Butler County Sheriff's Deputy Marla Schnell was recognized for her impact on the youth of Nebraska on Jan. 30.
Schnell was presented the 2019 Friend of Education Award during halftime of the David City High girls basketball game in front of a crowd that included her peers and plenty of community members. The award is presented annually to a non-member who has demonstrated exceptional, distinguished leadership on behalf of public education.
"I just do my job the best I can, but it feels pretty good to get an award for all the work we do," Schnell said. "It's not just me. It's the whole department. I just try to be the person that I wish I had to talk to when I was a kid. That's how I do it."
Nebraska Association of Elementary Principals Region I Group member Danielle Beerbohm nominated Deputy Schnell for this award.
"Deputy Schnell's presence around town and within the school is always positive," Beerbohm said, in a statement. "She is an advocate for children in Butler County and has developed relationships with families both inside and outside of the school setting.
"Deputy Schnell will frequently visit the schools and take a few minutes out of her busy day to eat lunch with students or play with them at recess. She participates in school events such as sponsored runs, is visible at athletic events and is always wanting to know how she can help within the school system."
Her coworkers had nothing but positive things to say about her as a person and work colleague.
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On top of being active in the David City public school system, she also helps children outside of the school.
"She does quite a bit of the work with health and human services when they come into the Child Advocacy Center," Butler County Sheriff Tom Dion said. "Especially when it comes to child cases. She handles them very well. She handles most of them. She does well with the kids. The kids really like her. They're already going through a traumatic experience, somebody with a kind face and kind attitude is nice to have."
Co-worker Cherie Meysenburg, who is a 911 operator for the Butler County Sheriff's Office, also only had positive things to say about Schnell. Meysenburg noted how you can just sense the passion for the youth in Schnell's work.
"She's very dedicated to working with the schools," she said. "The kids know her. She spends a lot of time dealing directly with the kids and the families. To be nominated for something like that is pretty phenomenal. She's the only one in the state that gets it so it's a pretty big deal."
The award is only given to one person in the state each year across the entire state of Nebraska.
"It's a very prestigious award," Dion said. "Only one is given per year. It's a very important award and she worked hard to get it. She's very personable. When she shows up she just lightens up the room. She's very easy to get along with. Personality is top-notch. She's just a good all-around person and makes you feel at ease when she's around."
With all the work Schnell does for the youth, she mentioned it’s the small things she enjoys the most about her position.
"The smiles (the kids) get," Schnell said about what she enjoys the most about her job. "Having fun with them at lunch and recess and just being part of the community."
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net