Tag Archives: College of Saint Mary

2018 March of Dimes Nurse of the Year

January 16, 2019 by

Nursing is the largest profession in health care, and one of the most recognizable.  Professionals from psychiatrists to surgeons use nurses each day to help care for patients with tasks from administering medicines to handing them tools of their trade.

Nurses labor tirelessly, often for 12 or more hours at a time. On Nov. 15, 2018, the March of Dimes took an evening to thank those vital professionals taking vital signs, and Omaha Magazine was in attendance as an event partner.

Nominations are blinded, then scored by the volunteer committee. Scores were based on credentials, certifications, their proudest outcomes, leadership, professional associations, and achievements. The Nurse of the Year is determined by the nurse with the highest overall score.

We again thank the nurses nominated for the March of Dimes awards, for taking care of us, each and every day.

Nurse of the Year Committee

Nicole Caswell, CHI Health Immanuel

Teresa Hultquist, UNMC College of Nursing

Cindy Mirfield, Methodist Women’s Hospital

Wendy Muir, Bryan Health

Christine Murphy, Nebraska Medicine

Sue Nuss, Nebraska Medicine

Melissa Schmaderer, Madonna Rehabilitation Center

Kris Stapp, VNA

Lisa Strasheim, CHI Health

Judy Thomas, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

Judy Timmons, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

Susie Ward, Methodist College

Chrissy Wilber, Boys Town National Research Hospital

March of Dimes Staff

Mackenzie Hawkins, Development Specialist

Kristin Schemahorn, Development Manager

Kristina Debus, Development Manager


Nurse of the Year

Jean Armstrong-Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital, Family Resource Center and Shaken Baby Task Force

Jean Armstrong has been devoted to creating and implementing a Shaken Baby Task Force. She has developed an educational curriculum, organized a conference, and created multiple educational videos. Her efforts were first recognized on a national level in 2000 when First Lady Laura Bush made a stop at her hospital.

Armstrong has helped Iowa Senator Amanda Regan support Senate Bill 349 to establish a Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Program through the Iowa Department of Health.

This Nurse of the Year was also instrumental in creating the only national 24-hour Crying Baby Helpline in the U.S.

 

Rising Star

Family Choice Award

Excellence in Academics


Betsy Miller-Methodist Hospital, Cardiac Care

Miriah Jansonius-Methodist Women’s Hospital, Labor & Delivery

Judi Dunn-Clarkson College, Continuing Education

Excellence in Advanced Practice

Excellence in Advocacy

Excellence in Clinical Excellence

Judy Placek-Nebraska Medicine, Plastic Surgery/Burn Surgery

Maria Lander-Nebraska Medicine, Solid Organ Transplant Unit

Sylvia Hanousek-CHI Health, Labor & Delivery, Post Partum and Mother-Baby

Excellence in Informatics

Excellence in Leadership & Mentoring

Excellence in Pediatrics

Ryan Zulkoski-Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Nursing Education/Nursing Informatics

Anne Thallas-Methodist Hospital, Medical Surgical

Megan B. Sorensen-Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Transport

Excellence in Pediatrics in School Health

Excellence in Research & Evidence Based Practice

Excellence in Service to Veterans

Twlya Kleen-Storm Lake Community Schools, Elementary School Nurse

Bernadette Vacha-Nebraska Medicine, Lung Transplant

(No Photo Available) Lisa Crouch-Veterans Health Administration, Ambulatory Care

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

Lindsey Ayles-Nebraska Medicine, Cardiothoracic Surgery Joan Blum-Clarkson College, Oncology Nursing Michelle Brester-Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Pediatric Surgery

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

Cathrin Carithers-UNMC College of Nursing, Kearney Division

Tiffany Keller-CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center, Post Partum—Lactation RN

Jaki Kenney-Nebraska Medicine, Werner Special Care Unit

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

(No Photo Available)Jennifer Lantis-Great Plains Health, Infection Prevent

Kimberly Marsh-Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Barbara Petersen-Great Plains Health, Quality

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

Spirit of Nursing Award

Kimberly Peterson-Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, Performance Improvement

Julie Sundermeier-Nebraska Medicine, NICU

Danielle Treska-CHI Health Lakeside Hospital, ICU

Spirit of Nursing Award

Anne Wilber-UNMC College of Nursing, Northern Division (Norfolk)

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

Taira Anderson-University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, Northern Division

Dania Cervantes Ayala-College of Saint Mary

Racheal Dawn Daigger-UNMC College of Nursing, Kearney Division

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

(No Photo Available) Katherine Glaser-Creighton University College of Nursing

Sara Glaser-Bryan College of Health Sciences

Sarah Henry-Purdue University Global School of Nursing

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

Kathryn Noble-Nebraska Wesleyan University

Tiffany Pardew-Clarkson College

Megan Reiten-Nebraska Methodist College

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

Student Nursing Award

Jiosajandy Garcia Reyna-University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing

Stephanie Shoning-College of Saint Mary

Breanna Swanson-Bryan College of Health Sciences College of Nursing

Student Nursing Award

Ashley Tagart-College of Saint Mary

Nurse of the Year Nominees

Boys Town Clinics

  • Sara Pfeifer, Pediatric Clinic

Boys Town National Research Hospital

  • Kayla Gentrup, Pediatric Gastroenterology
  • Stephanie Hernandez, Surgical Floor
  • Nerissa Imada, Surgery Center
  • Autumn Rowe, Surgery Center
  • June Root, Pediatrics – Inpatient

Bryan Health

  • Christie Bartelt, Rehabilitation
  • Julie Bratt, Care Management

CHI Health

  • Sarah Barker, Family Birth Center
  • Susan Brill, Intensive Care Unit
  • Rebecca Gardner, Good Samaritan
    Surgery Department
  • Sylvia Hanousek, LDRP: L&D, Post Partum, and Mother Baby
  • Katelyn Henriksen, Orthopedics
  • Jennifer Lemmons, Hospital
  • Debra Saldi, Behavioral Serivces
  • Rebecca Seier, Infection Prevention
  • Lowellyn Steinkraus, Plainview Hospital Specialty Clinic
  • Heidi Gall, Rural Health clinic

CHI Health CUMC – Bergan Mercy

  • Aaron Allen, ICU
  • Kara Aldana, NICU
  • Alicia Buechler, HVI – Cardiac Universal Unit
  • Kara Johnson, Obstetrics
  • Tara Kiichler, NICU
  • Sarah Kumm, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Rhonda Meyer, Heart and Vascular
  • Tracy Meyers, NICU
  • Donna Myers, NICU
  • Emily Oppel, Intensive Care Unit
  • Elena Oquendo, NICU
  • Erin McQuinn, House Operations
  • Guylah, Med/Surg/Ortho/Intermediate/Dialysis
  • Heather Reese, ER

CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center

  • Tiffany Keller, Post Partum-Lactation

CHI Health Good Samaritan

  • Kelsey Daake, Leadership
  • Del Miller, Orthopedics/Oncology

CHI Health Immanuel

  • Hannah Baldwin, PCCU
  • Crisann Hannum, Critical Care
  • Mandy Iverson, Labor and Delivery
  • Mandy Iverson, Obstetrics
  • Mandolyn Klinkhammer, Labor and Delivery
  • Cynthia Lesch-Busse, Nursing Administration
  • Kay Maguire, Medical Surgical
  • Carrie Meyer, Labor and Delivery
  • Jaclyn Seiboldt, Medical Surgical Oncology
  • Elizabeth Steadman, Critical Care
  • Christy Todd, Labor and Delivery
  • Lisa, Labor and Delivery

CHI Health Lakeside Hospital

  • Christine Enterline, Surgery
  • Emily Mass, Med/Surg/Oncology
  • Jordan Novak, Med-Surg/Oncology
  • Katie Swanson, Med-Surg/Ortho
  • Danielle Treska, ICU
  • Jill Yosten, Ambulatory Infusion Center
  • Hanah Zehnder, Float Pool
  • Aysha Classen, ED

CHI Health Mercy Corning

  • Chimene Cobb, Outpatient Specialty Clinic

CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs

  • Marie Baker, Critical Care Unit
  • Ranita Hiller, Post Critical Care
  • Lori Woodrow, Psychiatric Nurse

CHI Health Midlands

  • Vicki Gall, Medical/Surgical
  • Julie Nichols, Surgical Services

CHI Health Missouri Valley

  • Jodi Potts, Rural Health clinic

CHI Health St. Elizabeth

  • Emily Bachman, Ortho/PEDS
  • Lori Birdzell, Observation
  • Nicole Ragon, Critical Care Unit
  • Tricia Topolski, Emergency
  • Christine Vogt, OBGYN
  • GayAnn Wagner, NICU
  • Kelly Watton, Primary Care

CHI Health St. Francis

  • Darla Cleveland, Medical Oncology
  • Lacey Pavlovsky, Quality Management-Infection Control

CHI Health St. Mary’s

  • Loree Mort, Labor and Delivery

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

  • Carol Beare, Med-Surg 6 – Nursing Informatics
  • Alicia Bremer, Performance Improvement
  • Michelle Brester, Pediatric Surgery
  • Erin Hartman, Emergency
  • Chase Hinzmann, Critical Care Transport
  • Jill Jensen, Performance Improvement
  • Vanessa Le, NICU, Nursing Informatics
  • Kimberly Marsh, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Katherine McCollough, Dialysis
  • Kimberly Peterson, Performance Improvement
  • Kathy Powers, CARES/PACU
  • Katherine “Kitty” Rasmussen, 5 Med-Surg
  • Megan B. Sorensen, Transport
  • Ryan Zulkoski, Nursing Education/Nursing Informatics

Children’s Physicians—Bellevue

  • Nicole Wallin, Lactation

Children’s Physicians—Plattsmouth

  • Rebecca Robbins, Pediatrics

Children’s Physicians—Gretna

  • Amy Wortmann, Pediatrics

Clarkson College

  • Joan Blum, Oncology NursingJudi Dunn, Continuing Education

Craig HomeCare

  • Amy Lauby, Pediatric Home Health Care

Fremont Health

  • Desa Clark, NursingTerese Moore, Labor and Delivery

Great Plains Health

  • Jennifer Lantis, Infection Prevention
  • Jill Stevenson, Joint Replacement-Orthopaedics
  • Wendy Ward, Quality-Risk Management
  • Barbara Petersen, Quality

Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital

  • Jane Bilau, Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation
  • Mari Ramsey, Acute Rehab

Methodist Hospital

  • Jean Beumler, Palliative Care
  • Ashley Colburn, Rehabilitation
  • Rachael Coufal, Progressive  Care Unit
  • Carrie Kelseth, Cardiac Care
  • Kelly Menousek, Emergency Department
  • Betsy Miller, Cardiac Care
  • Tiffany Pettit, Ortho-Neuro
  • Mandy Stockdale, Rehabilitation
  • Anne Thallas, Medical Surgical
  • Catherine Wolpert, Medical Surgical

Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital

  • Jean Armstrong, Family Resource Center and Shaken Baby Task Force

Methodist Women’s Hospital

  • Miriah Jansonius, Labor & Delivery
  • Sheri Kimmey, NICU/Outreach
  • Shonda Knop, High Risk Obstetrics
  • Amy Rapp, GYN, Postpartum

Nebraska Medicine

  • Megan Armbrust, Women’s and Infant’s Services
  • Lindsey Ayles, Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Claire Baweja, Emergency Department – BMC
  • Lindsie Buchholz, Enterprise Practice Support
  • Ashley Carne, Medical ICU
  • Barabara Cowden, Werner Intensive Care Unit
  • Lyndie Farr, Critical Care Anesthesia
  • Stephanie Floth, UNL Student Health Center
  • Caitlin Hagen, Cardiology-Progressive Care
  • Terri Heineman, Oncology Treatment Center at Werner Cancer Center
  • Samantha Jordan-Schaulis, Pediatric ICU
  • Jaki Kenney, Werner Special Care Unit
  • Teresa Kerkman, Medical ICU
  • Susan Knutson, NICU
  • Margee Langer, Oncology
  • Maria Lander, Solid Organ Transplant Unit
  • Riley Lyons, Werner Progressive Care Unit
  • Courtney Marshall, Nursing Development Specialist
  • Megan Myers, Medical ICU
  • Denise McGrath, Women and Infant Services
  • Sarah Newman, NICU
  • Sara Neumann, Cardiology
  • LeaAyn Norton, Clarkson Family Medicine Clinic
  • Megan Pierce, Women’s Services
  • Judy Placek, Plastic Surgery/Burn Surgery
  • Lori Schmida, Kidney/pancreas transplant
  • Michael Schrage, Emergency Department
  • Danielle Schulz, Emergency Department
  • Carmen Shannon, SICU
  • Amy Steinauer, Community & Corporate Relations
  • Angie Strain, Heart and Vascular
  • Julie Sundermeier, NICU
  • Gisele Tlusty, Specialty Care Unit
  • Tina Twymon, Clarkson Family Medicine Clinic
  • Bernadette Vacha, Lung Transplant
  • Lisa Wulf, Emergency

Nebraska Methodist College

  • Alice Kindschuh, DNP

Omaha Public Schools

  • Sharon Wade, School Health

Saunders Medical Center

  • Patricia Kucera, Long Term Care

Skinner Magnet Elementary School

  • Shannon Cunningham, Health Office

Storm Lake Community Schools

  • Twlya Kleen, Elementary School Nurse

UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s

  • Christi-Ann Bullock, NICU
  • Brenda Crank, Mother Baby

UNMC College of Nursing

  • Cathrin Carithers, Kearney Division
  • Anne Wilber, Northern Division (Norfolk)

Veterans Administration Health Care

  • Lisa Crouch, Ambulatory Care

VNA of the Midlands

  • Jennifer Dannen, Maternal Child

West Holt Memorial Hospital

  • Jessica Thomassen, Med/Surg, ER, Surgery

West Central District Health Department

  • Brandi Lemon, Outreach Director

This list was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Making a Better Life for Herself

November 21, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One month after the twin towers fell in New York City, Quetzalli Pliego and her three younger siblings crossed the boarder of Mexico into the United States to reunite with their mother and father.

It took Quetzalli (now Quetzalli Pliego Omaña) and her siblings five tries on chilly October nights to finally meet up with her mother and father. Omaña said they were usually detained in the middle of the night by Immigration and Naturalization Services agents and sent back to the border. Finally, they were able to travel in a vehicle.

Omaña remembers leaving the vehicle, getting into a bus, and traveling to a town near the border where her mother and father were waiting for them. She hadn’t seen either of them in two years. Omaña said it took about 10 days from their first attempt to cross the border until they were finally reunited as a family.

Omaña now hears similar stories from other undocumented citizens as a bilingual paralegal at Blackford Law. She is also one of the 800,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy, which was announced by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, at the direction of former President Barack Obama. The policy allows Omaña to continue to work in the United States, and defers any deportation action for two years (provided the recipient is not convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors).

In September 2017, President Donald Trump moved to end DACA. However, three U.S. district courts have challenged the Trump administration’s move to end the program. Under DACA, Omaña is able to both stay in the United States and obtain a work permit. Recipients need to renew their status every two years. While those under DACA’s protections will not face deportation, the program is not a path to citizenship. Those wanting to become citizens must first apply to become a lawful permanent resident and obtain a green card.

While DACA’s fate is in the courts, people who currently have protection under DACA can apply to renew its protections, says Jacob Huju, an immigration lawyer for the Immigrant Legal Center. Huju recommends applicants contact the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline if they are concerned about their DACA status.

“It’s important to seek advice as soon as possible,” Huju says.

Omaña’s father, Armando Pliego, moved to Omaha in 1998. Her mother, Micaela Dominguez, came to Omaha in 1999. Armando, who was a professor in agriculture in Mexico, started bussing tables at an Omaha mall before finding a job in construction. While Armando and Micaela were establishing their roots in Omaha, Omaña and her siblings were living with her uncles and cousins in Cuernavaca, which is about 60 miles south of Mexico City. While she was away from her mother and father, Omaña said she was physically abused by some extended family members.

Unlike many undocumented citizens who come to the United States for a better life, Omaña did not want to move to the United States when she was 12. She was already in middle school and had her own group of friends.

“At the time, my friends were everything to me,” Omaña says.

Things didn’t get much better during her first years in Omaha. At the beginning of middle school, she only knew some basic words. Her mother and father took night classes to learn English, leaving Omaña to not only learn a new language, but help her siblings with their homework.

“We were just alone,” Omaña says.

Things changed when she started at North High School. Soon, she was becoming active in community groups like Omaha Together One Community. Omaña started thinking about college, but her guidance counselor said she couldn’t secure scholarships or student loans because of her status as undocumented. Still, her community activism gained the attention of the College of Saint Mary, specifically Maria Luisa Gaston, who was the admissions counselor for Latinas in 2006.

Gaston thought the College of Saint Mary needed to reach out to the Latina community. Specifically, she wanted to target undocumented high school graduates. Gaston began working on securing funding for the Misericordia scholarship, which provides tuition for high school graduates who are also undocumented. Omaña was one the scholarship’s recipients.

Gaston says at least 50 scholarships have been awarded since she began raising funds for it in 2007. According to Daniela Rojas, admissions adviser at the College of St. Mary, 36 students are currently on the scholarship. Gaston said Omaña’s leadership skills were one of the reasons why she was awarded the scholarship.

“She’s always been one of my shining stars,” Gaston says from her home in Miami, to where she retired in October 2014.

Omaña graduated from the College of Saint Mary in 2010 with a degree in paralegal studies. However, the degree couldn’t secure her a job because of her status. Without a Social Security card, she couldn’t find a traditional full-time job. Instead, she set up her own business, Pliego Translation Services. For a few years, she worked as a translator for a few law firms in Omaha. Then, in 2013, she applied for DACA, which grants recipients work permits.

In early 2014, she got a job as a paralegal at Peck Law Firm, where she met attorney Brian Blackford. Blackford established his own firm in October of that year, and he reached out to Omaña to take a paralegal position.

Even though Omaña still had several months left on her DACA eligibility, she applied for a renewal in May 2018. She was approved in August, and her status is now protected until August 2020. Omaña chose to proactively renew her status because she was uncertain of DACA’s fate in the courts.

“With our current president, anything could just end,” Omaña says.

Omaña’s other family members are now permanent residents—her parents are both citizens, sister Xochitl became a lawful permanent resident in November 2012, brother Armando in June 2014, and sister Citalli gained permanent resident status in July 2017 after she married a U.S. citizen.

Omaña wasn’t able to become a citizen after her parents obtained their citizenship because she was older than 21 at the time. She could have become a lawful permanent resident in the United States when her father and mother were applying for their green cards; however, while her parents were in the process of becoming permanent residents, an Omaha attorney, who Omaña refused to identify, said her father couldn’t put Omaña on his application. Omaña said the attorney later confided to her that he wished he knew the law better when he was advising her family.

“I think it was malpractice, honestly,” Omaña says. “I’ve talked to multiple attorneys now, and it’s pretty obvious what the law reads.”

Omaña has married, but the man she married is a lawful permanent resident (not a U.S. citizen). As a result, her application to obtain a visa is given a lower priority than people who marry U.S. citizens. While she waits for her resident status to improve, she plans to continue to help people in similar situations.

“I love what I do and where I work,” Omaña says.


Visit blackfordlawllc.com for more information about the firm employing Omaña.

This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Passing On Education

May 4, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As a freshman at North High School, Elaundra Nichols knew she would someday go to college—she just wasn’t sure what that would look like or what it would take to get there.

An excellent student in math and science, Nichols figured she’d go to a state school—probably the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she attended several summer science camps, or the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Then, Nichols spent a week at the College of Saint Mary Summer Academy the summer before her sophomore year.

“I didn’t even know College of Saint Mary existed before I attended that camp—and it changed my opinion about attending a small school that’s also an all-girls school,” says Nichols, now a second-semester freshman at CSM studying science to become an occupational therapist.

As a young African-American woman, the ability to surround herself with other African-American women was important to her, and to College of Saint Mary.

“One of the things we try to show people who come from these two populations (African-American and Latina) is that if you have an interest, if you persist, you can do it,” says Summer Academy Coordinator Alexis Sherman.

“That experience changed my life in many ways because not only did I learn about CSM, but I also saw and listened to other African-American women who went to CSM during the camp. It completely changed my outlook in many ways.”

Nichols says she learned about the camp (there also is a separate camp in the summer for young Latina women) from a guidance counselor at her school.

Word was out that CSM was looking for African-American students interested in science, so she filled out an application and paid the fee — a mere $25 for the whole week.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “This was a full week. Plus, all of the presenters and counselors at the camp were African-American women and students. I was really excited but also a bit apprehensive at first.”

Like many camps on college campuses, Nichols was quickly immersed in the college experience—living in the dorms, eating at the cafeteria, attending regular sessions and meetings, etc.

At CSM, Nichols immediately loved the forensics and coding classes she took in the mornings. She was drawn to meet and interact with other African-American women.

In the evenings, fun activities brought campers and counselors together to share stories, ideas, experiences, and dreams.

“Almost all of the counselors were CSM students, so it was a great experience to learn about science, but also learn about their experiences in college as women, and African-American women,” Nichols says.

“The speakers they brought in were really amazing, with great stories and experiences. It made it very easy to understand where they were in their lives in relation to where we would be in a couple of years.”

Nichols says she returned to the camp the summer after her junior year, and enrolled as a full-time student at CSM last fall. She participates in student senate and HALO (Honorable African-American Leadership Organization), and works in the CSM Student Leadership Office.

Nichols is excited once again for this summer’s CSM Summer Academy because she’s returning as a counselor.

She can’t wait to pass along all that she’s learned to the next group of young African-American women.

“I’m really looking forward to being as helpful and inspirational to them as the counselors were to me when I was attending as a student,” says Nichols, who keeps in touch with many of her fellow campers and counselors.

“I felt very empowered during my time at the camp, and I want these young women to see how powerful and smart they can be. The goal is to get them all on the right track to go to college, and I want them to know that there are options for them just as there were for me.”

UNL Big Red Summer Camps

Summer camps on UNL’s Lincoln campus also offer experiences that coordinator Lindsay Shearer says “give kids an opportunity to explore what college has to offer.”

UNL camp themes include: chickens, culinary arts, engineering, entrepreneurship, filmmaking, outdoor Nebraska, veterinary science, weather and climate science, and unicameral youth legislature.

“It’s an opportunity to explore what college has to offer. They get a chance to interact with faculty in their chosen field,” Shearer says.


This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Alicia Sancho Scherich

March 29, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Behind every good artist, there exists a muse. And for Alicia Sancho Scherich, her muse happens to be a former pen pal—Mother Teresa. Yes, that Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and humanitarian extraordinaire. 

The two connected only once, but the memory still brings tears to Sancho Scherich’s eyes as she recalls it nearly three decades later. After completing a large canvas painting of the icon, she wanted to make reproductions and wrote to ask Mother Teresa if she’d like all sales donated to her charity. Being the saint that she is, Mother Teresa wrote back, suggesting Sancho Scherich keep her goodwill within her local community instead. But Sancho Scherich had an even better, bigger, and bolder idea.

Using this first 4-by-6 foot canvas painting as the epicenter of something much more grandiose, Sancho Scherich began painting, researching, and painting some more. Twelve years later, 17 more linen canvases made stunning with strokes of oil paint, and her magnum opus was complete—a mural titled “World Peace” that went on display in Creighton’s Lied Art Gallery last year. 

“I wanted to create something that captured the nature of man, with each canvas depicting either a different positive or negative aspect,” Sancho Scherich says. “I consider this my greatest and most thought-provoking achievement.”

And that’s really saying something for an 84-year-old artist who’s been working for the better part of the last century. Throughout her illustrious career, Sancho Scherich’s style has transitioned from traditional realism to abstract expressionism, but all of her work stands out for its near perfection. Even with hundreds of paintings, murals, and prints under her belt, each piece manages to combine obsessive research with uncanny imagination to embody all the things that make humanity, well, human.

“Although my work may look different, I always try to get straight to the heart of the matter, whether it’s a portrait or a symbolic piece,” Sancho Scherich says. “And when something comes to my head, I just love working and working on it until it’s perfect.”

With her lineage, though, creative perfectionism runs through Sancho Scherich’s very DNA. Her grandfather was a violinist in the court orchestra of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and her grandmother was an accomplished artist, as was her father. So much so that he received wide acclaim and was awarded bronze, silver, and gold medals from the Spanish National Exposition of Fine Arts (the equivalence of such an honor in the United States would be being named Artist Laureate by the
federal government).

While Sancho Scherich has called the sprawling suburbs of Bellevue, Nebraska, home since 1960, she still looks to lessons from her father in the sunny vistas of Madrid as the catalyst for her later accomplishments. In fact, with her father’s guidance, her artistic career began with handcrafting royal dolls as a teenager and working towards a degree in fashion design and toy making. By age 26, this Spanish señorita was United States-bound after falling for and marrying an American airman who was being transferred from a post in Spain to Offutt Air Force Base.

“There are many cultural differences in Spanish and American art,” Sancho Scherich says. “Here, the first thing many consider is how much money they can get out of a painting. In Europe, price is secondary, so the work is more authentic and passionate.” 

These Spanish values stay with Sancho Scherich today. Most of her paintings are given as gifts or adorn the walls of her home (adjacent to Fontenelle Forest). But even the most passionate of painters needs to make some pennies. From St. Joseph Hospital to College of St. Mary to the Woodmen of the World Society, she has been commissioned to paint portraits for present and past leadership in notable organizations. Additionally, she creates work for local philanthropies that are given to help raise funds at charity auctions. 

Like Spanish wine, things seem to only get sweeter with age for Sancho Scherich. In late 2017, she nabbed two nominations from the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards for her showing of “World Peace” at Creighton earlier in the year. And if she has any say, that’s just the beginning of this piece’s journey. She hopes to market it to be shown in galleries across the Midwest, the nation, and eventually the world, all with the end goal of it finally being installed in the United Nations General Assembly.

“Her passion for this project is simply unmatched,” says Steve Scherich, her son. “Even me, after years of looking at these canvases, I’ll find things I hadn’t ever seen before. This really needs to be shared with others.”

At barely 5 feet tall, this petite painter packs a big heart and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Even after suffering a stroke two years ago and losing her husband, she says nothing will stop her from hunting down that next big idea.

“Art is something inside you that you need to express always,” Sancho Scherich says. “I can’t stop doing this and go to the Riviera anytime soon. I just need to find something to inspire me to create again.”

Saint Cecilia Cathedral’s Sunderland Gallery is hosting an exhibition of Alicia Sancho Scherich’s father’s work, A Lifetime of Painting by Mariano Sancho, through April 1. Visit cathedralartsproject.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Visual Narrator

September 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kristin Zahra says she knew from a young age that she wanted to work in film. “Maybe, 12 to 13ish? I remember really loving Pixar animation film shorts,” she says. “So I had a desire to do more of the 3D animation work.”

Despite her dad’s urging to go into engineering, Zahra attended College of Saint Mary and earned her bachelor’s degree in computer graphics.

“He was a civil engineer and also tried to get all my sisters to pursue that path,” she says. “He was one in four for that battle.”

After graduation, Zahra went on to Vancouver Film School, which she says was a great option for her.

Kristin Zahra

“Their program is unique in that it’s essentially a condensed version of traditional four-year film schools. It made a lot of sense to me, being able to invest one year solely to focusing on film, and I viewed it as an opportunity to really do something challenging and completely out of my comfort zone.”

While at film school, she studied 3D animation and visual effects, and kind of fell in love with the city and Canada.

“Vancouver’s film scene was really apparent when I was there, which heightened the experience in a lot of ways,” she says. “My two roommates were extras and had boyfriends that were stuntmen, one was a screenwriter—I’m guessing a lot like L.A. in that way.”

After film school, Zahra moved around the country—Chicago, Houston, New York City, Norfolk (yes, Nebraska)—but she ended up back in Omaha in 2011. She says she knew she would be “calling this home again for quite a while.”

Like most creatives, Zahra struggled when she first started working in the industry. Since she didn’t live in Los Angeles or a place more conducive to filmmaking, she was using her animation degree more in advertising and motion graphics than anything else.

“I realized there was something missing for me,” she says. “What drew me into film was just how alive I felt when I was able to tell stories.”

Over the last few years, she’s been trying to get back into that. She started reaching out to, and trying to work with, local filmmakers.

Which is how she ended up working with Shelly Hollis on his project, The Black O, a film about black crime in Omaha.

Strangely enough, the two happened to run into each other on the street. Zahra says they met one night at a falafel truck downtown. They started talking while waiting for their food and he told her he was in town visiting his family and filming a documentary.

“It piqued my interest and we got to talking more about the work I did and wanting to be involved in film here in Omaha,” she says. “I had been searching for people to collaborate with, especially on film projects that come from a sincere and honest place.”

Hollis’ background is rooted more in the documentary format, which Zahra says brought her back to some of that storytelling she was missing.

For his documentary, Hollis says they spoke with people in the black community—victims of gang violence, ex-gang members, and city council members—and asked them what they thought the issues were.

“We wanted to give the people their voice, to identify their own problems,” he says.

His passion for the project interested Zahra from the start.

“Shelly is that person, void of ego, and his intentions for the film had inspired me from our first conversation,” she says. She adds that working with Hollis, whom she describes as an “exceptional filmmaker,” has been an honor and he has reminded her not to underestimate her skills.

The admiration is mutual. Hollis says Zahra helped him out a lot with the film. “She’s awesome,” he says. “Just incredible.”

“So yeah,” Zahra says, “it seems we were meant to meet, being that we shared an interest in both film and a good falafel pita.”

While The Black O is in its editing process, Zahra still has to make her money. “I keep moving with my projects, that’s for sure.”

She says she continues to do a lot of animation designs that are strictly for income, but adds that she is currently working on a new passion project with a production/animation studio, Edison Creative.

“For me, the passion I have for filmmaking includes that feeling I get when I’m on a set collaborating with a crew or in a studio working on animation or post-production.”

She says this current project is more of a cartoon piece. “It’s got a lot of potential. I’m really excited for it.”

Visit kristinzahra.com for more information.

This article published in the September/October 2017 edition of Encounter magazine.

Vernetta Kosalka

January 20, 2017 by
Photography by Ani Luxe Photography

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Being trusted with the most important day of a couple’s life or executing the planning of companies event or non-profit’s gala is humbling,” says event planner & designer Vernetta Kosalka, who began her first business in 2007. “In 2013, I added floral design services, the brand, Florist of Omaha, specializing in wedding and event design.

“Also in 2013, I began working with a committee to plan the Omaha Police Officer’s Ball, which ignited my passion for planning and designing full-time. We work annually to raise funds benefiting Special Olympics Nebraska.”

She turned her attention to helping nonprofit and corporate groups.

“I want to have a legacy known for being a trusted source in the management of events and design, helping nonprofits reach their goals. Additionally, I want to be known for giving back to the Omaha community by helping women realize their potential and leadership.”

She has realigned her business and services, additionally offering corporate/nonprofit event planning and design services. All services are aligned under the name, “VK Events | Floral | Planning.”

“I know couples and companies have a choice, and I am so thankful they choose me and my services to assist them,” says Kosalka. “Our clients appreciate and need professional help to guide the planning process.”

“Nearing the end of my senior year at College of Saint Mary, I landed a job at one of Omaha’s largest full-service hotels as a catering administrative assistant, assisting one of Omaha’s leading and sought-after event professionals.”

She says her company is a one-stop shop for couples and clients. “I also pride myself in taking an active role with my nonprofit and corporate clients by being active on the committee and boards. Therefore I fully understand the goals and guide the planning process internally.”

Her service and attention to detail keep referrals coming. “I take the planning off your shoulders but not out of your hands. My couples and clients know I will work hard to anticipate needs, follow through on responsibilities and protect their interests.”

She is the first in her family to graduate from college. “A quote that stands out to me most is by Catherine McAuley, ‘No work is more productive of good to society than the careful education of women.’”

Kosalka holds a Master of Science in organizational leadership from the College of Saint Mary, She received the college’s Queen of Heart Award based on values, character, and service.

And that’s not all of her bragging rights. She has received the Wedding Wire Couple’s Choice Award annually for Event Planning and Floral Design. She is the recipient of the 2016 Volunteer of the Year for the Ralston Chamber of Commerce.

“Our design work is regionally published in Nebraska Wedding Day Magazine: home of award winning services—The Wedding Planner Omaha LLC & Florist of Omaha,” she says.

“As a child, I knew I wanted to own businesses and plan events. ‘Wow’ that’s a big picture for a 7 year old,” says Kosalka. “Many of America’s greatest businesses were started in homes with a dream and faith.”

801 S. 75th St.
Omaha, NE 68114
402.510.2241
vernettakosalka.com

 

The Nelson Mandela Way

January 20, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

North Omaha may be reversing five decades of capital resources leaving the community with little else but social services coming in. Emerging business, housing, and community projects are spearheading a revitalization, and a new school with promise in its name, Nelson Mandela Elementary, is part of this turnaround.

The free, private school in the former Blessed Sacrament church and school on North 30th Street blends old and new. An addition housing the library and cafeteria joins the original structures. The sanctuary is now a gym with stained glass windows. Vintage stone walls and decorative arches create Harry Potteresque features. South African flag-inspired color schemes and Nelson Mandela-themed murals abound.

NelsonMandelaSchool2

The school that started with kindergarten and first grade and will add a grade each year is the vision of Dianne Seeman Lozier. Her husband, Allan Lozier, heads the Lozier store fixture manufacturing company that operates major north Omaha facilities. The couple’s Lozier Foundation supports Omaha Public Schools’ programs.

Their support is personal. They raised two grandsons who struggled to read as children. The odyssey to find effective remedies led Dianne Lozier to new approaches, such as the Spalding Method used at Mandela.

Mandela sets itself apart, too, using Singapore math, playing jazz and classical background music, requiring students to study violin, holding recess every 90 minutes, and having parents agree to volunteer. Mandela “scholars” take College for Kids classes at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha campus.

NelsonMandelaSchool4

It’s all in response to the high-poverty area the school serves, where low test scores prevail and families can’t always provide the enrichment kids need.

Most Mandela students are from single-parent homes. Sharon Moore loves sending her son, Garrett, to “a new school with new ideas.” Eric and Stacy Rafferty welcome the research-based innovations their boy, William, enjoys and the opportunity to be as involved as they want at school. Moore and the Raffertys report their sons are thriving there.

“Parents are really getting into this groove of being here,” says Principal Susan Toohey. “It’s building a community here and a sense that we are all in this together.”

Community is also important to the Loziers.

“We’re just really connected here,” Dianne Lozier says. “Allan and I have really strong beliefs that the economic inequality in the country and north Omaha is a microcosm of a huge issue. It’s a fairness issue and a belief that, if we want it badly enough, we can make a difference.”

She and Toohey are banking that the school demonstrates its strategies work as core curriculum, not just intervention.

“I’m hoping by the end of the first school year here we’ll be able to compare students’ literacy against other places and show that children have developed stronger reading skills,” Lozier says. “Our longterm goal is that all kids will be grade-level proficient readers by the end of third grade.”

For Toohey, launching and leading a school in a high-needs district is appealing.

NelsonMandelaSchool3

“What an incredible opportunity,” she says. “Rarely do you get a chance to start a school from the ground up and pick everything that’s going to happen there and hire every person that’s going to work there. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but my heart has always been in urban education.”

In preparation for opening last August, she says, “I spent a year researching educational practices and curricula and developing relationships with people.” Her outreach forged partnerships with Metro, College of Saint Mary, the Omaha Conservatory of Music, The Big Garden, and others.

“We really want to be a model of what makes a school stronger, and I think having the community involved makes it stronger so it’s not working in isolation.”

Dianne Lozier, whose foundation funds the school with the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, is a frequent visitor.

NelsonMandelaSchool5“I help out with breakfast,” she explains. “I tie a lot of shoes. I get and give a lot of hugs.”

Lozier says her presence is meant to help “faculty and staff feel a little more supported—because this is hard. Every teacher and para-educator here, even the head of school, would say this is the hardest job they’ve ever had.”

Toohey says the difficulty stems from teaching a “very different curriculum” and “starting a culture from scratch. Families are getting to know us, we’re getting to know the families, and this is a really challenging population of kids. Many have not been in preschool programs that helped them moderate their behavior.”

Despite the challenges, Lozier says, “We have incredible families and kids.”

Drawing on the school’s inspirational namesake, each morning everyone recites “the Mandela mantra” of “Education is the most powerful weapon you can produce to change the world,” and “I will change the world with my hope, strength, service, unity, peace, and wisdom.”

“I hope all those things are what this community sees coming out of this school,” Toohey says, “and that our kids develop those qualities of grit and resilience so critical for success.”

Lozier adds that Mandela is a symbol of hope and opportunity.

“To accomplish the things we’re capable of,” she says, “we have to believe we can do that. It’s an opportunity to make improvements and get past impediments, to use internal strengths and be recognized for what you can bring.”

Visit nelsonmandelaelementary.org to learn more.

NelsonMandelaSchool1

Out of the Red

July 7, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in Summer 2015 B2B.

Nuns get a bad rap in Hollywood.

“The image is we’re fluffy and don’t have a brain in our head, like The Flying Nun,” says Maryanne Stevens, RSM, Ph.D., president of College of Saint Mary.

Yet nuns are CEOs at Catholic hospitals and small private colleges like the one she leads in Omaha.

No one would ever call Stevens fluffy. When she first arrived in 1996, College of Saint Mary was struggling financially. Now the school’s balance sheet shows no debt.

Stevens has business acumen, says Richard Jeffries, chairman of the college’s board of directors. “During the time Maryanne has been our president, she has put the college on a very sound financial footing,” says Jeffries, partner with Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather. “At one point the college had mortgaged its land and carried substantial debt. Today we’re debt-free and able to operate on the tuition revenue our enrollment generates.”

His co-chair, Kate Dodge, president of NEI Global Relocation, agrees: “Along with being a strong intellectual with a deep spiritual background, she brings an important business perspective to her position as president of CSM. Dr. Stevens is key in the critical fundraising for the university.”

Stevens’ first sight when walking on campus 18 years ago was a lawn made up of weeds. She saw the straggly lawn as a deterrent to enrollment. “Curb appeal is essential to attracting students.”

She realized campus buildings also needed attention when she walked into an office that had a broken window and no air conditioning.

Fast forward to 2015. Construction on a new residence hall for single mothers, a student commons, and two buildings have proceeded without debt collectors lurking at the college doors. Construction financing is all backed by pledges from donors.

Under Stevens’ leadership, innovative programs were developed, including a special residence hall allowing college-age single mothers to live with their children on campus.

“I got the idea in 2000 when a student living in the hall told me she was pregnant and didn’t know how she could finish her education unless she brought her infant to the residence hall,” says Stevens. “The first year, there were eight mothers with their children. Now there are 35.”

Stevens also launched Marie Curie science and math scholarships funded by the National Science Foundation for women and began an unusual online doctoral program for educators in the health professions.

A unique physician assistant program allows students to start as a college freshman and attend for five years. “That can save students a significant amount of money,” says Stevens. “One of my big concerns is how to make post-secondary education affordable.”

Stevens raises about $1 million a year to support scholarships and athletics in addition to capital fundraising. College of Saint Mary has solid support from women in the community.

“They see a college for women as a valuable resource for the community, “Stevens says. “People know there’s a number of first-generation college students who thrive in a small, rather than large, environment.”

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Stevens moved with her Air Force family from southern California to Omaha when she was a high school sophomore. As the oldest of eight children, her future as an educator was foreshadowed.

“We used to play homework after school, and I was the teacher for my younger brothers and sisters,” says Stevens.

She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1966 as Sister Maryanne after graduating from Mercy High School. After graduation from College Misericordia in Dallas, Pa., she taught high school math in Joplin, Mo. Stevens earned a master’s degree in theology from St. Louis University and a Ph.D. in religion and education from Boston College.

The college president taught theology at Creighton University for 10 years before joining College of Saint Mary.

Jeffries says Stevens is a tenacious fundraiser. “Thanks to her efforts, CSM is now in a position to deliver life-changing education to women well into the future.”

Stevens has great leadership skills, says Dodge. “I learn something from her at each committee or board meeting that I attend. Maryanne is a teacher, a philosopher, and a business woman. She is extraordinary.”

DrMaryanneStevens

Jay Noddle

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“When people are relying on you, you better be prepared to show up with suggestions and a solution and go the extra mile. Leadership is about how you do when things are tough, not when they are easy.”

Tough was the word for 2008, adds real estate developer Jay Noddle. “I was wondering if every decision I made would turn out to be wrong when the economy crashed. We were working in a time of change. Suddenly, there were no experts in our industry…No one to ask because business hadn’t faced extreme economic challenges like those.”

Commitments were met and business improved, says Noddle, who believes his strength is strategic planning.

“Leadership is about how you do when things are tough, not when they are easy.”

“We ask, ‘What do you believe you need? Why do you feel that way? What are the differences between your wants and needs?’ We’re focused on helping organizations think through those decisions and develop a vision and a strategy that will help achieve that vision.”

After returning to his hometown of Omaha in 1987 following 10 years in Denver where he attended college and worked, he founded Pacific Realty. The company turned into Grubb & Ellis/Pacific Realty in 1997 when it became an independent affiliate of the national company. In 2003, he succeeded his father, Harlan Noddle, as president and CEO of Noddle Companies. The company has been involved in 125 office and retail projects coast to coast.

“All we have is our reputation built on what we accomplished,” Noddle says. “We make sure we work within our capabilities.”

20121017_bs_0671-Edit copy

Think Big

Jay Noddle takes on the big jobs. The First National Tower that stretches 40 stories high. One Pacific Place. Gallup headquarters. But his most ambitious project sits in the middle of an historical Omaha neighborhood.

“Aksarben Village is probably as good of an example of collaboration and teamwork as I’ve seen in my career,” says Noddle. “City, county, state, university, neighborhood associations, and bankers came together and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”

The 70-acre property near 67th and Center streets had been transferred by Douglas County to the nonprofit Aksarben Future Trust for development. Noddle was selected as the developer.

Omahans have an affection for the area that goes back to 1921, when the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben moved its racetrack and colosseum there. The finish line of the racetrack is now the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott.

“Today, we have a vibrant, popular place woven into the community,” says Noddle, who looks out his office window and sees people walking, biking, and running.

The close vicinity of University of Nebraska-Omaha and College of Saint Mary encourages businesses to locate in the Village, he says. “The schools produce the workforce of the future.  Business and industry are always looking for the best and the brightest. Aksarben Village has opened a whole new world for UNO, which is aspiring to grow to 20,000 students by 2020.”

More development is underway in the Village.

  • Gordmans’ corporate offices will move into a new building near 67th and Frances streets during the first quarter of 2014. The retail chain is another example of why location near the university is a good match for business: Gordmans is active in the design of the UNO College of Business curriculum.
  • Courtyard by Marriott developers will open a Residence Inn in the Village in early 2014.
  • The first opportunity to own housing at Aksarben Village will happen in Summer 2014 at Residences in the Village.
  • More apartments—200—are joining the 400 already at the Village.
  • D.J.’s Dugout will have its own new building in March.
  • Waitt Company will relocate its headquarters to the newly built Aksarben Corporate Center, a joint venture with Waitt and the Noddle Companies.

20121017_bs_0653-Edit copy

Jay at Play

When you look at what Noddle has accomplished, you ask, “When does he have time for a life?” As it turns out, he makes plenty of time for family and fun.

His youngest, Aaron, 13, attends eighth grade. Sam, 19, attends the University of Miami.  Rebecca, 21, is studying social work at UNO.

“I’m a soccer dad. And I like to cook.” Noddle also enjoys golfing, scuba diving, and running and describes himself as “a big car guy.”

With a busier schedule, the Husker fan has had to subdue his Big Red fever. “I was a road warrior for the Huskers…Never missed a game, home or away.”

“When we work creating places and activities, whether a park or a ballpark, people will come out of their buildings and interact.”

His wife, Kim, started a new business this year—The Art Room in Rockbrook Village. The former District 66 art teacher offers classes and workshops. “It’s been a dream of hers as long as I’ve known her. She’s loving it,” says her proud husband.

Noddle joins volunteer organizations by looking for a connection to his interests.

He serves on the UNMC board of advisors and supports the Eppley Cancer Center (“My father had cancer”). He has been president-elect and president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha (“That is our culture”) and is a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Omaha by Design is a special interest. “People think of sustainability as a liberal thing. But it’s not just recycling and green buildings. Sustainability promotes healthy living…Promotes interaction between people. When we work creating places and activities, whether a park or a ballpark, people will come out of their buildings and interact.”

“We work around the country, and Omaha is a special place,” says Noddle. “Unless you get beyond our borders, you don’t realize that.”