Tag Archives: Millard South High School

Madison Chizek’s Dancing Ambition

April 13, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Madison Chizek slips on her tap shoes, throws her light brown hair in a ponytail, and laughs at herself in the mirror.

“Ok, ready.”

Her mother, Dawn, pushes play. The song “Are You That Somebody?” fills the cold studio with warmth and energy. Or maybe it is Maddy’s moves. Her mint green and black shoes beat their own melody against the smooth vinyl floor. Maddy flips, flaps, and shuffles in dark leggings.

“The 30-second notes are like death, but I love it,” she says.

The words on her T-shirt are written backward so the reflection reads, “Get Out of the Mirror.” The saying is a reminder to be mindful and enjoy the moment.

This moment.

It shows when Maddy finishes, tired but exuberant.

Dance is her release.

“Whether overflowing with happiness or if I am just having a bad day, I can channel that into movements,” Maddy explains.

The 16-year old sophomore from Millard South High School runs through a contemporary routine next, this time barefoot, to “Unchained Melody.” She is past the point of embarrassment and will try anything thrown at her. Her body takes a beating whether it is bruises on her knees from spins, carpet burns, or blisters literally on top of blisters. Basically her feet are horrendous, but the teenager doesn’t let it stop her.

“Bruises are a sign of hard work, and scars are just cool,” Maddy says.

Her mother cheers her on from the sidelines, recording her performances. Dawn wanted her daughter to be physically active, so she enrolled her into dance classes when Maddy was just 3 years old. Maddy, though, crossed her arms and pouted in her pink tutu. 

“She hated it,” Dawn says laughing.

It was just too girly for a tomboy more interested in John Cena and skateboarding than pirouetting. Yet, Maddy continued attending Studio D and entering competitions. At 12, Maddy found her calling at Shockey Dance Co. in southwest Omaha. And workshops, such as Talent on Parade, drew the shy teenager into a world of opportunity. Maddy opened herself up to critiques, listening to tape after tape on ways to improve. Professionals and choreographers exposed her to intensive training at a young age. She met members from the reality television show So You Think You Can Dance, including tapper Gaby Diaz and hip-hopper Fik-Shun. She soon put in 20 hours a week or more, all with the intent of pushing herself to become better.

“It’s like a part-time job,” she jokes.

Maddy now wants to dance professionally.

Rachel Shockey—her contemporary, jazz, and musical theater coach—believes Maddy has a real shot at turning her dreams into reality.

“She is strong and determined,” Shockey says.

Maddy is versatile in many different forms, from ballet to tap to clogging and others. Her positive personality adds to the vibe in the studio where Maddy also teaches when she isn’t dancing.

Yet, it is a very competitive world. Maddy has to sometimes fight her way to the front. Luckily, she keeps getting noticed and pulled out. Her effort earned the attention of GoPro’s director Don Mirault. GoPro is an intense program, seven days in the summer, where dancers train, perform, and live like professionals.

Admission to the workshop is by invitation only—just 40 or 50 of the best from around the nation are selected. In October 2015, Maddy received the news she would be attending. But in December, Maddy complained about back pain, a sore throat, and a fever. She had a very extensive bout of mono. Her top grades plummeted since she could barely get through classes. Maddy just couldn’t function, let alone step on the dance floor. In practices, Maddy watched from the sidelines or marked (practicing the routines without full physical exertion). When her team went to nationals in St. Louis, she came down with strep throat, but still came in fourth place for her tap solo.   

Dawn had to make a difficult decision. She would not be sending her sick daughter to GoPro. Physically, she needed the recovery time, but mentally it took a toll.

“When I am angry or frustrated, I let it out when I dance. When I can’t do that, I get angrier and it feeds off itself,” Maddy explains.

Sitting on the sidelines gave her a new appreciation. Now, fully healed, Maddy has once again been invited not only to GoPro but to professionally choreograph Tokyo’s academy. And people can check her out at the Omaha Jazz and Tap Festival this summer.

Maddy does have fun whether hiking, playing board games, or hanging with her family. She squeezed time in last year to audition for the book Dance Across the USA. Jonathan Givens, formerly a master carpenter for the Oprah Winfrey Show, made it his mission to photograph dancers in all 50 states. Winfrey reminded Givens to photograph what he knew. The former performer and choreographer selected Maddy out of a pool of thousands to shoot stunning moves in gorgeous natural parks and settings.

His idea was to combine the beauty of dance with the beauty of America. Representing Nebraska, Maddie executed a contemporary jump in the cool waters of the Missouri National Recreational River and tapped on the Meridian Bridge.

But it isn’t about the trophies, books, or even the invites. Many times, Maddy will just listen to the music and let it move her.

“There is a genre of dance for every mood you are feeling. It is not a sport. Dance is an art. It’s what I love,” Maddy says.

Visit shockeydancecompany.com for more information about the dance company where Maddy Chizek performs and works.

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

Operation Christmas Child

September 24, 2013 by

Often, the effects of kind deeds go unseen. Who receives that donated coat? What food is purchased with that monetary donation? Whose life was impacted?

Breanna Burklund, 17, a student at Millard South High School, decided it was time to witness the good her work had done.

For the past 12 years, Burklund has volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization that follows the motto, “Go and do likewise.” More specifically, she has helped with Operation Christmas Child, one of the organization’s programs that aims to spread love to needy children around the world.

The heart of OCC is packing shoeboxes for boys and girls ages 2 to 10. Individuals, families, churches, and other groups in the U.S. and 10 other countries fill these shoeboxes to the brim with items that impoverished children may not be able to afford—toys, school supplies, hygienic items, and clothing. Then, the boxes are delivered to children across the globe.

“As a child, my family and I used to pack boxes,” Burklund says. “We then got our high-school youth involved.”

But Burklund got the opportunity of a lifetime this past July. She traveled to the Philippines to personally deliver shoeboxes to children.

Burklund started her distributions in the Philippines at People’s Missionaries Church and a public school, delivering packages to 400 children between the two locations.

“If everyone could pack twice the number of boxes they did last year, we could see a box in the hands of every child in need.” – Breanna Burklund

“I couldn’t believe how overjoyed all the kids were,” Burklund remembers. “I also noticed that they were very protective of their box. Most of the kids have never received a gift like this or had anything of their own, so even for us to try and play with them or see what they got was hard. They were very skeptical and wanted to make sure nobody was going to take [the box].”

As she delivered more and more boxes to boarding and public schools, she noticed that, while so many children were benefiting from the program, many others were being left out.

“How do you stand there and watch [the children] watch you give out boxes to only a select few, but turn way because there aren’t enough?” Burklund asks. “If everyone could pack twice the number of boxes they did last year, we could see a box in the hands of every child in need.”

Last year, Nebraska and the surrounding area sent 534,136 shoeboxes abroad. Burklund, as well as the Samaritan’s Purse Eastern Nebraska division, hope that number can be doubled by getting more people involved.

Still, even if every child were to receive a box, there is no guarantee of what each child would receive since the delivery is left up to chance (though Samaritan’s Purse has a helpful list of shoebox gift suggestions on their website). Burklund prays that each child receives what he or she truly needs.

“Two twin girls came up to receive their boxes, and they ended up getting separated in line,” Burklund recalls. “I didn’t really think much of it, but later, when I was playing with the kids, I came across them, and they both held up pictures of two twin girls that had packed their box from the U.S.—a jaw-dropping moment! That’s really when it hit me that this has to be God. How else would the two separated girls both get the twin boxes?”

Burklund’s trip piqued her interest in missionary work. She says she would love to do more missionary work, especially with children, and has her sights set on a trip next summer to an orphanage in China. For now, however, she will continue sending shoeboxes abroad.

“A lot of people get strung up on what to put in the boxes, but the real focus is on the message the kids receive. The gift is the bonus, but with it, a seed is planted.”

Shoeboxes will be collected during National Collection Week, Nov. 18-25. Locations for shoebox drop-off include Benson Baptist Church (6319 Maple St.), Westwood Church (13056 Atwood Ave.), First Lutheran Church (3200 E. Military), and First Baptist Church (206 E. 23rd Ave.). For more information about how to pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, visit samaritanspurse.org or call 660-744-4729.

Adam DeVine

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Avalon Management

In Workaholics, the Comedy Central sitcom hit about three roommates/co-workers at a California telemarketing firm, actor Adam DeVine plays an immature, self-absorbed, funny 20-something without any direction. In real life, the former Omahan and Millard South grad, now living in L.A., seems much more motivated and mature than his character, though he’s definitely still after the laughs. Humor has gotten him through some tough times, as well as helped him with “the ladies.”

Just before entering middle school in 1995, DeVine was hit by a cement truck at Harrison and 144th streets, suffering severe injuries. “[Recovery] was tough…But I found out that if I was funny, girls would push me in my wheelchair to my next class. BOSS MOVES,” he jokes.

Later, while attending high school at MSHS (“Go Patriots!”), DeVine struggled with rejection in sports. “I wasn’t crazy-athletic. I tried out for the basketball team every year [and didn’t make it.] By senior year, the coach told me not to bother. I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny,” he says.

So DeVine threw himself into school activities like drama and student council, which allowed him to express his humorous side. As his performance and comedy skills grew, so did his ambitions. His drama teacher, Robin Baker, was instrumental in convincing DeVine’s parents to let him follow his dream to move to California to pursue an entertainment career. “She didn’t blink an eye and told my mom that it was a great idea and that she thought I had the chops to make it,” he remembers. “And she’s always encouraged me to write my own stuff and create my own content. Big ups, Mrs. Baker!”

 “I found out early girls weren’t gonna like me for my athletic prowess, so I had to be funny.”

One of DeVine’s big breaks was a national TV commercial for Taco Bell. “I came back to Omaha while it was airing, and I thought I was a superstar,” he says, laughing. More recently, he landed a small supporting role in the box-office hit Pitch Perfect, which garnered him a new league of female fans. (DeVine has to be happy about that.)

Landing Workaholics, however, which has been picked up for two more seasons, has definitely been his biggest role to date. And DeVine feels very lucky for it.

“The creative freedom I have on Workaholics is amazing,” he says. “I want to keep writing my own stuff, and I’ve been told it’s really hard to have this kind of freedom.”

DeVine, who comes back to Nebraska regularly to see friends and family (and occasionally catch a Husker game and grab a Runza, he says), is currently at work on a stand-up comedy/sketch hybrid show called House Party, also for Comedy Central. He and fellow Workaholics actors have written a movie as well, for which comedic actor Seth Rogen has signed on as a producer. “I couldn’t be more psyched. Seth is a great guy to learn from because he’s about my age, and he’s been through it all.”

When asked if there’s any downside to a booming career and fame, he answers, “Finding time to have a life and not working all the time…It’s good to stop, kiss my girlfriend, and call my mom every once in a while.

“Oh, and fake friends…Ya know, the people who would never be friends with me in a million years are suddenly like ‘Bro! What are you doing tonight?’” to which he typically responds, “Nothing with you, dude…I won’t fit in with your crew…I don’t have a fedora or a bedazzled shirt.”

Per usual, DeVine goes for the laugh.