September 26, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

October is one of my favorite months of the year. It’s the month I tackle gothic literature—from Wilkie Collins’ Woman in White to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre—and curl up on the couch with movies ranging from the Harry Potter series to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Each of these books (all of which I can call favorites) are often taught in schools, and this issue is all about schools, and education. Our cover story is about rocket scientist Scott Macklin, who interned at Elon Musk’s SpaceX while attending University of Southern California and has since worked at Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. He tells Omaha Magazine his story of working in a STEM-related field.

STEM is a hot topic for many parents and students, as it can lead to a high-paid career. In the case of Emma Carlson, an interest in STEM is leading to a career most may never have heard of: bioinformatics.

I Love Public Schools’ is the topic of another feature. This initiative, underwritten by the Sherwood Foundation, has produced amazing videos such as The Mind Inside, an in-depth look at teenage depression. They started by working on smaller videos such as teacher spotlights, and have advanced as the project has grown. This great story tells how powerful storytelling can be.

We also bring you a great feature on Westside’s Sparkles Cheerleading team. This special cheerleading team is a part of the Sparkle Effect, an organization created to bring inclusiveness to a sport that many young people dream of participating in.

This is a big year for America—it is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the moon landing, and many other Baby Boomer icons. It is also the 50th anniversary of KIOS-FM, Omaha’s local National Public Radio station. In fact, KIOS-FM was a charter member of NPR, which incorporated in 1970. I grew up listening to NPR, and these days, I frequently listen to KIOS in my car.

In keeping with the education theme, we have profiles of two educators. Gross Catholic assistant principal and athletic director Mike Dempsey was named Archdiocese Educator of the Year on Sept. 12. My friend Dr. Michael Ashton, superintendent at Archdiocese Schools, speaks glowingly of Dempsey, and we learn why in this issue. Joseph Baker is an auto collision instructor at Metropolitan Community College, which he says is one of the top collision schools in the United States. Baker started working with cars at age 15 and hasn’t stopped since.

Two noted Omaha men are working hard to educate kids about their passions. MMA fighter Houston Alexander has created the Houston Alexander Foundation to teach kids about hip-hop culture, while community activist Preston Love Jr. has founded Black Votes Matter, an initiative to teach students, especially those in his native North Omaha, about the power,
and responsibility, of voting.

Our Sixty-Plus section features UNO Professor Chris Allen, who travels with his students to places such as England and Oman. Chris and I have been friends for several years, and I enjoy hearing about his travels to such exotic locals as Pakistan and Oman, because it is such a passion for him.

Do Space in midtown Omaha is a favorite place for a particular group of seniors to gather each week. They are called Cyberseniors, and while this seems like a group of bionic people (or perhaps I have been watching too much Star Trek), it is actually a group of volunteers who meet each week to help other seniors with technical problems.

Reading, you may realize, is a favorite hobby of mine, and the library is a favorite place. It is also a favorite place of Polly and Joe Goecke, who volunteer with Friends of the Public Library. They help with the organization’s book sales, and Joe, especially, helps generate money for the library by selling books online.

With fall comes illness, and this issue brings you information about a terrible illness called shingles. Contributing editor Gwen Lemke tells you her sister’s story with this disease in her letter, and we bring you an article about the shingles vaccination.

Our arts also revolve around education. Raydell Cordell is the site director at the after-school program at Loveland Elementary. Emily Brush is the project director for Making Invisible Histories Visible. And drummer Eden Corbitt is involved with Omaha Girls Rock as well as Girls Make Noise at Love’s Jazz and Art Center

Then there’s the food. Three former interns from three separate colleges here in Omaha tell the magazine their favorite places to eat cheaply in the area. These kids know how to eat dishes other than ramen—sushi and Thai food showed up on at least two lists.

At Westside Schools, nutrition director Erin Vik is dedicated to providing healthy food to students, and he has expanded Westside’s food program to reflect this dedication.

I myself learned a lot about the origins of food in the article I wrote. Jenny Nguyen hails from California, and grew up riding horses and kayaking. Her husband Rick Wheatley grew up in California but traveled to Nebraska frequently as his family lived here. These days, the couple are passionate about a sport that is less traditional in California—hunting. They have even written a cookbook about their adventures in cooking wild game.

Did I mention that October is one of my favorite months? Yes, I love reading books and watching gothic-inspired movies, but there are other reasons why I love this month—one of them being Halloween. We could not let this October issue go to press without talking about this beloved holiday. Our Obviously Omaha this month brings you the best places to trick-or-treat.

Whether reading a Bronte novel for the 10th time or eating piles of candy, there is one book quote that sums up this month for me: “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
-L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.


This letter was printed in the October 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.