Tag Archives: Family Guide

Quick and Easy

December 8, 2017 by
Photography by Di Tendenza

This chili is a perfect chilly day recipe. Keep these ingredients on hand for busy days. No worry about thawing chicken for this recipe. Simply open a few cans, add some spices, and within 20 minutes serve a warm and hearty meal.

Ingredients

  • Two 15-oz. cans cannelloni bean (use liquid in the can)
  • One 15-oz. can chili beans (drain and rinse)
  • One 15-oz.can black beans (drain and rinse)
  • One 15-oz. can garbanzo beans (drain and rinse)
  • One 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • One 10-oz. can chicken breast chunks in water
  • One tablespoon chili powder
  • One teaspoon cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preparation

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine beans, diced tomatoes, spices, salt, and pepper, then mix in chicken breast chunks.

2. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat to low, and let cook 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Serve with crusty bread and a sprinkle of cheese, if desired.

Time: 20 Minutes
Serves: 6

This recipe was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Ally In

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Like many pre-teen girls, Ally Dworak loves animals. Unlike most 12 year olds, Ally doesn’t just think about animals. She raises them, studies them, and has made it her life’s mission to create a better world for her four-legged friends.

While most elementary school students are years from choosing a career path, this future veterinarian already comes with references. She understands that it is going to take a lot of schoolwork—specifically eight years of college—to reach that goal, but that doesn’t phase her.

“I love studying science and nature, I love animals, and I love meeting new people. Being a vet is just a way to combine all of these things I love,” she says.

The title “veterinarian” could cover anything from poodles to porpoises, and Ally loves them all. She fully understands that at some point, she’s going to have to narrow her field of study, and she’s thinking about going in a unique direction.

“I think I’d really like to learn more and maybe work with wolves. There’s a sanctuary in Colorado I’d really love to visit, and maybe study at,” Ally says. “They’re so pretty, and it’s so cool how they work in ranks. I like the way they work together. They’re kind of like us.”

She really loves dogs, which is not uncommon for a future vet. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2016, 65.5 percent of all private-practice vets were in companion-animal exclusive practices, and 61.2 percent of those vets were women.

But Ally’s pony, Buttercup, also needs care, and Ally might want to work with horses. Mom Shellee Dworak is helping her to figure this out.

“My mom is working to set things up for me to spend a day with a vet,” Ally says. “Dr. Michael Thomassen at Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic is going to let me come with him and learn what he does all day. He gives horses their vaccinations and checkups, makes sure they’re healthy before a family takes them in. He does everything and he’s really so great!”

She wanted to spend the day there last year, but Dr. Thomassen said she needed to be at least 12 before shadowing him. Most students shadow in high school. Shellee is also looking at the possibility of Ally shadowing at Ralston Vet Clinic, where the family takes their small animals.

In the meantime, the Elkhorn Grandview sixth grader has been pushing her animal care dreams along on her own. She has been a member of 4-H since starting Clover Kids at age 5, and has successfully raised, and shown, several animals.

“Last year I showed a sheep,” she says.

Actually, she didn’t just show a sheep. She won Reserve Champion Junior Sheep Lead. The champion was her sister, Kate.

This year, Ally pulled no punches. In addition to her schoolwork, family obligations, and maintaining her social calendar, she intensely prepared several animals for scrutiny.

“I showed a pig, a sheep, a goat, a chicken, and a horse. At the last minute, I decided to show my pet green-cheeked conure (small parrot), Sherbet. He won first place!”

As did her goat, chicken, and horse. It took many hours of care to prepare for the fair, including learning more about veterinary science. Aggie the pig got a hernia in June. Concerned about what to do for her ailing pig, she peppered their veterinarian, Dr. Lupin, with questions.

With the help of the veterinarian, and the future veterinarian, Aggie recovered well. He then placed a respectable third at the fair.

Ally brings out the winning spirit in her charges. Her tireless enthusiasm is as much a sight as the creatures she nurtures to award-winning health and status.

This future veterinarian is well on her way to nursing, as well as nurturing, animals.

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Urgent!

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It happens. A child who spent the day happily, healthily, playing with his friend wakes up at night with a fever of 102 degrees. When the child and family can’t get in to see the doctor, it is sometimes hard for them to know what to do.

In years past, the answer was the emergency room, a term synonymous with blaring sirens and fatally wounded patients. Today’s families have a number of health care options that serve as an alternative to the traditional emergency room.

Urgent care facilities have become one of the fastest growing areas in health care as the demand for more affordable care outside of regular business hours continues to rise.

“Today’s families are busier than ever and their lives don’t always fit into a doctor’s regular office hours,” says Matthew Gibson, M.D., pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic. “Immediate care clinics have become a more accessible and convenient solution for minor illnesses and injuries without the longer waits and bigger fees you typically have with an emergency room.”

Situations in which people might visit an immediate care clinic include minor illnesses like colds, fevers, flu, rashes, and mild infections. Many urgent and immediate care clinics can also perform X-rays, blood work, pregnancy tests, urinalysis, and strep screens, and apply casts, splints, and stitches.

According to surveys conducted by the Urgent Care Association of America, approximately 90 percent of urgent care visits take 60 minutes or less, while the average wait for an emergency room visit is four hours. The Urgent Care Association also reported in 2014 that nearly half of all visits to urgent care centers result in an average charge of less than $150—compared to the average cost of an emergency room visit, $1,354.

Urgent care clinics are typically open evenings after most doctor’s offices have closed, as well as on weekends and holidays. Unlike emergency rooms, they are not open 24/7. Some are stand-alone clinics, while most in the Omaha area are doctor’s offices during the day and transition to urgent care after hours.

Methodist has five urgent care clinics around town and Nebraska Medicine has four. They both bill visits the same as a regular doctor’s visit. 

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center offers three urgent care sites in Omaha and one in Council Bluffs that specialize in pediatric care, including pediatric sports injuries.

CHI Health operates six urgent care centers in six clinic locations and as well as 10 Quick Care Clinics inside area Hy-Vee stores in Omaha and Council Bluffs. These Quick Care clinics are convenient walk-in clinics that provide care for minor medical problems for patients 18 months or older. The clinics are open evenings and on weekends, with no appointment necessary.

A visit to an emergency room would be warranted for more serious problems such as shortness of breath; chest palpitations; difficulty speaking; sudden dizziness; numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg; chest pain; uncontrollable cough; severe abdominal or pelvic pain; fractures with bones showing; loss of consciousness; dehydration; or gunshot wounds.

“If it’s not life-threatening and you’re not sure what to do, call your doctor first,” says Dr. Gibson. “Most pediatric offices have an after-hours nurse line who can help direct you to the right place.”

Patrick Anderl, M.D., family practitioner at Nebraska Medicine, agrees. “I always recommend calling your doctor first since they know you and your history. If you can’t reach your doctor or get in to see him or her in a timely fashion and it’s an acute problem, then you should consider immediate care.”

Another care option offered by Methodist and CHI is telemedicine and virtual care. These services offer care around the clock via phone or video (such as Skype, FaceTime, or video chat). Patients who use virtual care are connected with a licensed health care provider who can help diagnose and make treatment recommendations for a variety of common conditions like colds, sinus symptoms, urinary tract infections, sore throat, pink eye, or a rash. Prescriptions can also be filled, when required.

Methodist offers this service for a flat fee of $39 per visit. CHI Health is offering the service for $10 with a credit card for a limited time.

“This is just another way to give families access to care after the urgent care clinic has closed,” says Gibson. “You may be a mother at home with other children in bed and leaving the house may not be an option. This allows you to talk to a health care provider about your child’s illness instead of having to wait until the next day. It’s all about making care more accessible and convenient.” FamilyGuide

Visit chihealth.com, bestcare.org, childrens-omaha.org, or nebraskamed.com for more information about the services mentioned in this article.

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

No Sick Days Allowed

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A badly congested and bleary-eyed man pokes his head through a door and intones, “Dave, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’ve got to take a sick day tomorrow.”

The recipient of the man’s pronouncement isn’t his boss, but a brown-eyed toddler standing in his crib with a quizzical look on his little face.

This TV commercial for a cold medicine elicits chuckles, but the underlying message is nothing to sneeze at: Moms and dads who care for their children can’t take days off.

As germs begin to outnumber snowflakes, take comfort. Several basic, commonsense, and proactive approaches to keep bugs at bay exist, as outlined by a medical doctor, a registered dietitian, and a mental health expert.

For The Body

Wash Your Hands

Good hand hygiene ranks No. 1 on the prevention list of Dr. Emily Hill Bowman, a physician at Boys Town Internal Medicine. That means frequently washing your hands with soap and water, or, in their absence, using a hand sanitizer.

“Contact with hands is a frequent cause of transmission for viral infections,” says Hill Bowman, and that includes touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Medical guidelines recommend a good scrubbing for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Cover Your Mouth

Viral illnesses can spread through respiratory secretions. “Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, then wash your hands,” cautions the internist.

Get a Flu Shot

Because influenza can lead to serious consequences, especially for younger children and the elderly, Hill Bowman recommends everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot to prevent the spread of the virus. ”Typically, the influenza vaccine is an inactive vaccine so it does not cause influenza,” reassures Hill Bowman, allaying concerns a flu shot might do more harm than good.

Take Vitamin D

Healthy habits make your immune system fight infection. That means eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. “But we don’t get enough vitamin D in our diet and we don’t get enough [vitamin D] from the sun after September, which is why vitamin D is always my starting point with people,” says registered dietician and exercise physiologist Rebecca Mohning, owner of Expert Nutrition in Omaha. “It boosts the immune system and it’s naturally occurring in mushrooms and egg yolks, but not in the amount we need on a daily basis.”

Eat Fiber

Mohning says fiber, particularly that found in oats, barley, and nuts, has protective compounds that boost the immune system.

Probiotics—the Friendly Bacteria

Those good live cultures found in yogurt or in the fermented milk drink kefir also boost your body’s ability to fight infection, as do fermented foods like sauerkraut. Not a fan? Take a probiotic supplement, says Mohning.

Drink Water

Getting enough water during the winter months can be more difficult because you may not feel as thirsty. But nothing beats water for flushing toxins from your body. Try drinking a 12-oz. mug of hot water with one teaspoon of lemon juice for a healthy way to warm up.

For The Mind

Does anyone in your family turn on all the lights in the house as soon as the sun makes an early exit during the winter? Seasonal affective disorder, also called the winter blues, affects about 15 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The depressive disorder can sap your energy and bring on moodiness. Treatment for SAD can include a light box and, in extreme cases, talking with a mental health practitioner.

Plan Activities and Stick to the Plan

Heading off the blues before they arrive can be as simple as marking a calendar, says Jennifer Harsh, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine for General Internal Medicine at UNMC. “If we know the cold weather season can be difficult for us mentally, we can plan ahead,” she says.

As a family therapist, Harsh believes strongly that keeping the mind and the body active can help your physical, emotional, and social well-being.

“Plan activities as a family or with a partner, whether they include games indoors or physical exercise elsewhere. Put them on a schedule or calendar and hold it with the same importance as you would hold going to work every day,” she says. “That way you act according to the schedule instead of according to your mood.”

Harsh says you can stave off emotional difficulties when you have something planned ahead of time that you value.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Maintaining good mental health should hold fast to the commonsense, basic, proactive approach that characterizes a healthy body discipline.

“Make your goals specific, attainable, and measureable,” says Harsh. “When you engage your family or a partner, you’re more likely to follow through.”

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

New Technology

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Dr. Manju Hapke finished medical school more than 40 years ago in India, the latest technology at her school was an X-ray machine.

Since then, the CHI Health Clinic physician completed residencies at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens and the University of Nebraska College of Medicine.

Hapke has worked in Omaha as a family medicine physician for more than 20 years. During that time, the doctor has seen lots of technological changes, especially in the field of diagnostics.

“We used to solely rely on a physical exam,” Hapke says. “That’s how we made our diagnoses. Now we have such good diagnoses thanks to scans and other diagnostics.”

Dr. Paul Paulman, a professor with the UNMC Department of Family Medicine and a primary care physician, agrees that diagnostics have come a long way, especially in the last five years.

“The radiologists and other imaging professionals have really improved imaging technology,” Paulman says. “Ultrasound is becoming bedside now.”

That is good news, especially in pediatrics. One common use of ultrasound in pediatrics is for appendicitis, which affects 70,000 children in the United States annually.

While ultrasound is leading the way in imaging technology, faster, more compact CT scans and MRIs may not be far behind.

“Pictures are getting sharper, so they can hone in on areas [of the body],” Paulman says. “It’s an area that is constantly improving as computers get faster.”

Ultimately, Hapke is most excited to see what direction diagnostics will take in the future. “I think at some point what will happen is that a patient will walk into a room with equipment and when they walk out we will have all sorts of details about their organs and how they’re functioning. It will be like a diagnostic walkthrough.”

Until that day comes, Hapke has found a technological way to enhance her patients’ care while eliminating some time on data entry.

“I was one of the first physicians who launched the use of Google Glass in Omaha,” Hapke says.

Google Glass is an electronic device that connects to the internet. When it appeared on the scene in 2013, the tech community initially touted it as the next great advancement. The high price point and imbedded camera ultimately resulted in few people using the device, but in July 2017, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that Google Glass 2.0 is coming—this time geared to specific professions, including medicine.

Around the same time as the first Google Glass arrived, regulations on electronic health records became stricter, causing doctors to spend more time on data entry and less time with patients. Hapke realized that by using Google Glass, she could look at her patients, not a computer screen, during a visit.

“There’s so much information the patient gives you with their expressions that you just don’t get through the words,” she says.

A child, especially, might mention having a “tummy ache,” but point at their lower right portion of the abdomen where the appendix resides.

Google Glass works in conjunction with a remote human scribe. The scribe can see and hear the doctor and patient. The doctor must verify and approve the notes that the scribe took during the visit; the notes do not become permanent until the doctor gives the OK.

The scribe can also deliver information to the doctor in real time during the patient visit.

“When you do it in real time, you get a lot more of the information down. When you depend on your memory, you will forget half of it. Google Glass enables me to get both information and cues from the patient,” she says.

According to Hapke, the other advantage is the patient can hear what she is telling the scribe. She asks the patient if he/she understands what’s being said, which helps encourage the patient to ask questions.

Hapke can also have her scribe look up information electronically in the patient’s chart. So if she wants to know the results of a particular test or procedure, the information is available immediately.

“It’s like I have an assistant with me all the time. Because we only have so much time to be with each patient, this helps me maximize my interactions. I can practice old-fashioned medicine with good bedside manner but at the same time have state-of-the-art results at my fingertips,” Hapke says.

She’s been using the technology for about two years and estimates it saves her about 20 hours a week.

Hapke finds keeping up with new procedures and technology easy, especially since she loves to read and admits to being fascinated with medicine.

“It’s not that hard to keep up in this day and age. I am more impressed with my forefathers and how they kept up with everything, and how they advanced medicine to where it is today,” she says. 

Visit chihealth.com for more information.

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Giving Kids 
a ‘Tech-Up’

October 22, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

It’s almost impossible these days to gain employment without some level of technical aptitude and proficiency.

Being able to apply that technical knowledge on-the-job will continue to be required of future high school graduates and subsequent workers to better compete in the 21st century.

And as the most “plugged-in” generation ever, students now and future are eager to learn and apply what they’ve learned in simulated and real-life situations every day.

“Whether they go to college or into a highly-skilled certificate program like manufacturing, transportation, or health care after high school, we want to make them as ready as possible to be successful,” says Ken Spellman, career education coordinator with Omaha Public Schools. “Technology is everywhere and involved with every job in some capacity. We want them prepared to step into any role with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.”

Through the OPS Career Education program, Spellman, along with certified nursing assistant instructor Tiffanie Wright, engage students to think beyond the classroom into future opportunities no matter if a four-year college education is in their future.

Because skilled labor positions require as much, if not more, specialized technological expertise, training and experience do not end with high school graduation.

If anything, they are just beginning, and OPS wants to make sure its students are on the right track when they do don their caps and gowns and pick up their diplomas.

“Technology is constantly changing, and while CNA job training still tends to be heavily on the physical side (lifting, cleaning, etc.), as a prelude to a career in nursing or health care, being able to use the machines and software needed for patient care is equally, if not more, important,” Wright says.

“Six of the local colleges we work with require CNA certification as a stepping stone to get into nursing. CNAs and nurses are in incredibly high demand, so we want to make sure when our students graduate, they are prepared not only for their current roles but future opportunities.”

Similarly, the Westside School District empowers its students at all levels through its Center for Advanced Professional Studies, with its four strands funded by a Youth Career Connect Grant.

Using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as a basis, the four strands include architecture, health science, emerging technology, and business solutions. 

Dawn Nizzi, director of Westside’s CAPS, says the program not only prepares students for future technology in the workplace, but also encourages them to think and connect beyond the actual software and devices that they have had in their lives since they were little.

“We want them to realize that technology isn’t a guy in a basement surrounded by computers and monitors; we want them to realize that technology connects people from all professions and walks of life,” she says. “We don’t silo our students. It’s important that they know how to work and communicate together.

“We want them to leave with vision, and the ability to think critically and collaboratively. Part of being a CAPS is to instill an entrepreneurial mindset—to think innovatively. It’s bigger than just the application.”

Last year, a group of Westside students went to St. Louis to experience and observe a Hackathon, where teams from various schools come together to solve technology problems.

Not only did it put their technological skills to the test, but it also stretched their leadership and critical thinking capabilities. Students decided they would like to host something similar among Omaha’s school districts in the future.

In the Millard Public Schools, students are taught technological competencies at very young ages —starting in the elementary school years—with each step building toward making them more accomplished and ready once they reach high school.

Using One-to-One deployment (in which every student gets a computer for their personal and school use) the Millard Educational Program helps students meet the college and career readiness skills of citizenship, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity to better compete in the 21st century. By using technology, teachers will transform the way students learn by augmenting, modifying, and redefining instruction.

Whatever these future students’ career paths may take as they mature and learn, they will be prepared to not only use technology as it evolves but also work together, whether locally or internationally, to advance that technology even further.

“It’s not so much about the tools as much as it is about seeing students learn through enhanced teaching so they are prepared for the future,” says Ken Kingston Ed.D., Millard School District executive director of technology “We set out on a plan more than four years ago as part of our strategic planning process to enhance teaching and learning. Part of that process is providing choices for teachers and students and making sure they think and act creatively and critically, and can work with one another.”

Bottom line for all school districts in Metro Omaha is that students are more prepared than ever for their future pursuits—no matter what career path they take.

“We’re not only preparing our students, but we’re also preparing our teachers so they can give students the best guidance and instruction,” says Curtis Case Ed.D. Millard Public Schools director of digital learning “Not all teaching is about technology. We leave it up to our teachers to use as much as they want in their instruction. But we make sure that they understand how to use technology to best prepare students to use it as well.”

This article was printed in the Fall 2017 edition of Family Guide.

(from left) Curtis Case, Ed.D, & Kent Kingston, Ed.D

From Quill to 
Keyboard

October 8, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the word “cursive” comes from the Latin “currere,” meaning “to run.” The humble beginnings of this elegant script trace back to the use of the quill, which was easily broken and slow to use. Cursive was created to save time. The dynamic technological world of today is far removed from quills and ink, and computers can accomplish the same task—and more—in a shorter amount of time.

2014 Archdiocese of Omaha Educator of the Year award recipient Mary Holtmeyer enforces cursive writing in her fourth-grade classroom: “I have heard and read about both sides,” she says about the debate over whether or not to include cursive handwriting in a curriculum.

“Until someone can show us that cursive has no value, or is detrimental to our students, I think we will still use it. There is something to be said about the discipline it takes to learn; kids need that.” At St Pius X/St. Leo School, cursive is taught in third grade and enforced throughout elementary school.

Cursive writing appears to be a dying art. The Common Core Standards, which have been adopted by 42 states since their inception in 2010, eliminated handwriting in favor of keyboarding.

According to several studies, including those by UCLA and Princeton Universities, paraphrasing and reprocessing lecture information into one’s own words on paper allows the student to understand concepts more completely than typing the same words on a computer screen.

“Handwriting is tactile,” Holtmeyer re-affirms, “it uses parts of the brain that typing does not, and cursive, specifically, keeps students with dyslexia and dysgraphia from mixing up their letters.”

According to an article from Psychology Today, handwriting is linked to activating the vertical occipital fasciculus section of the brain. These portions of the brain are not activated while typing or texting.

Holtmeyer didn’t want to downplay the importance of technology in teaching. She emphasizes her dedication to helping students become well-rounded and capable people who are ready for the future.

“Academia is leaning toward technology. I’d like to hang on to kids thinking more critically instead of jumping straight to Google. I want them to be ready for their future, and I want them to be independent, critical thinkers that stand on their own two feet.”

A teacher of 25 years, Holtmeyer has evolved her teaching style to reflect the world her students experience. She does a lot with technology in her classroom, including her own use of Smart Boards, document cameras, and various other tools. She involves her students via the use of  Twitter (tweeting is one of the “classroom jobs” she assigns) and other projects. “They like [technology],” she says, “but I think it takes away a little bit of the individualism.”

Handwriting is like a fingerprint, each person has their own unique style that is never replicated exactly. “[Cursive] is a very personal thing. We encourage that.” 

This article was printed in the Fall 2017 edition of Family Guide.

Saving For College

October 1, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

Breathe. College can be paid for, and help is available.

When it comes to planning for college, “It’s definitely never too early,” says Joan Jurek, director of college planning for the Omaha office of EducationQuest, a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to improve access to higher education in Nebraska. “Families should start saving as much as they can for college when their child is young.”

For some families, planning for future college expenses may begin as soon as a child is born. This is the optimum time, as putting away $100 per month when a child is less than 1 year old could result in $20,000-$30,000, average, by age 18, depending on the plan.

The myriad possibilities include Coverdell education savings accounts (CESAs), IRAs, custodial accounts, and various investments like savings bonds, mutual funds, money market accounts, and CDs. Professional financial planners and advisers can present the pros and cons for each option. Ample information is also available online.

A 529 Plan is a simple option designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs, says Deborah Goodkin, managing director of savings plans with First National Bank of Omaha. First National Bank is Nebraska’s Educational Savings Trust (NEST) 529 program manager.

On the other hand, not every family can afford to start a college savings plan when their child is born. “It’s also never too late,” Jurek says.

“There’s no wrong time to start; just start when you can,” Goodkin says, adding that not only can any family member start a plan for a child, the NEST system also makes it possible to invite other family members to contribute.

“Whoever opens up the plan is saving for a child’s dream,” she says. “Statistics have shown that kids who know that there is a college account set up in their name are more likely to do well in school and do well in college. You’re setting the expectation for your family member to go to college and do well and think about their career.”

Parents can start saving for college, but at some point, the student will need to become involved in the planning process. This ideally starts in eighth grade, Jurek says.

“This will give them time to make sure the student takes coursework throughout high school to ensure college admission, explore career interests, and research colleges that fit those interests,” she explains. Families can then begin to more specifically assess costs associated with their student’s institutions of interest against available funds.

“The junior year is especially important, as that is when students should narrow their college choices and understand financial aid options. They can do this by attending a financial aid program, going on campus visits, and attending college fairs,” Jurek says. “This will prepare them to apply for college and federal financial aid early in the fall of their senior year.”

One thing parents should not bank on—college scholarships, especially sports scholarships. Only about 2 percent of students receive a full-ride Division I sports scholarship. Further, those full-ride scholarships are only available to boys in men’s football and basketball, and to girls in women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, and tennis. Got a young Alex Gordon? Don’t expect a scholarship to cover the costs of college. That’s because in baseball, like many sports, the team’s available scholarships can be broken into smaller portions, so the “15 available scholarships” may become 20, or even 30, smaller scholarships.

Likewise, be cautious of expecting renewable merit scholarships to finance a student’s entire college career. In some states, as many as half of the B-average students who receive merit scholarships as freshman drop below the acceptable GPA for a merit scholarship by the renewal period for their sophomore year.

Which brings up finanicial aid. Jurek explains that some forms of federal financial aid are need-based, including grants, work-study programs, certain scholarships, and subsidized student loans. Online tools to estimate financial need are available to anyone on EducationQuest.org, but for students to be considered for federal financial aid, they must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.gov.

“‘I can’t afford it’ is a common misconception,” Jurek says. “There are ways to make college affordable including applying for financial aid and scholarships, starting at a less expensive community college, or living at home while going to college.”

Post-secondary education also doesn’t have to begin right out of high school. Adults can start their own 529 Plan, Goodkin says. There is no maximum starting age for college if life circumstances force delays, or if a young person wants to work for a year or two and put away money.

Whether or not a college savings plan is in place early on, the later process of researching college options, finding scholarship resources, learning about financial aid, and completing college applications and the FAFSA can still be daunting.

“Families who are worried about the college planning process—or don’t think college is possible—should be aware that free help is available,” Jurek says.


Alternatives to four-year degree programs

A common theory at this time is “I need a four-year degree!” Do you? Maybe not. In some fields, work experience counts more than a piece of sheepskin. Enjoy working in restaurants? A person could start working right away and work their way up. Many chefs do this, taking jobs as dishwashers or servers and moving through the ranks as they prove themselves.

“In certain areas you can actually earn more than a person who completes a four-year degree, and come out (of college) with no debt or less debt,” says Metropolitan Community College (MCC) Career Services Manager Monique Cribbs.

Others choose career paths that may or may not include some education from a community college:

  • Earning an associate’s degree
  • Earning a certificate of achievement for expanded coursework in a specific area
  • Taking noncredit courses, which can expand a person’s knowledge of one subject
  • Enlisting in military service, which provides career education and paid experience
  • Joining a trade, such as International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which allows men and women to “earn as you learn”

A community college also offers core classes at a lower tuition rate.

“Community college is not a second choice or a consolation prize. It’s a valuable option for any person going back and increasing their knowledge or continuing their education,” says Cribbs.

This article was printed in the Fall 2017 edition of Family Guide.

Deborah Goodkin

A Return to
 the Classics

September 25, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

Keyboarding. Computer skills. Microsoft Office. These classes were required of elementary and middle school students 15-20 years ago. Now, there’s typing in elementary school?

Those courses signify just how rapidly digital technology changes, and consequently, how much digital tech impacts the economy and the education system preparing students for careers.

Current and future professionals face some unique challenges in the workforce because of these rapid changes. A recently published PEW Research Center article revealed that 87 percent of workers believe they’ll need further training and have to learn new job skills to keep up with the dynamic demands of technology. The article indicated that some of the most important assets professionals need include creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking.

Multiple schools—at least three in the last two years—have cropped up in Omaha that are able to address these concerns in a unique way. How do they prepare students for an economic landscape that has changed drastically in the last 30 years and shows no signs of slowing down? Not by being cutting edge, but by playing the long game—employing a classical model of education that’s roughly 2,500 years old.

Sara Breetzke, formerly a high school English teacher in Elkhorn, is now the head of school at Trinity Classical Academy, a collaborative, Christian, classical school beginning its second year this fall. Classical education, she explains, is “about teaching kids to enjoy learning and to know how to learn for themselves.”

Classical schooling is made up of three distinct stages of learning that mirror the development of a child. It’s known as the “trivium.” The grammar stage (first through fourth grades), when children are considered “information sponges,” involves memorizing facts and information; the logic stage (fifth through eighth grades), when kids are consumed with “why?”, involves organizing those learned facts in logical ways; the rhetoric stage (ninth through 12th grades), when adolescents want to express themselves, involves critical thinking and persuasion.

Brandon Harvey, newly-appointed headmaster of the two-year-old Chesterton Academy, highlights the importance of the “unity between the content and the method” for learning well. “The goal,” he says, “is that [students] encounter truth, goodness, and beauty.”

Another distinction is the focus on virtue as a fundamental feature of education. A primary goal of the classical education is to create, in Harvey’s terms, “[People] of virtue [who] strive to not just know the truth but to imitate goodness.”

Trinity Classical Academy and Chesterton Academy are Christian schools, though the classical education method began in ancient Greece and Rome and need not necessarily be Christian. Through a variety of sources, classical schooling immerses students at a very early age in great works—from Aristotle to Augustine, Charlotte Bronte to Dorothy Day, Frederick Douglass to Charles Darwin.

Breetzke succinctly summarizes the philosophy behind immersion: “You can’t be creative until you’ve seen people be creative.” While rewarding, this is an extended endeavor—a pilgrimage of learning.

Whereas prevailing models of education assume content should be engaging and fun for students now, and tends toward mass production by teaching to a test, classical schooling assumes content will be engaging and fun once students are good learners, and tends towards character development. So, says Breetzke, “You’re not going to see much standardized testing.”

When it comes to tests like the SAT and ACT, Harvey explains, “Classical schools don’t really focus on standardized tests, and in doing so they actually surpass most other schools [in test scores].” Student success is due in part because the curriculum for each course intentionally integrates with others. Subjects are not treated like cities on a map, unique yet connected. The facts of science relate to the events of history, which are linked to the literature of the time. This method creates curious, critical thinkers. Therefore, Harvey points out, “Classical education is not just for the intellectual elite.”

So how does the classical model prepare students for a tech-heavy business world? By changing that very question. The goal isn’t to prepare students for a type of economy (technological or otherwise), but to create virtuous humans who know how to learn and can take responsibility for themselves and the world around them. Breetzke explains: “Career prep looks different. It’s not skills. It’s character…Skills are much more easily learned than character…We are giving kids resources and riches to draw on that can reinvigorate a tech-heavy business world.”

The wisdom instilled by the millennia-old trivium prepares students for the ever-changing digital-tech economy. Through it, students become people who can discern truth, imitate goodness, and enjoy beauty. While not the skills-based learning most people are used to, classical education instills qualities that a digital economy still needs.

This article was printed in the Fall 2017 edition of Family Guide.

Great Returns

September 18, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

Annika  and Stephen   George have called many exciting places home—locales like Melbourne, London, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York City—but, when it came time for them and their four children to put down roots, Omaha was the prime destination on their minds.

“Omaha has all that one needs, but without the challenges of most American cities—traffic, cost, lack of community and transient nature of culture, crime, crowds,” Stephen says.

Stephen and his wife, Annika, live at West Shores Lake in Waterloo, Nebraska, but it was the greater Omaha area that drew the Nebraska natives back when they decided to relocate their family from the San Francisco area to Omaha in 2010.   

Columbus native Stephen, and Annika, originally from Fremont, knew each other peripherally for years before being set up in summer 2007 by a family member of Stephen’s who was friends with Annika. Before long, Annika and her two daughters, Kyra, now 15, and Briley, now 12, relocated to California to join Stephen, who’d resided in the Bay Area since 1995. The couple married in 2008 and soon welcomed another child, Rafe, now 8. Annika was pregnant with their son Vail, now 6, during the family’s move back to Nebraska. The family also includes Stephen’s adult daughter, Spencer, who attends Barnard College in New York City.

A stronger support network and solid educational opportunities for the kids topped Annika’s list of reasons for wanting to return to Nebraska. 

“I’m very close with my family. My parents live in Fremont; in fact, they’re moving into a house that’s being built right over there,” Annika says, pointing at the nearby construction project through a large picture window which nicely frames a scenic view of the shimmering lake.

Annika credits her mother, Sheryl Bergstrom, for helping provide the kind of family support she so craved when the Georges lived in California. During the school year, Bergstrom comes over every morning to help get the kids up, dressed, and ready for school, and she also helps cart the kids to various after-school endeavors.    

“Kyra is involved in theater, speech, all things high school; Briley is a competitive soccer player; and the boys are involved in Cub Scouts, soccer, basketball, and tennis,” says Annika. “My mom is a saint for all the help she gives.”

As for providing solid educational opportunities for the kids, the Georges were discouraged by the state of schools in California. This was evident when they began looking into preschools for Briley.

“When we first arrived in California, Briley needed to enroll in preschool. I reached out to as many places as I could, and each one said there was no possibility she’d get in, or even get on the waitlist in some cases, because everything was so full,” Annika says.

A few months later, Briley lucked into a spot at Kirk House Preschool (part of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church), because it had one slot available for a girl. Briley jumped ahead of several boys to grab this chance.

This wasn’t the only discouraging factor. Annika and Stephen found the schools in California overcrowded and understaffed, with routine facility maintenance suffering, and arts and language programs buckling under budget cuts.

When it came time to move back, the family learned to look for schools early. Stephen, in fact, traveled to Omaha ahead of the move to scout schools. “We were looking for the best education opportunity for our children in Omaha,” Stephen says. The parents enrolled their young scholars at Brownell Talbot, where there was no waitlist, but the kids had to, and did, pass entrance exams.

Annika and Stephen agree they’ve found an optimum educational fit.

“You have to be an advocate for your kids,” says Annika, who stresses that she encountered great, well-meaning teachers in California, but they were simply overburdened and thus ill-equipped to provide a nuanced, well-rounded education for their children. “At Brownell, the teachers are also great advocates for them. They see the kids’ needs and gifts, and are there to support them.”

“We found Brownell Talbot to be on par with the best private schools in places I had lived, such as NYC, London, and San Francisco, but much more accessible for families,” Stephen says. “The school has a wonderful campus, excellent academic, artistic, and sports programs, caring and superb professionals, and a top-notch college placement program—all of which help position our children to be the best they can as they grow up and head to college.” 

With a strong support system and the kids receiving a stellar education, Annika and Stephen are quite pleased with their decision to return to Nebraska.

“Omaha is a ‘big little town’ where families can focus on their careers and be active in their kids’ lives, plus it has unending resources—sports, community, academic—to help families to thrive,” says Stephen, founder of Omaha-based private equity investment firm Panorama Point Partners.

“Nebraska is truly a hidden gem,” Annika says. “People who haven’t lived elsewhere may not realize all that they have here—especially for family life.”

This article was printed in the Fall 2017 edition of Family Guide.

(from left) Rafe, 8; Vail, 6; Kyra, 15; Briley, 12