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Johnson resigns from city council

Schuyler City Council member David Johnson submitted his resignation last week.

Johnson, who has served on the council since 2011, is resigning because he and his family moved to Lake Soccoro, which is outside city limits.

“I wish I didn’t have to (resign), but I understand the rules,” he said.

The resignation was expected to be approved at Tuesday night's council meeting.

Johnson, who is originally from Galva, Iowa, moved here 13 years ago for his manager position at Nor-Am Cold Storage. He’s been involved with the community since then.

“It's a nice community, it’s a proactive community,” he said. “We’re trying to make things better for everyone.”

As a council member, Johnson was asked to head the Schuyler Park Campground restroom project. He’s also been active on the parks and public safety committees.

“I like the challenges, the fact that I see growth,” he said. “We’ve made great progress in the last 10 years I’ve been involved in the community.”

“He was a good leader on the city council,” said Mayor David Reinecke.

The mayor said one of Johnson’s strengths is his willingness to disagree and debate issues.

“He was never afraid to speak his mind on the issue,” said Reinecke. “Sometimes he was in the minority, but he offered good insight to everybody.”

A recent example came during the debate over whether the Schuyler Police Department sergeant should be required to live within 2 miles of the community. Johnson took a strong stand in favor of maintaining the residency requirement, which was eventually waived for the position.

“It’s probably part of my personality, but honestly that’s part of what a city councilman’s job is,” said Johnson. “We don’t all want to be yes-people. We need to put ideas out and come up with the best solutions for the best results for our community.”

Although he will no longer be on the city council, Johnson said he plans to remain involved in the community. He also serves as a volunteer firefighter with Schuyler Fire and Rescue and with the Schuyler Legion Baseball Association.

“I look forward to being active in the community in other ways,” he said.

Reinecke said he will announce his nominee to fill the open city council seat at the June 6 meeting.

Schuyler graduation brings cheers, tears

Schuyler Central High School's graduation ceremony was a mix of tears and celebration.

Students were proud to reach the milestone while also displaying sadness that came with saying goodbye to friends, teachers and classmates.

Senior Class President Jesica Hernandez had to pause during her speech at Sunday's commencement when she started tearing up while talking about how much her classmates and friends impacted her high school experience.

Roxana Gurrola also shed some tears as she hugged friends outside the school following the ceremony.

"They're juniors and I'm going to leave them and won't be able to see them as often," she said.

Much of Sunday's ceremony focused on pointing the graduates toward their futures.

Schuyler Community Schools Foundation President Brian Vavricek noted that this year's Distinguished Alumni honorees were the youngest and oldest and first woman and Latino to be recognized.

The honorees were:

• Chris Langemeier, a former state senator who was elected in 2004 and 2008 and continues to live in Schuyler while working as a real estate broker and appraiser.

• Cristobal Salinas Jr., Ph.D., who graduated in 2005 and became an educator and nationally recognized education researcher.

• James and Delores Sindelar from the Classes of 1940 and 1943, respectively. The couple currently resides in Colorado but made significant donations to construct the new Schuyler Public Library.

Vavricek held up the alumni as examples of what this year's 111 graduates can accomplish.

"I pray you will use the skills and talents you have to improve the lives of those around you," he said.

Out of the 111 seniors, 16 graduated with honors (3.5 to 3.849 GPA), six with distinction (3.85 to 3.99 GPA) and one with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

After receiving their diplomas and walking out the gymnasium doors, many were celebrating.

"I'm very happy," said Nathan Kutalu. "I'm blessed to finish high school."

Some felt a mixture of emotions.

"I can't wait to live that college experience," said Candido Morales. "It's going to be sad not coming back and seeing my friends, but I'm sure we'll keep in touch."

Christian Lara was just enjoying the moment.

"I'm excited. We just got our spanking-good diploma and I'm looking fresh," he said. "It's a good day."

SCHS graduates find their passions in classroom

For outsiders, Schuyler Central High School graduate Stephany Corona may have stuck out in her classes.

“I get that a lot, 'Oh, you're the only girl in construction. How is that?'" said Corona.

But to her classmates, she was just another student.

“I feel like I fit in with my classmates,” she said. “We're all learning the same stuff in that class and it’s not like, 'Oh, you're a girl.' They don't treat me differently.”

Corona said she probably got her interest in making things from her mother.

“My mom has always been a hands-on person,” she said. “She always has her projects.”

And she gets a lot of satisfaction from construction projects.

“It’s working with my hands and seeing the finished product," she said.

Corona was one of the participants in last year’s Women in Construction camp led by SCHS instructor Mark Wemhoff. She said it was different working with a group of female students.

“We were a lot more perfectionist with the girls, so we took our time to make every detail perfect,” she said. “And there was a lot more talking when it was girls. It was good.”

Wemhoff encouraged her to sign up for the construction class, where she built a house with other SCHS students.

“I told her building a house would give her on-site experience to understand what contractors have to do,” said Wemhoff.

He was right.

“I learned a lot in that class,” said Corona.

It was a natural next step in her education and a project she took very seriously.

“Somebody’s actually going to live in that house so we have to make everything perfect and make sure nothing falls down and make sure it’s all sturdy,” she said. “So it was a lot more nerve-racking to build it, but it was fun.”

Wemhoff knew he could count on Corona to meet the challenge.

“You ask her to do something and she does it. She’s not afraid,” he said. “I’d give her instructions and she took them and went.”

In addition to working at Panda Express in Columbus, she plans to help her mother renovate their garage this summer and build a doghouse for her stepfather.

After that, she'll attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study construction engineering.

Wemhoff has no doubt she’ll succeed there.

“She’s very motivated,” he said. “I know she wants to be successful.”

Corona’s not worried either.

“I've been ready to graduate,” she said. “I'm excited for the real world.”

Second chance

SCHS counselor Amy Johnson said Alberto Arciva's transformation from a quiet kid putting in the minimum effort to get by to calculus whiz seemed to come out of nowhere.

“His first two years here, he didn’t do much,” said Johnson. “Then he walked into my office and asked to take pre-calculus.”

Johnson said she was surprised because, until that point, Arciva hadn’t shown much interest in school or mathematics.

Arciva admitted he wasn’t real motivated.

“The first two years, I didn't really try. I wasn't doing my best,” he said. “So I didn't get the greatest grades, but I knew I could have gotten better if I really wanted to.”

At the time, Arciva thought it didn’t matter how well he did in school.

“My dad always worked in Mexico a lot — he had a farm over there,” he said. “I figured that's where I would end up regardless of how I did in high school.”

Then a few of his friends graduated from high school and went on to study engineering in college.

“That's when I started realizing that that's something I could possibly do,” Arciva said. “I was always wanting to make stuff, take stuff apart, always interested in how things work.”

He wanted to take calculus, so he asked math teacher Lynn Sweeney if he could sign up for the online pre-calculus course offered in the summer so he could move on to calculus as a senior.

“That was the longest string of words I’d ever heard him say,” said Sweeney.

When he got into pre-calculus, Sweeney said Arciva transformed.

“Pretty soon we realized he was getting it really quick,” she said. “He just really blossomed from there.”

In addition to studying calculus, Arciva got involved with the Math and Science Club and Quiz Bowl and was promoted to manager at Pizza Hut. He plans to attend UNL to major in computer engineering.

While he’s looking forward to college, Arciva wishes he’d been more motivated at the beginning of high school. He has some advice for incoming freshmen.

“Know what you want to do, think about what you want to do, where you want to be,” he said. “Don’t mess it up like I did.”

His story is also a reminder not to dismiss the quiet kid in the back of the classroom.

“That’s the biggest transformation I’ve seen in 20 years,” said Sweeney.

Sheriff's office adds Howells patrols

Howells has become the third village along Highway 91 to get on board with the Colfax County sheriff’s plans to provide part-time law enforcement patrols and better response times along the northern tier of the county.

County commissioners voted 3-0 last week to ink an annual contract with the village of just more than 550 people. Howells joins Leigh and Clarkson as the communities receiving daily patrols by a deputy assigned to the northern portion of the county.

“We’re trying to cut down on response times,” Sheriff Paul Kruse said following the board’s vote to approve the pact.

There are only 6 miles between each community along the highway and the deputy patrolling the area won’t have to make the 20-plus-mile trip to the Schuyler area to answer calls, the sheriff said.

The sheriff’s plan is to also have a deputy assigned to the southern portion of the county who can be available for calls around Schuyler area and also respond to reports in the Richland and Rogers areas.

All three of the northern communities requested patrol times at varying points in the day.

Leigh’s contract calls for four hours of evening patrolling a day for a total of 28 hours a week. Clarkson also receives evening patrols along with law enforcement presence during periods before and after school.

Howells’ contract includes daytime patrols and county deputies will also enforce village ordinances.

The sheriff’s office added a deputy about a year ago when the communities began seeking contracts for law enforcement services.

The deputy’s annual pay is expected to be about $42,540 in the coming year. Adding the deputy boosted the office’s staffing to six deputies, one investigator, one sergeant and one corporal.

Commissioner Jerry Heard was happy to see Howells join its Highway 91 neighbors in seeking the sheriff’s services.

“It’s a good deal that is finally put together,” Heard said. “Our goal should be to get them all on board.”