In their resignation letter, Ethan and Amanda Hutton make it clear their decision to leave Schuyler Central High School for Costa Rica was not easy to make.
“I really love my kids,” said Amanda. “It’s really hard to leave them.”
Amanda has taught Spanish for three years and Ethan has taught biology for two. They’ve also been coaches, Amanda for the dance team and Ethan for soccer.
But they both feel they’ve been called to work with the nonprofit Seeds of Hope to educate and connect with at-risk youth in Costa Rica.
“It’s really going to be tough to leave — it is,” said Ethan. “But we feel that those kids really need us. And the kids here in Schuyler, they're going to survive.”
“They'll be fine without us,” Amanda added.
Ethan called the decision to move "a leap of faith."
“(We’re) trusting that God is going to guide us along the way," he said.
The two became acquainted with Seeds of Hope through Amanda’s work with a network marketing company called Trades of Hope.
A friend who introduced Amanda to Trades of Hope told her Seeds of Hope was looking for help.
“I contacted the heads of Seeds of Hope in Costa Rica and sent an email that said, ‘Here's who we are, how can we help?'" said Amanda. “And their response was, ‘We need full-time missionaries and you guys would fit the job.”
The Huttons had a connection to the Central American country before reaching out to the nonprofit. Ethan visited once in college as a biology major.
“I emphasized the study of birds, so Costa Rica is ideal for that,” he said.
Two years ago the couple traveled there together to do a language immersion program over the summer break. Seeds of Hope recommended they visit the organization before committing to becoming missionaries.
“They said that's the only way you'll really know,” Amanda said.
The couple spent four days there last summer to learn more about the mission.
“We completely fell in love with it,” said Ethan.
But there were a few hurdles along the way.
For one, Amanda learned she was pregnant right before they visited Costa Rica. This was especially concerning since the Zika virus was reported in the area they were visiting.
“So we were a little nervous, but we believed we were being called down there,” said Amanda. “It ended up being fine and I stayed inside a lot of the time with bug spray.”
“That was a test of faith,” she added.
Another test came when their daughter Aubree was born 10 weeks premature while they were on vacation in Minnesota. While waiting for her to be discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit, they worried her compromised immune system and other health issues common with premature infants would mean they couldn’t go to Costa Rica.
“But the clinic OK'd it,” said Amanda. “By the end of her stay they said she was pretty healthy.”
During the mission they will run what’s called a clubhouse, where teenagers living in the slums take classes to supplement their education and receive support and guidance. Many teenagers living in Costa Rica’s slums are forced into prostitution or drug trafficking to support their family.
“It’s helping kids that desperately need it,” said Amanda.
While they were there the Huttons met Seeds of Hope teachers who went through the program as teenagers and found a way out of poverty. The goal is for the staff to consist mainly of graduates of the program.
“That's where the true beauty comes in, where you've had kids who've made it out of the cycle of poverty. They've broken the chain,” said Ethan. “And they can relate with these kids more than we can because they've been through it.”
The Huttons are also looking forward to their roles as educators and mentors.
“It’s everything we loved about teaching here. He can do teach biology, I can teach English and teach the Bible. And we're going to be teaching things we love — yoga, dance,” said Amanda. “I'll be teaching yoga and dance, not him.”
They’re also looking forward to raising their daughter in a bilingual environment.
“Much of the current educational research suggests bilingual students have more probable chances of success than monolingual students,” said Ethan. “She'll get to experience the different culture, the different language.”
“I'm kind of jealous of her,” said Amanda. “I spent all these years studying Spanish in schools and she's going to just have it.”
Amanda can imagine how differently Aubree’s childhood will be from hers.
“We'll be living in a beach town, which is funny because we're so uncool,” she said. “She'll probably grow up to be this little surfer, this little beach kid, and we'll just be her dorky parents with socks and sandals.”
While they’re looking forward to their new life, they’re still struggling to say good-bye to the community that showed them so much support when Aubree was born.
“We're not leaving because we don't love Schuyler,” Amanda said. “We're leaving because we have a greater purpose we feel we need to serve.”
You have to be pretty serious about bowling to keep competing with the same partner for 45 years.
Elaine Abraham and Luann Vavricek are serious about bowling.
“We bowl for blood,” Vavricek joked.
The two are part of a five-woman team sponsored by Reinecke Motor Company that competes on Monday nights at Westbrook Lanes in Columbus.
Vavricek and Abraham used to bowl in a Monday morning league that featured both men and women. Although she likes the women, Vavricek does miss having the men around.
“I miss that because I liked the competition with the men,” said Vavricek.
“They didn't like it when we beat them,” Abraham said.
“No they didn't,” Vavricek responded. “And we could.”
Abraham, who started bowling in 1955, joined a team when a man she worked for needed a substitute after a teammate fell and broke her tailbone on a lane. She’d bowled for fun before, but didn't realize how good she was until then.
Abraham and Vavricek knew each other the way most people in a small town do, through various connections between their families, neighbors and friends. The Schuyler women both worked downtown and would meet for coffee at the Top Notch Cafe.
Vavricek grew up in a bowling family. Her father taught her the sport when she was 10, and when she got into high school and college she bowled in the same league as her mother.
“And then after I got married I thought, no," she said. “I didn't have time.”
Vavricek was pregnant with her first child when Abraham’s team needed another bowler, so Vavricek decided she’d fill in.
“I think I bowled better (while pregnant),” said Vavricek. “And then with my last (child), that year I think I actually bowled even better. And I bowled pretty much almost up to the end, up to two or three weeks (before giving birth).”
That first team had its good years and better years. They competed in the state tournament fairly often and in national tournaments in Bismark, North Dakota, in 1989 and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1991.
In 1984, the team got trapped in a blizzard while driving back from a state tournament in Norfolk. Vavricek said she white-knuckled it home at 20 miles per hour. The trip from Norfolk to Schuyler took 2 1/2 hours.
“That was a little too dedicated,” said Vavricek. “We should have stayed home.”
As Sky Bowl in Schuyler was getting ready to close permanently in 2002, it was unclear how or if they were going to continue bowling. Two teammates quit, two had died and they needed substitutes every week.
“I thought we were just done bowling after our team fell apart,” said Abraham. “I thought, ‘Well this is it. No more bowling.’”
Instead, they formed a team in Columbus with sisters-in-law Shirley and Connie Wachal then invited Connie Jedlicka to be their fifth. They’ve kept the same group of bowlers and went to state each year.
“I guess we don't like changes,” said Vavricek.
“Obviously we get along,” said Abraham.
Some parents let their hobbies slide when they have children. But for Vavricek, who has three children, Monday night was her night.
“The rule was Monday night is bowling,” she said.
The team threw a surprise 80th birthday for Abraham a few years ago. Now that she’s almost 85, Abraham said she’s noticed a change in her ability.
“You lose your rhythm. I can't get up the lane like I used to be able to," said Abraham, who was recognized at last month's Columbus USBC Association Hall of Fame banquet with the inaugural lifetime achievement award from Westbrook Lanes.
She's even considered retiring from the sport.
“Every Monday night after I get done bowling if I bowl crappy,” she said.
But she’s not quite ready to walk away.
“I’ve bowled 47 state tournaments,” she said. “I’d like to get to 50.”
Nebraskans United for Property Tax Reform and Education sent two guiding principles to school districts across the state.
No 1. — Adequate and sustainable funding of high-quality K-12 education is imperative for the future of Nebraska.
No. 2 — Reform is needed to reduce the reliance on local property taxes to fund public schools and ensure the tax system is fair to all Nebraskans.
The Schuyler Community Schools Board of Education voted last week to support those principles.
Nebraskans United is a coalition initiated by the Nebraska Farm Bureau and Schools Taking Action for Nebraska Children’s Education (STANCE) so agricultural producers and school districts could form a shared platform to present to the Legislature regarding property taxes and school funding.
The group's two principles are the result of weeks of meetings with producers and superintendents. As the coalition has publicly pushed for property tax reform, more ag, education and tax-reform organizations have signed on, including Schuyler residents.
“Several groups in the community have been part of that,” said SCS Superintendent Dan Hoesing. “Many of our ag producers are part of Farm Bureau.”
Hoesing presented the resolution to board members so they could decide whether the district should support the effort, though he’s concerned that with the state’s projected budget shortfall the problem will only become worse.
“The state is short of money. We know that there will be less support in the state aid formula right now for public schools,” Hoesing said.
The superintendent and school board decided to sign to send a message to the Legislature and community.
“I think our ag community needs to see that our board is actively involved in supporting some kind of legislation focused on providing some kind of property tax relief,” said Hoesing. “We thought if the board didn’t support it that it might leave the wrong message with our public that we weren’t for reducing reliance on property taxes.”
At the same time, Hoesing does not support any particular plan for restructuring the school funding formula, though many have been proposed by state lawmakers and organizations.
“We know that with any shift in taxing for our schools that there are winners and losers,” he said. “That’s why there’s no particular piece of legislation this board is supporting.”
A 23-year-old Schuyler man with a history of drunken driving was charged last week in connection with a June 2016 crash that killed a 15-year-old girl.
The Colfax County Attorney’s Office filed charges of manslaughter, driving under the influence resulting in serious bodily injury, second-offense DUI, second-offense reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle during revocation against Angel Lopez, who was behind the wheel of a 2005 Honda Accord that slammed into a tree shortly after 11 p.m. June 15 in the 600 block of West Sixth Street in Schuyler.
The charges could result in a prison sentence of more than 20 years.
According to court documents, Lopez and two teenage passengers in the vehicle were parked in the picnic area near the Oak Ballroom when a Schuyler Police officer attempted to make contact to notify them of the park curfew.
The vehicle drove away, and the officer attempted to initiate a traffic stop, which led to a brief pursuit before the officer ended the chase.
A crash involving a vehicle with the same license plate number occurred a few minutes later near the intersection of West Sixth and Elk streets. The Honda Accord, which was reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed, drove over the curb and struck a tree head-on.
Isabella Brandt of Schuyler, a passenger in the vehicle, was taken by ambulance to CHI Health Schuyler and pronounced dead while being transported by medical helicopter to a Lincoln hospital.
Another passenger in the vehicle, then-15-year-old Herodes Gutierrez of Schuyler, fled the crash scene on foot and was taken by ambulance to the local hospital from his home. He required 14 staples to close a gash on his head, according to court documents.
Lopez, who had to be extricated from the wrecked vehicle, was transported by ambulance to CHI Health Schuyler then flown to Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha for treatment.
An affidavit supporting his arrest says Lopez told an emergency room nurse at the Schuyler hospital he had “like 10 beers” that night. Officers also found a half-empty bottle of tequila inside his vehicle, the document states.
A blood sample was taken to test for alcohol.
Lopez was arrested in Schuyler the week before the fatal accident for DUI, driving during revocation and procuring alcohol to a minor following a traffic stop that involved the same teenage boy injured in the crash.
Three months earlier, he was convicted of DUI in Platte County and had his license revoked for one year.
Lopez also has previous convictions in Nebraska for reckless driving in 2014, driving under suspension twice in 2013 and driving under revocation in 2014 and May 2016, according to court documents.
He was being held in the Platte County Detention Facility with a bond hearing pending.