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May 2022

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Volume 7 | Number 3

Welcome to Rise, the voice of Grand Island Senior High alumni and friends. We show up every other month in over 7,000 in-boxes bringing you news, views, and memories of GISH. Rise is published by the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation.

Here’s what you’ll find inside: Our big news is that Grand Island Public School Foundation Executive Director, Traci Skalberg will be leaving in August to join Central Community College. More on that in “At the Top.” Traci writes in her “Shaking the World” piece about our dear friend Marv Maurer, the driving force behind the Foundation’s existence. Marv died late last month. Annual Giving Coordinator, Alicia Lechner, has the numbers from Go Big Give, and Jackie Ruiz Rodriguez gets us up to date on the Entrepreneur Pathway at Senior High where students can “cash in” on what they have learned.

As usual we’ll remember Islanders who have passed recently, celebrate successes in Class Notes, see who has reached a milestone, and read the musings of Mike Monk, Class of 1967, Abbey Kutlas-Prickett, Class of 2014, Bianca Ayala, Class of 2005, and yours truly.

Enjoy. Keep in touch. And remember: Keep pushing on

  • At the Top

    Traci Skalberg will be leaving in August to join Central Community College

  • Milestones

    Kylee Sodomka, Class of 2019, was the producer of KRNU radio's broadcast of the 2022 Spring Game

  • Shaking the World

    Traci writes about our dear friend Marv Maurer, the driving force behind the Foundation’s existence

  • Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

    Numbers are in for GBG and the Staff Campaign

  • Shining Bright Since 2005

    Biana shares Glow 4 Gabby story

  • I've Been Thinking

    George recounts many years collaborating with Traci on not only Foundation business, but life as well

  • On the Island

    Jackie Ruiz Rodriguez gets us up to date on the Entrepreneur Pathway at Senior High

  • Distant Mirror

    Mike looks back on an exceptionally difficult, but amusing flight with two small children in tow

  • One More Thing

    Abbey ponders the choices we have to be available in the present moment

  • Class Reunion Updates

    Class gatherings in Islander Nation

  • In Memoriam

    Remembering Islanders who have recently passed

  • Class Notes

    The latest happenings in the lives of GIPS alums

At the Top

Skalberg Saying Goodbye to GIPSF

Traci Skalberg, whose passion and commitment has grown the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation into a national model, is leaving the Foundation in August to become the Executive Director of Central Community College’s Foundation.

Skalberg has been the GIPSF’s only executive director, a position she has had for nearly two decades. “I was the first paid staff member for the GIPS Foundation. I started at 20 hours per week in October of 2003. I have grown the position, the organization, and the staff in these last 19 years,” she said.

Traci Skalberg

Executive Director of Grand Island Public Schools Foundation

Former GIPS superintendent Dr. Steve Joel hired Skalberg for a job she said met her professional goals and allowed her to still be a mother to her growing family. “Dr. Joel and the Board of Education determined that one of their goals was to reinvigorate the foundation. They worked to add more people to the foundation board and out of that work came the desire to hire their first employee.”

The rest, as the saying goes, is history … clearly exceptional history for GIPS and its students. During Skalberg’s tenure, the Foundation’s annual revenues have leaped from $200,000 to $3.5 million. She has become a national leader among education foundation executive directors and serves as president of the National Association of Educational Foundations. GIPS’s faculty and staff campaign, which boasts a 90 percent participation level, serves as a model for other school foundations across the country. 

Skalberg maintains that her job as an executive director was, at its core, all about relationships. She found that her experience with donors strengthened what was already a commitment to both students of GIPS and the city of Grand Island. In the process she learned and embraced the evolution of relationships she had with donors. “I have a passion for investing in students and our community. I would not have had any success though, had it not been for the people around me who share that vision. Several years ago, it really hit me, I wasn't doing a job with donors who were my 'clients.' What started as a 'client' always progressed to a friend and even family. I care so deeply about the people, and I have experienced their care in return. One cannot do this job on a surface level. I just don't think that is possible. You get so attached to the people. I have helped people build their legacies. It is a deep connection. I cry with them. I experience joy with them. They carve their names on your heart, and you on theirs.”

Much of the Foundation’s more visible projects are the ones with high public profiles. This includes beautiful new or renewed buildings. For Skalberg, however, helping change or redirect a single life carries equal satisfaction. “I am proud of so much of this work,” she said. “The tangible things are easy to see such as the Career Pathways Institute, the renovation of the Auditorium and Little Theater at GISH, and Memorial Stadium. I am proud of all of that … but I am equally proud of the starfish that we have invested in one at a time. I call them starfish because of the story about the boy who was throwing starfish that had washed up on the beach back into the sea. A man asked him how that could possibly make a difference and the boy shrugged as he threw a starfish back into the sea, "Well, I made a difference to that one."

Skalberg once told a reporter that she had the best job in Grand Island. Handing out college scholarships, the Foundation’s backbone and core commitment, underscores her observation. “It is the most amazing thing to offer a student a large scholarship that is a game changer for their next step in life. This is especially meaningful when the student recognizes the full magnitude of the moment. Our kids are amazing and incredibly resilient. They are both tenacious and graceful. There have been so many lump-in-the-throat moments that ‘made a difference to that one.’"

Skalberg sees a rosy future for the Foundation, given the staff she has assembled and a working board that provides guidance and support. “I have been incredibly blessed to work with an amazing staff and amazing boards of directors throughout my time here. The GIPS Foundation is in good hands.”

Kylee Sodomka


Kylee Sodomka, Class of 2019

Kylee Sodomka, Class of 2019, was the producer of KRNU radio's broadcast of the 2022 Spring Game on April 9. The broadcast was the first all-women’s football broadcast crew in KRNU and UNL history.

KRNU, UNL’s 24-hour student radio station, is operated by students, faculty and staff from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Kylee is double majoring in Sports Media and Communication and Broadcasting with a minor in Leadership and Communication. She has also worked for numerous sporting events as a broadcaster and with media production.

She currently works for HuskerVision, where she has been the studio manager for the Husker Football Show and Nebraska Basketball Show, camera operator for Big Ten Plus, and a big screen operator for Nebraska baseball and softball.

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Shaking the World

Marv Maurer…Your Legacy Lives Here.

Traci Skalberg

Executive Director
GIPS Foundation

I can’t believe it was the last time. On April 13, Marv Maurer met the 2022 winners of the three scholarships he endowed at the GIPS Foundation. He and daughter Carmen made the journey to Grand Island for the annual Grand Island Senior High Academic Honors Night. The event celebrates the academic achievement of students who graduate in the top of their class, Summa Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude. Each student who has earned this distinction also receives a scholarship from the GIPS Foundation. This year that equated to nearly $50,000 in scholarships for 53 students. All because of Marv.  

Marv never missed one of these Honors Nights. But this truly was the last time that he will join us physically to witness the legacy fulfilled. Former Superintendent Marvin D. Maurer passed away on April 25, 2022. He was 91. 

Over the course of my career here at the GIPS Foundation, I have lovingly called Marv the ‘Godfather’ of our organization. As associate superintendent and business manager of the Grand Island Public Schools in the 1980’s, Marv worked to establish the Foundation as an entity.  

Then in 1988, tragedy hit Marv’s family. His beloved wife Dorothy died of cancer. Marv was determined to create a legacy to Dorothy and by 1989, he started the first Dorothy N. Maurer Scholarship. But he wasn’t finished! As he rose to Superintendent of the district in 1990, he continued to build a collection of legacy funds from families who also wanted to honor excellence in the Grand Island Public Schools. Marv coined the program the Academic Aristocrat Scholarship Program.  The goal was to provide every student who graduated from Grand Island Senior High ranked in the top 15% of their class with a local scholarship.

Over the years, this program has invested in thousands of students. Marv had even expanded his personal commitment to the program, funding three endowed scholarships. 2022 Scholarship Winners

Marv Maurer and Traci Skalberg

It feels good to leave a legacy, and Marv knew that he had done that. But, there was more to Marv. Marv was the only superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools who served in that role twice. He started his career in Grand Island in 1966. He rose in the ranks and finished his career as Superintendent from 1990-1992. He then retired. In 1999 Marv returned to Grand Island to serve as an Interim Superintendent. He was delighted to return and he picked up the Academic Aristocrat Scholarship fundraising work as though he had never left. 

The thing to know about Marv is that he was an educator through and through. He invested in people. He knew people’s names, their families, their strengths. He was kind and sometimes ornery. His stories and lack of filter could make the best of us blush. He had a wicked sense of humor. He was always on a quest to bring the best staff into Grand Island Public Schools. He would say things like “That is the smartest business director in Nebraska.” Or, “We got so lucky to get that math teacher because he was the top of his college class.” To Marv, if you were part of Grand Island Public Schools, you were his family.  

I am a sucker for history and a good story. Over the years I grew fond of Marv as we got to visit on multiple occasions. Marv took me under his wing too. We had several things in common like good whiskey, a swear word or two, and most importantly our love for the GIPS Foundation and Grand Island Public Schools and all of ‘our’ people. I always thought that I understood Marv. Then one day our lives ran parallel. Marv reached out to me when my teacher husband was courageously fighting our battle with cancer. Marv said, “I know what you are going through Traci, as the sole caregiver. Please understand that I am thinking of you and pulling for you.” It is a brutal battle indeed and we won some of the battles. But, we lost the war. I too, had lost a partner far too early. And now, after all of this time, I really understood Marv Maurer. 

Pick up the pieces. Life is short. Live it with joy. Love on your people. Invest in your people. Say what is on your heart. And…Leave a Legacy. 

Marv Maurer, your work, your investment, your love, your legacy…lives here.

Your Legacy. Their Opportunity.

New Kids on the Block!

Alicia Lechner

Annual Giving Coordinator
GIPS Foundation

We have some new kids on the block for this year’s Decade Challenge! The 1990s and 2000s tied for the highest number of gifts. What can I say; they had “the right stuff” this year. However, we still have to give a nod to the 1940’s because they had the highest dollar amount of giving. But the 1990s and 2000s have enough matching outfits to go around. I’m sure all three decades can form a street cred band and whip up some awesome dance moves.

Jokes aside, Go Big Give turned out to be a wonderful day to build additional opportunities for our students.

We are proud of the effort from our alumni and supporters who went big and gave to our students through the 2022 Go Big Give effort. Our totals that day grew to $16,783 from 42 donors. Of that total, $2,885 was given to the Stadium Project and $13,898 was given to our general campaign. $4,183.75 came from alumni with seven decades represented.


Here is how the day shook out:


          1940’s – 1 gift for $1,500

          1950’s – 1 gift for $52.50

          1960’s – 1 gift for $600

          1970’s – 1 gift for $100

          1980’s – 2 gifts for $146.25

          1990’s – 3 gifts for $472.50

          2000’s – 3 gifts for $1312.50


No matter the size of the gift, the act of giving is what truly counts! Thank you for making a difference. We truly appreciate your gift!



GRand Island Tenacity (GRIT) Staff Campaign Results…. kind of

The Grand Island Public Schools Foundation annual Staff Campaign has come to a close. We will host the 2022 Staff Campaign Press Conference on Tuesday, May 17 at Walnut Middle School. In order to keep our results a surprise, we’re going to keep you in limbo for the time being!

What we can share with you is that the GIPS staff, foundation board and school board all knocked it out of the park! They exemplified true GRIT - GRand Island Tenacity. 

The campaign ran from March 24 - April 20 and once again hit some new milestones. 2021 was the first year the campaign reached over $100,000 in giving. This year our campaign reached $---, oh right - we said we weren’t going to share that just yet!

The campaign included several competitions to make it fun. Something new this year was #whyigive Wednesday. We asked staff to share why they give on our social media platforms on Wednesdays during the campaign for a chance to win a gift card. Here are the messages from each of the winners that we had during the campaign:

Facebook - Week 1 - Deb Glover - Howard Elementary
I give to the Foundation to support our future. The Foundation has impacted our students, families, staff and our community in countless ways, and has made so many dreams possible.”

Twitter - Week 2 - Ashley Meyer - Westridge Middle School
I love seeing what the Foundation does for students and teachers. Scholarships, Teacher of the Year, Grants, and the list goes on. I give to give back to the district that has provided my students and me whatever is necessary for us to be successful.”

Instagram - Week 3 - Kelli Mayhew - Kneale Building
I give because I see the impacts the donations have on our students and staff! For example, getting to see a mini-grant in action with students having new learning opportunities like simulating the Oregon Trail, or seeing a student receive a scholarship that allows them to reach their goals is what it’s all about.”

Facebook - Week 4 - Amy Schley - Gates Elementary
I give because I have witnessed my students who have directly benefited from the Foundation!”

Additionally, here are some #whyigive messages from our 2022 Staff Campaign Co-Chairs.


Ten Trend was another fun aspect of the campaign this year. This trend was kicked off with our $10,000 Challenge Gift from the Marsh family. The trend amplified when we realized that 2022 was Ten years of offering the t-shirt incentive! (We give a t-shirt to all donors who give over $72). From there we decided to run with it. Adding to our Ten Trend, we added an incentive for buildings to increase their dollars given by 10% from the previous year. We didn’t end there though, we shot for the moon and decided to set our overall campaign goal for $110,000

How are funds used from the Staff Campaign? 

Proceeds from the campaign are used to expand Foundation programs such as the Academic Aristocrat Scholarship program and the Teacher of the Year program. The funds are also used to support Foundation operations and endowment and the Classroom Mini-Grant program.


Marsh Family Challenge Gift

Ann Marsh

Ann Marsh and the Marsh family have a rich history of public education in their blood. Their pledge of $10,000 for the challenge gift made history in 2022, as the standard challenge gift in the past has typically been around $5,000. We can’t tell you how many additional opportunities that adds up to!

The challenge gift was used to encourage staff to give new or increased gifts to the campaign. 625 staff donors qualified for this matching opportunity. This was 48% of the gifts received. Now those stats are worth spilling the beans on! 

Thank you to Ann Marsh for her generosity and love of public education!

Thank you to the GIPS Staff for supporting YOUR foundation!

Thank you to the Board of Education and the GIPS Foundation Board for your generous gifts and unwavering support!

Check our social media later this week for the full results. We will also post some quick stats in our July edition of RISE.

Shining Bright Since 2005

Glow 4 Gabby

Bianca Ayala

Class of 2005
GIPS Foundation Board

I am excited to share with readers about my sister, Gabby Ayala. She was an excellent person and always strived to be her best self. Gabby graduated from Grand Island Senior High in 2008. During her time at GISH she was a forward for the soccer team and a catcher for the softball team. She had friends all over and shared her kindness with all.

Gabby Ayala

Photo courtesy of Bianca Ayala

Gabby played softball at Wayne State her freshman year then transferred to UNK and majored in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. Unfortunately, 10 years ago she passed away to suicide. It was unexpected for our family, and ever since then we have done what we can to help raise awareness for suicide. In 2014 we began the Glow 4 Gabby 5K race and established the Gabby Ayala Memorial Scholarship.

Glow 4 Gabby is held each June at Sucks Lake. All the proceeds are for the Gabby Ayala Memorial Scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship awarded to a senior at GISH. To be eligible for the Gabby Ayala Memorial Scholarship, the senior must attend a 4-year college, have at least a 3.0 GPA, plan to play a collegiate sport, and answer this essay question, “What is your highest achievement for yourself?”



Our family always invites the scholarship winner to the Glow 4 Gabby, and that night the winner reads the essay to the crowd. It helps everyone understand one of the reasons behind who was selected for the scholarship. This part of the Glow 4 Gabby evening has always been a hit. Claire Kelly is the 2022 scholarship winner. She will be attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to major in Elementary Education.

The Ayala Family

Photo courtesy of Bianca Ayala

Not only does our family have the support of Grand Island, we also have the support of businesses in town including family businesses. These businesses help the 5K succeed by purchasing glow sticks, face paint, solar lights, medals, stop signs, etc. Not only do these sponsorships purchase items, they also donate money for items to support the event. In past years we have had headbands, airbrush tattoos, DJ music, balloons, chiropractic services, prizes, and photography donated.

The number “4” is used in the name because that was Gabby’s softball number and another way for our family to honor her. The first year of Glow 4 Gabby we had about 150 people registered and in 2019 we had nearly 500 people registered. During COVID in 2020 and 2021, we held a virtual 5K. This year will also be a virtual event, but we plan to be in person for 2023. Click the button above to purchase a t-shirt!

Gabby is our legacy within our family. Our dream is for her memory to be a legacy for Grand Island.

For over three decades, the Grand Island Public Schools Foundation has helped support the students and staff in our community. We fund 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.

This fall, the GIPS Foundation plans to host our first fundraising gala in hopes to expand our programs. We are asking that you make an in-kind and/or monetary donation to our auction. Our goal is to raise $130,000 so we can be agile in our approach to meet the needs of our students.

With your help we will be able to build a memorable and successful silent and live auction. Our goal is to have around 120 silent auction items and 20 live auction items. 

All gifts of goods, services or dollars are tax deductible as allowed by law. The GIPS Foundation’s 501(c)3 number is 47-0735201. All donations will be receipted.

There will be more information on this event announced in June. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for September 22, 2022! We look forward to partnering with you on this inaugural event!



If you would like to underwrite an entire item in your name or if you have questions, please contact Alicia Lechner, Annual Giving Coordinator at 

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I've Been Thinking

Years Of ‘Brain Picking” Between Friends

George Ayoub

Class of 1968
Alumni Liaison

Nearly 18 years ago, Steve Joel called me to cash in a marker. I had cajoled the then GIPS superintendent into a taking seat on a non-profit board, which wanted to increase participation from the educational community.

After reluctantly saying yes, he added that I “owed him one.”

Fair enough. 

Not long after that deal was struck, he called. He said I’d be hearing from Traci Skalberg, executive director of what was then the Grand Island Education Foundation, today’s Grand Island Public Schools Foundation. 

And he reminded me of the marker.

I knew Traci, in the “Hi, how are you?” sort of way. I had taught school with her husband, Barry. I’d seen her at American Legion baseball games where Barry coached in the summers.

My go-to position when asked to serve on boards was skepticism. Not because of the work of the board in question, but rather because I prefer working boards with members dedicated to the work. So if I had neither the time nor the inclination to do what’s needed, I was a “pass,” sometimes soft, occasionally hard.

With Traci and the Foundation it was a soft yes.

Traci at Memorial Stadium Rededication

Photo courtesy of Grand Island Public Schools

The rest is, well, the better part of two decades: Three terms — nine years — on the Foundation board, including a stint at the helm. I’ve added another seven years editing Rise and “working” on other Foundation projects, often at Traci’s genial insistence.

And here’s the deal: all these working years after that initial, reluctant “yes,” I now know Traci Skalberg as a consummate leader and professional, someone with passion and vision and a deft hand at getting hard work to come to life, someone who has sailed the Foundation ship on a steady course, even during times of unfavorable winds.

She has put together a rock star staff at the Foundation, pros who know what’s up when it comes to the work that is vital to the place’s ongoing success … now the expectation.

As a bonus, Traci has also become my friend.

As many board members or Foundation volunteers know, Traci is someone to whom saying no is difficult. Not because she’s a browbeater, but rather because her passion is contagious. 

We have the receipts, too. Traci’s leadership has underscored a roster of the remarkable: the remaking and rejuvenating of Memorial Stadium; the beautiful updating of Senior High’s auditorium; the developing and execution of campaigns among teachers and the community with unheard of participation numbers; the awarding of countless Mini Grants that give hundreds of GIPS students chances to explore and excel; and the strengthening the Foundation’s DNA when she and Foundation Programs and Marketing Coordinator, Candi Wiemers, put together a scholarship application form that almost immediately became a model for districts everywhere. Over the years, she has shepherded the Foundation to embrace the idea that it could be (and now is) immediately responsive to student needs from replacing a pair athletic shoes to coming up with the tuition for a dual credit course. Close to my heart, she saw Rise before it was Rise, now the single consistent connective tissue between the Foundation and Islander alums and friends.

Oh, and by the way, from where I sit she’s done all of it with a sense of humor, a generous spirit, and a focus employing both a tight lens for details and a telephoto one for planning the Foundation’s future … which looks quite good, thank you very much.

Traci Presenting a Scholarship Award

Photo courtesy of Grand Island Public Schools

She has a quiet courage, too, as evidenced by her four-year journey navigating the horrors of cancer with her late husband, Barry, who died last June. She somehow managed to be there for him and her kids and still found time to plan the rededication of Memorial Stadium. 

Early in my first term, I sent an email to Traci questioning some of the Foundation’s investments. It was a narrow ask, connected to me and my family personally. While we were never able to fully resolve my question, I was struck by Traci’s openness to my thinking. That started what have been many years now of phone calls, emails, text messages, and meetings in her office to bounce and exchange ideas. All this cooperative brain picking is part of my friend’s work ethic: make good decisions after gathering good information from a variety of places.

That’s why as much as I’ll miss working with her on Foundation programs new and old and, of course, Rise … come on, it’s Traci. I know her decision is wise for her and her family. Full stop.

I just hope we can still pick each other’s brains.

Her departure in August will close her direct influence on what happens at the Foundation. What she has created for nearly two decades, however, is a rock solid organization, not simply with big numbers in the bank and big signature projects we can see, but most important a reputation for class, professionalism, passion, and success.

I’ve done the math, too. After all these years of working closely with my friend Traci Skalberg, I’m happy to report that whatever arrangement I had with Steve Joel, I got the better deal.

On the Island

Entrepreneurship Pathway at GISH Promotes Problem Solving and Teamwork

Jacqueline Ruiz-Rodriguez

Class of 2023
Student Correspondent

The entrepreneurship pathway at Senior High takes into account what students need and want as they create and build profitable businesses for themselves.

Entrepreneurship teacher Adam Zlomke has been teaching with the initiative program for five years. 

Students in the class have the opportunity to learn how to create their own business plan and have fun at the same time, he said.

“They get to be creative and put their own spin on everyday products that need to be improved or fixed,” he said.

As sophomores, students learn about how to create their own business plan and their own mobile app code.

As juniors, they get started with an initiative program from EBU (Entrepreneurship and Business University), which allows them to create their businesses. Each group of students gets $500 to buy materials and begin their plan.

“We have a very free environment here where students get to decide what they want to sell and promote without needing a lot of my approval,” Zlomke said.

He added that the first step in building a business is to identify a problem in a student's life and interview them on that problem. They come up with a solution by using surveys to get data from the student body. After that, students make a business proposal, and when it is approved they are able to do what is necessary to build their business and products. 

“Students get the most freedom in this class when they get to senior year because they come in, run their business, or restart and create a new business,” Zlomke said.

Arriana Ramirez with the backpack she made

Photo courtesy of Jackie Ruiz-Rodriguez

Juniors Arriana Ramirez, Sabrina Figuereo, Estuardo Raymundo, and Emma Christensen based their business on making backpacks that help ease back pain. They had help from junior Jade Thompson.

“There are a lot of students at our school who have to carry heavy school supplies, and we wanted them to feel more secure and school ready,” Ramirez said.

She added that they make the backpacks themselves, sewing everything by hand. 

“I usually make them at home when I have the chance and sew every piece of fabric together. We use memory foam to make the straps, so that they feel like pillows on the shoulders of students,” she said.

Ramirez said that even though they didn’t have the chance to learn how to make a website like previous classes, they still learned a lot.

“We learned about how to safely run a business, so that we don’t get copyrighted or accused of plagiarism,” she said, “They teach us how to work well with other people and make sure that everything we do is legal.”

According to the juniors they are charging $49.99 for their backpacks. They will be sold on a website, which they are still working on.

“We haven’t launched our website yet since we are still coming up with the launching date, but if anyone wants to order right now they can contact any of us,” Ramirez said.

She added that their goal is to make as many backpacks as they can to make others feel more comfortable and to grow their business. 

“We want to keep improving and getting to know each other more. Working together hasn’t always been the easiest, but we are slowly adapting to each other and growing as a group. We want to be able to give students the highest quality backpack that we can,” she said.

Zlomke said that he encourages students to try the class because no matter what happens, students usually end up working in a business-type environment. 

“Whether it's a doctor’s office or a mechanic shop, students can use the skills they learn here in the outside world,” he said, “I don't want people to write this class off, but instead see it as an opportunity to grow and to create something that is helpful to others.”

Ramirez, Figuereo, Raymundo, and Christensen said they can’t wait to see what happens next and hope their business grows in the future.

A Distant Mirror

Wonder Woman’s Boots

Mike Monk

Class of 1967
Rise Contributor

In December of 1980, I flew from Los Angeles to Omaha to return to Nebraska for Christmas. Since my wife Janet had teaching obligations that continued until just shortly before Christmas, I embarked to Nebraska with our two children several days early. My daughter Susie was 4 1/2 years old and my son James just 18 months old. Janet would join us later in the week.

I knew that this would be a serious parental sports challenge to fly with two young children by myself. But I thought I would be fine. I knew sometimes flight attendants were very solicitous of young children and would offer to help. But on this particular flight every seat was taken. It was crowded. We had the window seat and the middle seat for the three of us. I soon discovered that I could not even get eye contact with any flight attendant. They were extremely busy with no time to help a dad struggling with two youngsters.

Shortly after we were in the air, Susie declared that she had to go to the bathroom. So I proceeded to take Susie and James to the bathroom. I crawled out by the man in the aisle seat, carrying James in my arms, and taking Susie by the hand. We headed down the middle aisle to the bathroom at that very time the flight attendants were starting to deliver drinks to the passengers, so we had to dodge around the drink cart. We finally got back to the bathroom. While holding son James, in very tight quarters, I assisted Susie in going to the bathroom.

We returned to our seats, again having to navigate by the cart of drinks. We sat down and James began to cry. I comforted him and after a while he was better, but still squirmy.  Then they brought our food. I placed Susie‘s food on her tray table, and the food for James and myself on my tray table. I was trying to feed James when Susie declared “Daddy, you need to cut my meat. Please cut my meat!” So between giving James some bites, I squirmed over and cut her meat. I spilled only a minor amount of the food, and we eventually had a little something to eat. I began to relax.

Mike Monk with Susie and James

Photo courtesy of Mike Monk

But just as the flight attendants came around to pick up the trays, Susie again declared, “Dad, I have to go to the bathroom badly.”  So once again the three of us crawled over the man in the aisle seat and maneuvered back through the middle aisle of the plane to the bathroom, dodging the flight attendant picking up trays.

After Susie finished, we then trudged back to our seats, again getting by the man in the aisle seat. Susie then wanted to play with her new Wonder Woman doll. The doll, about the size of a Barbie doll, had Super Heroine clothing, a crown, and some shiny black plastic boots. Susie was enjoying playing with Wonder Woman, undressing her and then dressing her. Then she decided it was essential to remove Wonder Woman’s boots. This was not easy, since they were a snug fit. Susie pulled and tugged. Then I pulled and tugged. Finally Susie was able to rip off one of Wonder Woman’s boots, which flew up over the passengers in front of us and landed somewhere about three rows ahead of us.

Susie began to panic. “Dad, dad I need wonder woman’s boot!  Where is Wonder Woman’s boot?  Get me Wonder Woman’s boot!” I was penned in and holding James. I was not in a position to go searching for Wonder Woman’s boot two or three rows ahead of us. But the need to find Wonder Woman’s boot was great. Soon other passengers heard Susie, and the need to find the boot soon spread throughout our section of the plane. Thank goodness, a man three rows up found the boot and passed it back to us. The crisis was over. The other passengers were remarkably understanding. I do not even recall any dirty looks. Now Susie needed help to get Wonder Woman’s boot back on, which was not easy while holding James.

James had been startled by the loss of Wonder Woman’s boot, and he began to fuss and squirm. While he was fussing and crying, Susie announced, for the third time in the three and one half hour flight, that she had to go to the bathroom. So we repeated the bathroom ritual, with the usual difficulty. The flight attendants continued to avoid making eye contact with me so that I might seek their help. But we did the job and got back to the seat. I had been hoping for the entire flight that James might fall asleep. Finally, with about 10 minutes left in the flight, he fell fast asleep.

We soon landed, having finally arrived in Omaha. As I am sure many of you are thinking, the only one to blame for this difficult trip was yours truly. But frankly, it was more than worth it, simply to have the story to tell. I have told the story to my grandchildren, Susie’s children Victoria and Leo, several times. It is one of their favorites. They love hearing about their mom’s passion for Wonder Woman’s boots. Sometimes out of nowhere they will demand that I tell the story again. I always enjoy doing so.

One More Thing

What to do in the Beautiful, Terrifying Moment

Abbey Kutlas-Prickett

Class of 2014
Rise Contributor

We all move through life informed by our identities and contexts. What you’ve seen and heard and created, who you trust and have learned from — it all colors our choices, big and small, conscious and subconscious. I’m a Millennial, so I impulsively check my phone when I wake up (and I know I shouldn’t, but I could be doing worse, so let me have this). Most of my social development happened in the Midwest, so it takes me forever to extract myself from parties. I’ve trained as a historian, so I tend to make sense of the world using a historian’s lense, analyzing change and continuity over time, for example, and the causes and consequences of turning points in our narratives.

The historical framework that I find most compelling is contextualization. Contextualization is the practice of asking, “How did people in the past view their world? How was this worldview created? How did it influence people's’ choices and actions? How was this worldview sustained, altered, or eliminated?” I interrogate most things I read, hear, and experience using these questions to try to make sense of it all, to give every idea a fair shake. Through all of this contextualization, I’ve come to a realization, dizzying in its simplicity: Every person who’s ever lived has lived in the present. We’re all somehow, simultaneously, historical actors in a future scenario, inheritors of the past, and very alive right now. So … what do we do with the context of our current moment?

Photo courtesy of Abbey Kutlas-Prickett

This question is a puzzle I’ve been working on for a while, but it’s come into sharp focus in the last few months as I’ve taken up a new hobby: rock climbing. For context (ha), I’m someone who has always gravitated toward all kinds of puzzles, and I’m hooked on rock climbing largely because it’s as mental as it is physical. I know — there are obvious differences between rock climbing and the intellectual debates I wade into with my dad or the word games and jigsaws that I’m always working on. Unlike when you’re solving the Wordle, at some point when you’re rock climbing, you’ll find yourself 25 feet in the air. Your fingers will get sweaty, your hip will cramp, and you’ll have no idea where to put your foot next or how to pinch the grip just above you. There will be a few hazy options for the next piece of the puzzle to try, but you don’t have much time to pick one. No matter how long you studied the route before climbing, no matter how easy it was up to this point, you will be stuck (and perhaps uncomfortable, and increasingly aware of how far away you are from the ground) and left with two choices.

You can let go, let the rope lower you to the ground. On the ground, you can stretch, wipe your hands, determine where it all went sour, and try again. This isn’t giving up. It’s admitting that the puzzle pieces didn’t fit the way you thought they might, taking that feedback and reassessing; it’s committing to improving. Your second option is to stay on the route, shift your weight, and admit that this will be harder than you anticipated. You’ll have to accept that you might look awkward, or that other climbers might notice your pause (though most are more preoccupied with their own challenges to really care). You can combine your past experience with a little faith, decide there’s a foothold just close enough to reach, and launch. You might still end up on the ground, but either way, you evaluated the choices you had in the moment, let go of your expectations and frustrations, and did what you could to move forward.

When you’re climbing, you have to be keenly aware of the limitations and possibilities of the moment at hand. You know what you did to this point, and you can vaguely see a way forward, but here you are. No point in denying it or fighting it. No way to ignore it.

Though pragmatic, I say all this as an optimist. We live in this moment, in this world. We’re allowed to feel that it’s a good world or a bad world or anything in between, but eventually we must set value judgments aside to just be honest about What Is. When we’re honest about What Is, we can start to see our shared terrible, beautiful moment as a consequential but brief blip in time. When we’re honest about What Is, we can then be honest about the Why and What’s Next, with fewer feelings of guilt or anxiety attached. We can refocus, let go of the shame of past misperceptions or failures, and make bold choices to move forward. If optimism is hopefulness in an eventual successful outcome, this is optimism in my book. As far as I know, very few successful outcomes have been rooted in pride or willful ignorance.

Abbey Climbing Rock Wall

Photo courtesy of Abbey Kutlas-Prickett

It seems to me that, unfortunately, a fair number of people ignore or deny some of the really major factors at play in our moment in the name of optimism. I’m not sure there’s just one reason why, or that I’ve even thought of all of the possible reasons. Maybe people are nostalgic for a past moment that honestly isn't as good as they remember. Our current moment is largely uncomfortable and complex, and maybe they’d rather not commit the time or emotion to confront it fully. Maybe the puzzle pieces of the past and present don’t fit together the way they used to, and folks are afraid of looking stupid. Some people are angry at the choices made by leaders in the near and distant past and feel hopeless, and some folks want to believe these choices no longer have any ramifications at all.

You can feel however you want about the past, but pretending it doesn’t affect our current moment is irresponsible, as is pretending our current moment won’t affect what’s next. It’s a great paradox of being alive: Our time is short, and we didn’t choose what we’re working with while we’re here, and yet our choices matter. Future generations might look at us, just like we look at our ancestors, and say, “How could they not have seen what was coming? How could they have left us with this?” As humans, we’re doomed to our short-sightedness. We must try to think long into the future anyway, to dream up and implement changes based on the best knowledge we have — changes that seem too big now but are just the right size for the future to grow into.

Making these choices often seems impossible. We must try nonetheless.

I invite you to join me here in the present moment. You don’t have to rock climb to get started. I invite you to admit what’s uncomfortable. Listen beyond the fences you’ve created, literally and in your own mind, even if you think you don’t need to. When you want to shut someone down, lead with curiosity. Stop trying to jam together puzzle pieces that just don’t fit, trying to map the world you thought existed onto a reality that seems incompatible. Because you’re human, your brain will naturally find someone to blame for your unease. Remind your brain that blame isn’t useful, that being honest with yourself and others is the only way forward. Notice how it gets a little easier to be uncomfortable, to feel challenged but not walk away.

This is the moment we have. It’s what everyone in every time before us had. Everyone tried to make choices to build the future they wanted; that future was sometimes ugly and sometimes luminous, and sometimes they guessed correctly about the consequences and sometimes they didn’t. It all resulted in the Right Now. We’re all responsible for what happens next.

Welcome to the moment. It’s a strange place to live — complicated, overwhelming, seemingly impossible to fully understand, wonderfully and terrifyingly ours. What will you do now to make the next moment more beautiful?

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Alumni Reunions

Kari Price

Alumni Coordinator
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.




  • 1956

    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
    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!

  • 1960

    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:

    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!

  • 1965

    The Class of 1965’s 55th Reunion has been called off until further notice. For more information email Loretta Catlett at

  • 1966

    The class of ‘66 meets for lunch the third Wednesday of each month at the Platt Duetsche, 12 noon. Please join us!

  • 1967

    The Class of 1967 is having their 55th Class Reunion on June 24 & 25, 2022. Friday, June 24 at 7:00 pm will be social time and dinner at Riverside Golf Club. A tour of Grand Island Senior High's newly remodeled stadium is planned on Saturday, June 25 at 10:00 am. Saturday evening starting a 7:00 pm at Riverside Golf Club will be dinner, program and dance.

    For more information please contact Ken and Trish Ross at

  • 1970

    Save the Date for our 50th Class Reunion: Friday, Sep. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The Reunion Committee met last night and after much discussion, we have decided on Harvest of Harmony Weekend, Friday, Sep. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. We are still finalizing one of the venues and the costs involved so we don’t have a signup sheet ready yet. As soon as we have everything finalized, we will post a signup sheet on this page. We will also email all of you for which we have a valid email and we will do a mailing. Please pass the word on to any of our classmates that you know are not electronic. Our class email is That will be a busy weekend in Grand Island, so we recommend that everyone please get online and get your rooms booked today. - Craig Paro, Database Capt.

  • 1972

    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 -
    Nancy Stohs -

  • 1982

    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-
    Bart Qualsett -
    Cindy (Drummond) Wampole -

  • 2002

    The Class of 2002 is having their 20 year class reunion on June 24 & 25, 2022. More details to follow soon.

In Memoriam

March and April memorial list of GISH Alumni

DEAN ROBERTS, Class of 1951, died per notification from a classmate.

DONALD “WILLIE” WILLIAMS, Class of 1951, died per notification from a classmate.

CHARLOTTE “CHEY” (SIGWALT) ROBSON, Class of 1951, died January 12, 2020 in Wataga, IL. She was 86.

DALE SNYDER, Class of 1951, died December 27, 2020, in Wahoo, NE. He was 86.

ROBERT NEWHOUSE, Class of 1969, died December 27, 2021, in Augusta, GA. He was 70.

JERRY STROUD, Class of 1967, died February 5, 2022, in Hermosa Beach, CA. He was 73.

PHYLLIS (DARNALL) JOHNSRUD, Class of 1949, died February 11, 2022 in Norfolk, NE. She was 90.

GLENNA (VAN HORN) KINGSLEY, Retired GIPS Teacher, died February 21, 2022 in Osceola, NE. She was 97.

JANET (HOVLAND) BENSON, former GIPS staff, died March 1, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 84.

BOBBY DUENNERMAN SR., Class of 1951, died March 1, 2022, in Apple Valley, CA. He was 88.

JOHN MAISCH, Class of 1988, died March 3, 2022, in Edmond, OK. He was 52.

JUNE O’NEILL, Class of 1967, died March 4, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 72.

DENNIS KORGEL, Class of 1974 and longtime GIPS teacher, died March 5, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 65.

ELIZABETH (HACKMAN) HARE, Class of 1953, died March 6, 2022, in Lawrence, KS. She was 87.

KEITH KELLY, Class of 1960, died March 7, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 80.

VICKI (THAYER) DAVISON, Class of 1971, died March 8, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 68.

ELAINE (NIELSEN) DAHLGREN, Class of 1943, died March 12, 2022, in York. She was 96.

LAVONNE (HUEBNER) HOLST, Class of 1948, died March 12, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 90.

MARY (CRONIN) KING, Class of 1966, died March 12, 2022, in Lincoln. She was 64.

CLARENCE WADDINGTON, Class of 1959, died March 12, 2022 in Osage Beach, MO. He was 81.

DRUE BAMESBERGER, Class of 1980, died March 14, 2022, in Omaha. He was 60.

JOANNE HOOS, longtime GIPS teacher, died March 14, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 76.

JEANNE (SCHLICK) SCHUTTE, former GIPS staff, died March 19, 2022, in Grand

JUNE (EVANS) CROW, Class of 1960, died March 20, 2022, in Grand Island. She was 79.

DARRELL ANDERSON, Class of 1951, died March 27, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 90.

NATHANEL ESQUITIN, Class of 2015, died March 30, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 24.

KRISTIN (BENNETT) VEEDER, Class of 1991, died March 30, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. She was 49.

DARLENE (PAHL) LEHMS, Class of 1948, died April 4, 2022 in Lincoln, NE. She was 91.

JULIE (MORTENSEN) MUIRHEAD, Class of 1969, died April 5, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. She was 71.

JUDEEN MATTSON, Class of 1966, died April 11, 2022 in Denver, CO. She was 73.

JUDY (KENYON) CASE, Class of 1964, died April 12, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. She was 75.

CLIFF ARNOLD, Class of 1950, died April 13, 2022 in Kearney, NE. He was 91.

JAMES HELLWEGE, Class of 1975, died April 14, 2022, in Grand Island. He was 65.

AIEDAN KLEIN, Class of 2017, died April 18, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. She was 23.

DONALD BOEKA, Class of 1962, died April 23, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. He was 78.

MARV MAURER, Retired GIPS Superintendent, died April 25, 2022 in Lincoln, NE. He was 91.

MIKE BREWER, Class of 1972, died April 29, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. He was 68.

MARCELLA (STEFFAN) WILLIAMS, Class of 1946, died April 30, 2022 in Grand Island, NE. She was 93.



To report an alumni death since April, 2022, please send an email with the first name, last name, class year and maiden name if applicable to

Class Notes

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.


  • 1958

    Anne (Wilson) Burkholder won the Distinguished Nebraskan award in 2022, Nebraska Statehood.

  • 1977

    Nancy Huber is retiring after 41 years of teaching at GIPS.

  • 2018

    Jose Acevedo, a senior at Hastings College was inducted in Hastings College’s chapter of Psi Chi, the psychology academic honor society. Jose was one of 10 inducted this spring.

  • 2019

    Savannah Thornton was awarded the Einspahr Accounting Excellence Award during Hastings College’s annual Honors Convocation and Celebration of Excellence on April 27.

  • 2019

    On April 9th, Kylee Sodomka was the producer of the First-Ever All-Women's football broadcast crew at KRNU Radio Station and UNL history. She is double majoring in Sports Media and Communication and Broadcasting with a minor in Leadership and Communications.

    While at UNL, Kylee has also worked for numerous sporting events as a broadcaster and with media production. She currently works for HuskerVision, where she has been the studio manager for the Husker Football Show and Nebraska Basketball Show, camera operator for Big Ten Plus, and a big-screen operator for Nebraska baseball and softball.

  • 2020

    Cassie Wing appeared as Coco and Turner Griffin appeared as Joey in Hastings College Theater's production of "Zombie Prom,” based on a story by John Dempsey and Hugh Murphy, with music by Dana P. Rowe and lyrics by John Dempsey. The show ran March 11-13.

  • 2021

    Erick Rodriguez and Samantha Gapp were two of 13 Hastings College students selected to be part of the 2022 Nebraska Intercollegiate Band, which performed as part of the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association (NSBA) spring conference March 3-5 in Lincoln. The ensemble featured more than 100 students from colleges and universities across Nebraska.

  • 2022

    Isaac Traudt was named the 2021-22 Nebraska Boys Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year.

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