Schuyler Central High School social science teacher and volleyball coach Sean Wickham turned in his resignation in February to pursue a new venture.
Wickham's business, Run&Jump Inc., is contracted to work with Fundraising University, a Kansas City-based company that runs the coupon book, cookie dough, snack and popcorn fundraisers schools use to raise money for their clubs and sports teams.
“Being a coach over the last 10 years, I’ve worked with fundraising with my teams,” said Wickham. “Your school budgets are limited in terms of what you can provide for your kids and your team. With fundraising you had a fun way to raise money for those groups.”
Wickham, who has been a teacher and coach for 21 years, is in his fourth year at SCHS. The fundraising field got his attention because his own teams' campaigns went well.
“If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t have even thought of doing it,” he said. “Every time we talked about our teams and I got more information about the business, it interested me.”
Coincidentally, as he was considering the move one of his college roommates who lives in central Nebraska started the same job.
“I’ve been talking to him a lot about the pros and cons,” said Wickham.
As he finishes the school year, he’s been job shadowing Nebraska and South Dakota manager Colin Shockey so he can learn the company’s procedures before striking out on his own.
Wickham has helped with the SCHS and Scotus Central Catholic cheerleading squads’ fundraisers. He’s also gone to Omaha, where Shockey is based, to help at schools there.
“It’s been going through that process, the step by step of monies and order forms,” said Wickham. “That’s been my capacity so far.”
When Wickham joins the team full time in July he’ll be responsible for 55 schools in northeast Nebraska and southern South Dakota, from Schuyler to Yankton to O’Neill. And he has mixed feelings about the change.
“Any change in general is exciting,” he said. ”You’re a little nervous because it’s something that’s new. In this case, it’s totally new.”
He knows there will be things he'll miss about teaching and coaching.
“After 20 years of coaching, you’ll miss the progress the teams make over the season, the wins,” he said. “The daily interactions with teachers, students and administration. Those are things you miss even when you change from one school to another — the relationships that you form.”
But he’s reassured because his new job isn't entirely unfamiliar.
“It’s still working with kids, still working with coaches and still working with schools. That’ll make the transition easier,” he said. “It’s a different career, but it’s all the things I’m used to dealing with.”
With one daughter in Lincoln, another at Scotus and a son in elementary school, Wickham hopes this change will open up his schedule.
“I think there’s a little flexibility because you’re working around these events you have in your life,” he said. “(My children) are busy, so hopefully this will allow me to spend more time at their events.”
Overall, he’s feeling confident.
“It’s a great idea and great opportunity and something I could be successful at,” he said.
Seven dance groups competed for the top awards at Saturday's Dancing Like the Stars fundraiser at the Oak Ballroom.
At the end of the night, judges Antonio Rodriguez, Marisela Lopez, Michael Rea and Tracey Kracl had a tough decision to make.
"I think there's a lot of good competition," contestant Shannon Woodworth said after she and her husband Jason finished their dance. "Now we can sit back and relax."
Thanks to Woodworth, the crowd also got to see recently engaged high school sweethearts Brianna Black and Tyler Brabec compete. Woodworth and Brabec are siblings.
"They said they weren't going to compete unless we do," said Black, whose mother is a member of the Schuyler Public Library Foundation, which received the proceeds from the fundraiser.
Black said the competition gave her and Brabec a fun activity to do together.
"We get to spend time dancing together as a stress-reliever," she said. "At the same time, we’re a little stressed by dancing because we’re not the best. But we’re trying to be better together."
While those couples put in the time to work on their routines, Ramon Arciga and his dance partner only practiced twice before the event.
Arciga competed last year with his wife, but teamed up with family friend Barbara Raya, who hasn't competed before, for Saturday's event.
"I was really nervous," said Raya. "But it's a way to contribute to the community."
Raya said Arciga usually starts the dancing at parties, so she was mostly following his lead.
The two were the last performers that night. Arciga said he was impressed with the other dancers.
"There's more couples this year," Arciga said with Raya translating. "So there's more competition, which is good."
Arciga and Raya took home the judges' choice award at the end of the night while tap-dancing twins Addison and Allison Vavricek won the people's choice award.
Dancing Like the Stars started in 2015 to raise money for the new library, which is being built between 18th and 19th streets along the east side of Colfax Street.
Schuyler Public Library celebrated National Library Week with a history lesson.
Bruce Garver, an emeritus history professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, spoke to a packed house Monday night about the Czechs who settled in Nebraska, particularly Colfax County, which was a hub for Czech immigrants and farmers.
Garver said many of the early Czech immigrants owned small farms in the old country, usually 30 to 95 acres in size. As agriculture took off in the Americas and transportation became more efficient, these farmers, who were already not earning much money, found the price of grain dropped because of imports from overseas. A depression hit Europe.
After the American Civil War concluded, a new wave of immigrants came to the Midwest to try their luck at farming.
Garver said the Czechs had a few advantages.
Since they had farms in Europe to sell before emigrating, they came to the U.S. with money to buy large farms and livestock.
Also, almost all of the Czech immigrants were literate in Czech, making it easier for them to learn English.
This high level of education was probably why the area now known as the Czech Republic was a hub of innovation in agriculture and industry at the time, and the immigrants brought their education with them. Czech immigrants in Omaha started an agriculture magazine called Hospadar, which was even the leading ag magazine in Czechoslovakia.
Those who didn't farm were skilled tradesmen who became bankers, tailors and cigar makers. Many of the trades allowed them to be their own bosses.
They also came to the U.S. with family support. Garver said most Czechs brought three generations with them — grandparents, parents and children. They settled in large Czech communities and engaged in civic life, participating in local elections and clubs.
With the earliest Czech immigrants, only half were Catholic. The other half were part of the Freethinker Movement, which was a reaction to edicts passed by Pope Pius IX. Garver said the Freethinkers dwindled by World War II, when the American-born Czechs came of age.
There was also a small population of Protestant Czechs.
Garver said the Czech population here remained engaged in the old country. Nebraska Czechs raised money to help European Czechs overthrow the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I.
The community raised money again in World War II and was involved with exposing the brutality of the Communist regime during the Cold War.
Garver said one of the best museums to learn about Czech history is in Clarkson, where there is also a memorial for Czech men who died while serving in WWI and WWII. Garver is writing a book about Czechs in Nebraska he hopes to publish by December.