took cruises of the Mediterranean, through the Panama Canal, to Alaska, to Hawaii, from Montreal to New York, and a cruise of the Danube river in Europe. Our most recent one was a cruise of the Greek islands in 2019.
During our 2004 Baltic cruise, at the St. Petersburg stop, we toured Peter the Great's Winter Palace. Our young tour guide emphasized on more than one occasion “that Putin is great and the country loves him very much." Both then and now, my thought was, "The lady doth protest too much methinks."
One of the lectures we attended had a speaker who analyzed serial killers. He talked about their backgrounds, their commonalities, and other specifics. This presentation was fascinating, but not so fascinating that I didn’t fall asleep sitting between Janet and our friend Mary. My sleep, however, was abruptly interrupted when I awoke to hear the entire lecture room, with maybe 100 people, in uproarious laughter. It turns out they were laughing at me, at whom both Janet and Mary were pointing. The lecturer had pointed out that the most common trait among serial killers is having the middle name “Wayne” (John Wayne Gacy, for example). Well, of course, my middle name is Wayne. So when the speaker asked if anybody in the audience had that middle name, Janet and Mary of course pointed to me, sound asleep. The rest is history.
On our cruise through the Panama Canal, the highlight was seeing our large cruise ship go through the locks that raise and lower the ships as they progress through the canal. We also had a port of call on St. Johns in the Virgin Islands. There we had an outing where we got to be a crew on a former America’s Cup ship. Janet, Mary, and I were on the True North, a former Canada entry in the America's Cup. We had a fun practice sail against a second yacht, the Stars and Stripes, a former USA entrant in the America's Cup.
Mike in Austria
Photo courtesy of Mike Monk
Our cruise of the Mediterranean included a stop in Sicily. We chose an excursion that took us to the very villa where a scene from the classic movie, “The Godfather,” was filmed. It was the villa where Michael Corleone was in hiding, with the courtyard in which his new wife is killed when the car explodes. It was extraordinary to see that location in person.
Another great day was when we got a private car to drive us around the Amalfi coast in Italy. While the views were spectacular, our driver, like all Italian drivers, drove ridiculously fast. The narrow roads on the precipitous slopes of Positano were dangerous enough. But our driver would be weaving in and out of heavy traffic and, for the first half hour, I thought we would die for sure. But after a while I just went with it, and we did not die. At one point along the drive, he slowed down and waved to an oncoming bus driver. It was his brother.
On the same Mediterranean cruise, we had a port of call at Florence, and took a particular excursion touring places in Florence mentioned in “The Da Vinci Code.”
On our Alaska cruise, we got to come surprisingly close to glaciers that were calving. Not only was it an extraordinary visual, but the sound of the calving was like a firecrackers going off. Fascinating.
Suffice it to say, taking a cruise can be one heck of a lot of fun. It is like being in an all-purpose resort, with every pleasure you could desire, while simultaneously traveling from wonderful city to wonderful city. Unfortunately, the Crystal Cruise line did not survive the Covid pandemic. With most cruises canceled for a year and a half or so, they went out of business. But other cruise lines exist and are now ramping up. So, I ask,
Won’t ya let me take you on a sea cruise?
Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
One More Thing
Behold, a Nebraska Sky
Class of 2014
(Writer’s Note: I wrote this piece when I was living, working, and studying in Prague, Czech Republic in 2015. At that point, I’d only been living away from Nebraska for just over a year, but already I’d identified what is still the thing I miss most about home: the sky.)
When I was in Omaha in November to see family and work on our recently-purchased home, I stopped for a coffee at what I hope will be our new neighborhood spot. It was a slow morning, cold enough outside for the shop window to be fogged over, so I filled the barista in on our impending move while she frothed the milk for my latte.
“I’ve lived all over the Midwest, too,” she said, after I’d shared that I’d lived in Indiana, and Chicago before that. “There’s just something romantic about Nebraska, though. I can’t put my finger on it. But … nowhere else can quite compare.”
I’ve thought often about the barista’s observation — that there’s a mysterious, elusive romanticism about our beautiful Nebraskaland. I think it’s all about the sky. Seven years after writing the piece below, I can't wait to dance with the sky when I'm in Omaha full-time starting next week.
* * *
It’s fall in Prague. The leaves on the trees — on all of the trees — are a special shimmering shade of yellow I’ve never seen before. The mornings are hazy. It’s dark at 5 p.m.
A friend and I were walking among those golden leaves this morning when we got on the topic of autumn, which inevitably led to winter, which (inevitably) led to him commenting on how awful he imagines Chicago winters are. I laughed, of course, and said something about the lake, you know, and how that makes it colder, windier, snowier, icier.
“It affects the summer, too, right?” he asked. “Makes it really muggy?”
Another knowing chuckle that comes only from talking about Windy City weather.
“It does,” I said. “But the humidity is also really bad where I grew up, in Nebraska. And it’s so windy there, since it’s so flat.”
I pointed up the hill we’d just descended and said that the total average elevation gain in the state is probably no more than that, from east to west.
This friend is from a city and goes to university in a city, as most of my friends are and do. But he said something, unprompted, that none of them have before:
“I can’t imagine a sky as big as it must be in Nebraska.”
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that the sky is what I miss the most, whether I’m in Chicago or Prague or just on vacation. That the sky is special, is different — it’s the best sky in the world.
Photo courtesy of Abbey Kutlas-Prickett
When I was writing essays for college applications last year, which force you to brag about yourself without being too braggy, I really wanted to write about the sky. I wanted to tell everyone not from here that the sky both defined me and set me free, that living somewhere with a sky so big left me no choice but to dream even bigger.
But, maybe because I was younger, maybe because I had never spent significant time away, maybe because the sky also breeds Midwestern niceness, I couldn’t put it into words.
I do my best introspective thinking when I’m in my two cities, Chicago and (now) Prague. I look up, up, up, crane my neck like a tourist, to see the tops of buildings. I count my steps, count the concrete cracks, catalog what’s underfoot. I listen. I study faces. And I think about myself. I’ve learned so much about my own brain on those days that I have been held — maybe cradled, maybe trapped — by cities. Sitting on trams and metros, with everyone’s stories wrapping around you, running parallel to your own as far as you can see in every direction … with everyone else’s stories clambering for room, maybe it’s easier to find your own.
Stunned by the lack of elevation in my home state, my friend asked if we had a chance to see hills or mountains or really big cliffs. I said we did, as most of us are, at most, only a half-day’s drive from Colorado or Wyoming, and anyway, Omaha has its own hills.
He said something about the mountains being his place of peace — his place to think, to feel, to see nature. I agreed. Some of my fondest memories are in the Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies. Mountains are great for making you feel the best kind of small.
But mountains are selfish.
They show off, with their scale and saturation and their trails, teeming with life. They steal the show. They make you say, “Wow.” And then stop saying things for a while, though the whole time you’re thinking, “Wow. Look at that bird! That stream! The field of wildflowers! Do you think we’ll find an elk? A wolf? Maybe a bear? It smells so fresh here. It’s so peaceful. Wow. Wow. Wow.”
Just like a city, it isn’t hard to love a mountain, to see the beauty in it. It isn’t hard to feel anonymous, hidden away. It isn’t hard because though the sky is visible (and wouldn’t we be screwed if it weren’t), it isn’t the main event.
The Midwest is different. It’s beautiful in the way that my dad said I was beautiful when I was 13 and not one single boy asked me to slow-dance: simple, warm, genuine. There is no dazzlingly blue alpine lake or centuries-old Neoclassical facade or white sandy beach.
It takes time — a few more stolen glances, a more mature eye—to see the wow. (Stop, I’m blushing.)
You have to wait for one of those spring days when it’s just rained and the landscape is fresh and the clouds are puffy and the sky is bright, or for one of the sunsets that turn the whole world unnatural shades of orange and pink, or for one of the inky, clear winter nights when you really, truly think you might be seeing every single star in the universe.
Under a sky so big, you don’t think about yourself. You don’t think about the landscape, because there isn’t much room in the frame. You don’t feel the urgent push and pull of other lives, can’t help but let your mind fully quiet. You can drive and drive but no matter how far you go, there it is: the sky. Big as ever, taller than your neck can stretch, further than your mind can go. It blankets the cities you get lost in and the mountains you climb, the people on the sidewalks and the people on the trails.
You don’t think about you. You only think about everyone, every one — a number that seems unfathomable until it’s just you and the sky. You think about everyone because everyone can look at the sky and feel like the sky is theirs at the same time. You think that you could launch up into that sky and land anywhere because there are no obstacles, natural or man-made, to keep you inside.
The sky doesn’t ask for you to stare, to discuss, to take picture upon picture. The sky is humble, patient, wise.
The sky is Nebraska Nice.
The sky makes you those things, too.
The sky makes you big, bigger than you thought you could be, as big as the sky itself, but no bigger than anyone else, because they’re looking at the same thing. The sky is theirs, too.
Nebraska sky, if I saw you from across a dark gymnasium on a Friday night, I would ask you to dance.
Abbey can be reached at email@example.com
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308.385.5525 ext. 201148
Planning a class reunion?
We can help get you started!
Contact us for your class list and send us information about your reunion.
We will post it to our website.
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.
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
UPDATE: In August, 34 local and area classmates met for an afternoon picnic at the Stolley Park Pavillion. A good time was had by all!
The Class of 1965’s 55th Reunion has been called off until further notice. For more information email Loretta Catlett at 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!
UPDATE: The GISH Class of 1970 Reunion Committee had a meeting of the minds and we have decided to postpone our 50th High School Reunion until 2022. We want everyone to be able to come and enjoy themselves and be able to interact with their classmates. We want the most members of the Class of 1970 to attend as possible and we just didn’t think that would have happened in 2021.The Reunion Committee will get together early in 2022 and make any decisions then. Please share this with as many of our classmates as you can. I will also email each of our classmates that we have a current email for. Those of you that haven’t contacted us with your current information, please do so now. DO NOT just post it on Facebook. Email your Name, Maiden Name, Mailing Address, Phone# to firstname.lastname@example.org
The GISH class of 1982 reunion committee has been busy planning our 40th class reunion. Save the Date postcards have been mailed. Mark your calendars for June 3rd and June 4th 2022. More details to come. If you have any questions, or have not responded with your address, please reach out to one of us as soon as possible.
Kelly Green- email@example.com
Bart Qualsett - firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy (Drummond) Wampole - email@example.com
January and February memorial list of GISH Alumni
JAMES FLEMING, Class of 1969, died Nov. 27, 2021, in Buffalo, MN. He was 70.
DIANA LINKE, Class of 1967, died Dec. 31, 2021, in Lincoln. Diana lived in North Loup. She was 72.
JAKE GILLESPIE, Class of 2017, died Jan. 1, 2022, in Kearney. Jake lived in Grand Island. He was 22.
PAMELA SHUNKWILER, longtime GIPS teacher, died Jan. 1, 2022, in Lincoln. She was 60.
BRANDON LEVANDER, Class of 1999, died Jan. 2, 2022, in Phoenix, AZ. He was 41.
SHARON (JUDGE) MORENO, Class of 1971, died Jan. 3, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 68.
DICK SENKBEIL, SR., Class of 1949, died January 4, 2022, in Dallas, TX. Dick lived in DeSoto, TX. He was 90.
TONYA (KRENTZ) PEDERSEN, Class of 1988, died Jan. 5, 2022, in Kearney. Tonya lived in Elm Creek. She was 52.
TEDD HUSTON, Class of 1988, died Jan. 8, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 75.
JAMES THORNTON, Class of 1944, died Jan. 8, 2022, in Grand Island. Tedd lived in Broken Bow. He was 95.
LINDA (BEBERNISS) HOLLISTER, Class of 1971, died Jan. 9, 2022, in Lincoln. She was 68.
BETTY (MADER) RONNAU, Class of 1954, died Jan. 9, 2022, in Lexington. She was 88.
LISA (VODENHAL) EDWARDS, Class of 1973, died Jan. 10, 2022, in Las Vegas, NV. She was 67.
NANCY (LEVANDER) HENDRICKSON, Class of 1977, died Jan. 11, in Grand Island. She was 62.
BEN COPPLE, Class of 1994, died Jan 12, 2022, in Lincoln. He was 46.
RICHARD GILLHAM, Class of 1953, died Jan. 12, 2022, in Doniphan. He was 86.
CAROL (ROBERTS) MUHS, Class of 1961, died Jan. 12, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 78.
LINDA (ZICHEK) MATTHES, Class of 1970, died Jan. 16, 2022, in Grand Island. Linda lived in Cairo. She was 69.
BILL HIGHT, Class of 1957, died Jan. 17, 2022, in McKinney, TX. He was 82.
ROGER MYERS, Class of 1959, died Jan. 18, 2022, in Ventura, CA. He was 81.
JUANITA BRISENO, Class of 1945, died Jan. 19, 2022, in Omaha. She was 95.
JOHN OLIVER SR., Class of 1951, died Jan. 20, 2022, in Lincoln. John lived in Grand Island. He was 89.
WILLIAM STOPPKOTTE, Class of 1949, died Jan. 21, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 90.
PHYLLIS (ROZMIAREK) GUDZINSKI, Class of 1953, died Jan 22, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 86.
KATHERINE ANNE (SIEMERS) BADER, Class of 1947, died Jan 23, 2022, in St. Paul. She was 92.
MARIE (BROWN) BERNSTRAUCH, Class of 1945, died Jan. 23, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 94.
TONI (COOPER) REYES, Class of 1982, died Jan. 23, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 57.
ROBERT MEYER, Class of 1970, died Jan. 24, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 70.
SANDY (VAN CLEAVE) BAKER, Class of 1968, died Jan. 25, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 72.
GAIL (GUNTHER) RIDGWAY, Class of 1959, died Jan. 25, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 80.
CONNIE (RUTTEN) MCCURDY, Class of 1969, died Jan. 26, 2022, in Wood River. She was 70.
NORM SODOMKA, Longtime GIPS band teacher, died Jan. 28, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 78.
PAULINE (LORANCE) BOLLES, Class of 1960, died Jan. 28, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 80.
SUSIE (BROWN) PERKINS, Class of 1958, died Jan. 29, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 81.
DON SALLINGER, Class of 1957, died Jan. 30, 2022, in Lincoln. He was 82.
WALTER BOYLL, Class of 1956, died Jan. 31, 2022, in Lincoln. Walter lived in Grand Island. He was 83.
MIKE GOERIG, Class of 1989, died Feb. 2, 2022, in Hastings. He was 51.
JOHN MILLER, Class of 1982, died Feb. 2, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 58.
TAMMIE (CARNEY) GUNN, Class of 1979, died Feb. 3, 2022, in Omaha. Tammie lived in Grand Island. She was 61.
JOHN SANDERS, Class of 1964, died Feb. 3, 2022. He was 76.
DAVE MABON, longtime GIPS teacher, died Feb. 6, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 73.
SCOTT ELLIS, Class of 1989, died Feb. 9, 2022, in Marquette. He was 50.
GARY L. BLATTNER, Class of 1960, died Feb. 10, 2022, in Columbus, OH. He was 79.
RICHARD ALDANA, Class of 1981, died Feb. 12, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 59.
DICK SCHWIEGER, Class of 1961, died Feb. 14, 2022, in Lincoln. He was 79.
SHARENE (PETERSON) MASKE, Class of 1969, died Feb. 15, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 71.
YVONNE (ARENDS) WICHMAN, Class of 1955, died Feb. 16, 2022, in Grand Island. Yvonne lived in Palmer. She was 84.
CLEO (MARSH) RAMSEY, Class of 1959, died Feb. 17, 2022, in Richmond, TX. Cleo lived in Sun City, TX. She was 81.
NEALE WELLS, Class of 1949, died Feb. 23, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 91.
RICHARD STEWART, Class of 1976, died Feb. 26, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 64.
MICHELLE (BEFORT) VAN LUCHENE, Class of 1984, died Feb. 26, 2022, in Council Bluffs, IA. Michelle lived in Grand Island. She was 55.
To report an alumni death since February, 2022, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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Ken Aldridge, Class of 1960, has published his tenth novel, "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” The book is available on Amazon and Kindle. Ken and wife Vicki Varvel Aldridge, Class of 1961, live in Mansfield, Texas.
Luke and Maggie (Markham) McDermott, both Class of 2003, will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary on March 17, 2022. Also pictured is daughter, Elizabeth Rush, who will soon be a 2024 GISH grad.
Alicia Lechner, Class of 2011, was named one of the Grand Island Chamber's Top 35 Under 35. Other GISH Alumni recipients included: Alec Anania 2011, Kinsey Bosselman 2013, Bryce Collamore 2010, Jory Crouch 2008, AJ Fruchtl 2010, Nicole Hicken 2006, Hannah Luber 2010
Brooks Douglass has been hired as a commodities trading associate at Cargill in Minneapolis. He is scheduled to graduate from the University of Nebraska on May 14, 2022, and will start his position with Cargill on June 13, 2022.
Douglass is a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity at UNL and was a 2018 graduate of Grand Island Senior High. At GISH, Douglass was a National Honor Society member and a letterman in football, basketball and baseball.
Kendall Bartling, Class of 2021, was named chairman of the Husker Voter Coalition at UNL.