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Monica Polivka, left, cuts her cake at her retirement party. Those in attendance included fellow newspaper staff, such as The Banner-Press publisher, Vincent Laboy. 


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TeamMates remains point of pride in Butler County

Editor's note: The print version of this story stated the event takes place on the 24th due to misinformation provided to The Banner-Press. The Banner-Press had already gone to print when it learned of the mistake and has updated the online version.

Butler County residents aren’t just generous with their time during the holidays – it’s a year-round thing.

Those who need more proof can find it when 51 adults are recognized starting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 10 in the David City High School gymnasium for their efforts with the TeamMates Mentoring Program of Butler County.

“I don’t even have to call and remind them,” said Michelle Romshek, coordinator for the local chapter of the program about adults who help out with it. “I have people calling me and asking if they’re back in school yet. They’re just as excited as the kids.”

Former Nebraska Cornhuskers football coach Tom Osborne and his wife, Nancy, founded the TeamMates Mentoring Program in 1991 with 22 University of Nebraska-Lincoln football players and 22 Lincoln elementary students. In 1998, it was formalized as a statewide program and now has chapters throughout the state, including in Butler County. It has also blossomed into an initiative that serves more than 8,500 youth across Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, South Dakota and Iowa.

Locally, David City Elementary and High, Bellwood and Dwight Elementary, St. Mary’s Catholic, Aquinas and East Butler High schools all participate in the program. All the schools will be represented in the Jan. 10 David City Invitational, where mentors will be honored and presented a small token of appreciation for their efforts.

As part of the program, mentors meet with mentees for one-on-one time once a week for 30 minutes during the school year. During that time, mentors and mentees will talk or participate in an activity that can be done at the school. Sessions are done only during school hours and during the academic year.

“They can shoot hoops, play board games, they do all kinds of things,” Romshek said.

Jason Lavicky, who is the president of Bank of the Valley in David City, has served as a mentor for the Butler County chapter of TeamMates since its inception several years ago. He said shooting baskets, playing board games and helping decorate a Christmas tree at a retirement community have been some of the activities he and his mentee have done throughout the years. But, he said, there’s also plenty of time to talk about school, family, friends and more.

Lavicky referred to the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” when discussing why he feels the program is important.

“I think it’s a chance for members of the community to give back,” he said. “It’s a great experience for me, and I would hope the individual I’m mentoring.”

Romshek said the program has done wonders locally and everywhere else that has implemented it, noting kids in the program have shown improvement academically and seem happier.

“I just love the excitement of the kids. Working at the school, when I walk down the hall and tell kids their mentor is here, they’re so excited,” said Romshek, Bellwood administrative assistant. “Or they’ll come in excited the day their mentor is supposed to come.”

It isn’t an overwhelming commitment either. Mentors are asked to spend 30 minutes per week with a mentee, she said, noting most people spend their lunch break with a student.

Lavicky said he would encourage people to become a mentor, but only if their willing to be consistent with their commitment.

“The challenging side is making sure you get there every week because when you make the commitment, (the kids) come to expect to see you and they look forward to seeing their mentors,” he said, adding it’s a rewarding experience.

To schedule an interview for the TeamMates Mentoring Program, contact Romshek at romshekm@dcscouts.org or log onto teammates.org, click the mentors' tab and search Butler County. Butler County currently has 11 kids waiting to be matched with a mentor, Romshek said.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about it,” she said, noting there must be an 18-year age difference between mentors and mentees. “Anybody who wants to work with a child can do so after a background check.”

The program is always taking students. Mentees can be nominated one of three ways. They can be nominated by a parent, a school staff member, or even self-nominate. Mentors are not tutors, counselors, nor are they there to “fix” anything— they’re there to be friends. Mentors are matched with mentees based on interests and life experiences.

Meanwhile, the open-to-the-public event later this month will serve as a celebration in honor of January being National Mentoring Month, during which programs across the country recognize mentors for their service and the impact they’re making on youth.

“We are grateful for every TeamMates mentor,” TeamMates Executive Director Sarah Waldman said, in a statement. “Every TeamMates mentor I speak with talks about how mentoring has been an incredibly positive experience for them. I hope more caring adults will join us so they too can experience the positive impact of mentoring.”

Romshek shared a similar perspective.

“As a parent, I have four kids. I think, ‘what’s a half hour?’ But how often are we able to just spend a half hour with a child uninterrupted?” she said. “Life is crazy busy, so this is adult interaction. An adult is focused solely on them and they just absolutely love.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.


Happy New Year!

The Banner-Press is wishing its readers a Happy New Year! For the latest news and sports, visit our website!


Kamryn Pokorney takes a dribble around a defender in the win over Friend.


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Fusing glass and his art

When it comes to the work on display at the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, paintings of farms and corn fields are typically what come to mind.

But glass artist Steven Ramsey has an entirely different take on the term agrarian. His exhibit currently on display at the museum, “In Glass," is entirely made up of glass sculptures. Gabrielle Comte, the museum's office and collections manager, said Ramsey’s work is an interesting twist on agrarian art.

She said it’s uncommon for the museum to feature more abstract work, especially pieces made of glass. Much of the artworks rely on light reflection to reveal its agrarian nature.

“It’s not obviously agrarian, but once you look inside, it becomes very agrarian,” Comte said. “It’s definitely more of a show that relies on optical illusion to reveal the agrarian features.”

Ramsey is set to speak about his work at the Hruska Memorial Public Library, 399 N. Fifth St., in two weeks. The talk is a part of the library’s Food for Thought Series and goes from noon to 1 p.m. on Jan. 16.

Those interested in attending must reserve a seat either by visiting the library or calling 402-367-3100. Catalog/Circulation Librarian Cheryl Hein said the presentation will be unique among the ones the library has had in the past.

“It’s great to know that in a small town like (David City), we have a museum that brings in fantastic speakers,” Hein said.

Ramsey studied the art of glass at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio and at Illinois State University. For a decade, he taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Today, he works as an assistant professor of glass and sculpture at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

The artist first had his work on display at the museum back in May 2015 as a part of the "Ballad of the Farm: Then, Now and Tomorrow" exhibit. Comte said he was one of 11 artists to be showcased in it. In May 2017, Ramsey was one of 150 artists featured in the museum's "150 For Nebraska's 150th," an exhibit which celebrated the 150th anniversary of Nebraska's statehood.

Comte said the museum has never before had an exhibit that was purely sculptures like "In Glass." She said it was a bit of a challenge figuring out how to properly display all the art, but it was well worth the effort.

“It’s been a lot of troubleshooting, but we’re really pleased with how it turned out,” Comte said.

“In Glass” is set to be on display at the museum, 575 E St in David City, until Feb. 24. The museum's next exhibit will focus on pottery crafted and submitted by local Nebraskans. Those interested in sending in their work can visit the museum's website for more details or call 402-367-4488. Food at the event will be provided by the Museum, The Friends of the Library and Jacque Masek.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.


News
Search begins for new David City water supervisor

David City has been struggling to keep the water/sewer supervisor position filled for the past five years, and with the recent resignation of Water/Sewer Supervisor Travis Hays, that trend continues.

The city has started advertising for a new water supervisor online and in local print media, including The Banner-Press. Kevin Hotovy, City Council member for the 2nd Ward, said city officials are hopeful the position won't be vacant for long.

“You always want to fill your positions as soon as possible, but in this labor market, that’s not always the case,” Hotovy said.

The department has a history of its managers resigning after only holding the job for a couple of years. Water Supervisor Gary Janicek resigned in 2014, followed by Wastewater Supervisor James Pedersen in 2015. Water/Sewer Supervisor Kevin Betzen resigned in April 2017 and was replaced by Hays, who was appointed to the position by the city. He ran the plant for less than two years, according to The Banner-Press' archives, until recently resigning.

Hotovy said the city is looking for someone who will hold the job for a couple of decades, not years. The goal is to hire someone who will retire from the position rather than resign.

“You don’t want to see people leave,” Hotovy said. “You want someone who will make a career and hold the position for 25, 30 years ... we just hope we can find the right guy and do what we can to keep them.”

On several occasions in the past, the department was headed by two individuals. One was in charge of water treatment while the other of the sewer. Although most recently both were managed by one individual, Hotovy said city officials have yet to determine if they are looking to hire one supervisor or two.

Although the position remains vacant, current city employees work to keep the plant operational and in accordance with the law. Water/Sewer Operator Aaron Gustin said all the employees in the water/sewer department have been able to pick up the slack from Hays' departure.

“We’re just going to keep doing our job,” Gustin said. “Day-to-day operations are going as they normally would. Travis has done a really good job training us to fill his shoes.”

And Hotovy agreed, noting the department works hard and does excellent work.

“Our guys go to work every day, and they do what’s necessary,” Hotovy said “The guys that are out in the elements day in and day out, they’re doing an exceptional job. We need to take a look on how to retain these guys and keep them.”

Gustin said he is interested in the supervisor position and plans on submitting an application for the job. He said the water department employees make a great team, adding he wants to continue to be a part of that success.

“We each bring amazing attributes and together we make an awesome team,” Gustin said.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.