Millard South High School student Kali Herbolsheimer immediately makes an impression on people. Confident, driven, and sure of what’s important to her, this young woman is all about making an impact.
“High achiever” also comes to mind. In addition to maintaining a 3.75 GPA, the high school senior and longtime dancer performs and competes with MSHS’ show choir. She’s made varsity all four years on the girls’ golf team, and also serves on student council. As a junior, she was elected student council state president, representing Nebraska on the national level. The position had her coordinating with state chapters across the U.S. to raise funds for Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“One of my high school advisers approached me about the position and encouraged me to go for it,” Kali said. “Giving opportunities to kids who have diseases that might not be able to travel because of their illness or money…standing up for them so they’d have a chance to go on life-changing trips…” It seemed important, she said.
Maybe most impressive is Kali’s dedication to Millard South’s Unified Sports programs, participating as a player and other times as a coach. Unified Sports bring together students with intellectual disabilities and students without on the same team, with the goal of fostering understanding and friendship between the two groups. The number of Unified programs at Omaha metro middle and high schools is growing, and Kali is leading the way at Millard South.
The past four years, she’s participated in Unified Basketball, Unified Bowling, Unified Cheer and Unified Volleyball.
“I also coached a middle school Unified Track team for a while, and this past summer I had a Unified Softball team,” Kali added. “A friend and I together coached a skills team, which didn’t compete but focused on catching and hitting and other parts of the game.”
The driven teenager lives with her parents, Jason and Sarah; twin brother, Kohl; and younger brother, Owen. Kali said spending time with close family friends with teenagers who had disabilities while growing up is how she first discovered her affinity for working with special needs children.
“Being around [these children] and seeing how much they’re capable of…I felt I wanted to spread the word throughout the community,” she said. “And I wanted to advocate for them.”
Kali has also spent some time in special education classrooms, serving as a special ed teacher’s aid while in middle school. These days, she enjoys dropping into MSHS teacher Leigh Beltzer’s classroom and watching her interact with special needs children. “Ms. Beltzer is one of my mentors and was one of my biggest influences in pursuing Unified Sports,” Kali said. Like Beltzer, Kali plans to become a secondary special education teacher and will study education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney beginning fall 2020.
Another mentor is friend Carly Renken. “Carly started a nonprofit youth music program in Omaha for kids with disabilities called Special Musicians,” Kali said. “They now have three locations in the state. She’s just one year older, but she’s really guided me and given me opportunities where I learned a lot.”
Kali said her busy schedule can get a little overwhelming. “I have to color coordinate everything on my calendar so I can keep organized,” she said. “And I’m up late at night, sometimes midnight, doing homework and up early for school a lot. Time management is what gets it done.”
She credits her family and close friends’ support for helping her stay motivated. “They’re all very supportive of everything I’m doing,” Kali said. “If I need it, they tell me to take a nap, and remind me I’m changing lives and impacting people in crazy ways.” That’s plenty to keep Kali going.
This article was printed in the 2019 Summer Camp Edition of Family Guide.