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Schuyler natives keep coming back

Fifteen teams signed up for Sunday's coed sand volleyball tournament in Schuyler. Some teams were more organized than others.

One group that stuck out were the "Crazy Beaches" clad in bright yellow shirts with a hot pink logo on the front. All seven team members are Schuyler Central High School alumni.

"We try to support this every year," said Casey Bailey, who lives in Columbus. "Because even though we don't live here anymore, we try to support the community."

Lori Kracl organized the event on behalf of Schuyler Sertoma to raise money for two benches that will be placed along the newly constructed Higgins Trail.

"It's a fun, quick little activity," she said.

Kracl was wearing a gray shirt with "Gold Diggers" on the front along with her teammates and co-workers from Pinnacle Bank in Schuyler. Teams were divided into competitive and non-competitive divisions.

"We're here just for fun," said Pinnacle Bank employee Adrian Herink.

Off the sand volleyball court, Kracl said her favorite part of Labor Day is walking in the parade with the Pinnacle Bank team while throwing candy to kids.

"You see so many kids and they're screaming, 'I want some! I want some!'" she said. "That's the best part."

At Schuyler Golf Club, clubhouse manager Luann Vavricek had little time to stop and chat.

"I've got 124 golfers out there," she said during Sunday's alumni tournament. "I've had four class reunions so far and I have one more tonight."

Vavricek said tee times filled up one or two weeks ago.

Bill and Jenny White, who are returning to Schuyler after living in Hong Kong, couldn't get a tee time for a round so they were catching up with friends in the clubhouse.

"It's what people do, come back to Schuyler for Labor Day," Bill White said. "A lot of people come back home."

Schuyler Community Development housing coordinator Brian Bywater, who graduated from high school in a small town in South Dakota, said he admires how people from Schuyler return to their hometown each year.

"It's really neat that people have that connection to Schuyler, even after all those years," he said. "We don't have that where I went to high school."

Josh Pycha, who lives in Kearney, was in town for his 10-year class reunion, though he said he comes back every Labor Day.

"The town's changed since I graduated, but it's nice, too," said Pycha. "It's still good people. That's the only thing that hasn't changed."

Labor Day race gets community moving

Eight-year-old Taylor Thiesen had a big smile on her face as she crossed the finish line.

"I could run the whole thing," she said. "It's just a mile. I'm used to going 2 miles."

Thiesen was one of the many youths who took part in the kids' 1-mile race that kicked off the Labor Day Walk/Run on Monday morning.

The annual event, sponsored for the first time by Anytime Fitness in Schuyler, included more than 100 people.

Ellen Faltys, one of the organizers, was having a blast.

"We're excited. Our goal was 100," she said. "And those kids are hilarious. They are so cute."

After all the kids crossed the finish line, the older participants walked to the starting point for their 5-kilometer race.

Kim Parsons and Kim Mlnarik said they've been walking several times a week to prepare for Monday.

"We're just trying to be healthier," said Parsons.

P.R. Olson and his golden retriever Clipper were ready to see how far they could go at a jog.

"We're always training," Olson said.

Sarah Sindelar, an Anytime Fitness user, wanted to support the business' event. Her two children were strapped into a jogging stroller and along for the ride.

"He's got a doughnut, so he'll be fine," she said of her young son.

When she heard the group that previously organized the walk/run wasn't doing it this year, Anytime Fitness owner Kim Ennen saw it as an opportunity to organize a fun fitness event.

"We wanted to have it be fun and to get all ages," Ennen said. "Fitness is so important in everybody's life. So young and old, we just want to keep stirring the pot to encourage people to exercise and have fun."

Proceeds from the event will be used to purchase fitness equipment for the Schuyler Community Schools' after-school program.

Luis Romero crossed in 16 minutes, 21 seconds to finish Monday's race in first.

"I'm out of shape right now, but I'm working on it," he said. "It's still fun, though."

Romero has participated in quite a few races. He views the events as more than physical activity.

"It's the mental test," he said. "You're testing yourself."

As more runners trickled in, Ennen and the rest of the Anytime Fitness team cheered them on as they crossed the finish line.

"It's not about how fast you go, it's that you're going," Ennen said.

Schuyler part of new documentary

The newest documentary from Nebraska Loves Public Schools will feature some familiar faces.

The documentary team recorded footage in Schuyler for the film “Seeds of Hope," which looks at the diverse experiences and challenges for English language learners in public schools.

“While traveling across the state we were looking for a school with a high population of English language learners,” said NLPS marketing director Brittany Mascio. “We wanted to see what school district is working with their students to see how they can best learn the language.”

According to the Nebraska Department of Education, the state has seen a 113 percent increase in English language learners since 2000. The film also includes footage from Omaha Public Schools, where 117 different languages are spoken by students; Lincoln Public Schools, which has a large number of refugees; and Chadron Public Schools, where the immigrant population is mainly from the Marshall Islands.

“There’s students who are very versed in education. Others have had very limited classroom experience,” said Mascio. “I’m hoping the audience will take away from this film an awareness and more empathy for our immigrants and refugees in our public schools.”

Mascio said NLPS included Schuyler because of its history of taking in, educating and integrating immigrants into the community, which continues today.

“How they have welcomed these families,” said Mascio, "and how they can help them learn the English language and how they can be successful in the classroom but also in the greater Schuyler community.”

Schuyler Community Schools Superintendent Dan Hoesing said the crew filmed here around November 2015 in the schools, at Cargill and downtown.

“I think one of the things they saw of great value is how accepting our kids and our community are,” Hoesing said.

He thinks the school district's positive attitude toward all children will be highlighted in the film.

“I think one of the things that I see is there’s a lot of potential in the kids we have, both the immigrant kids and the general population,” said Hoesing. “Second is our focus on what kids can be rather than what the struggles are when they come to us.”

Hoesing said that attitude stems from all areas of the district.

“The cool thing about this is there’s no manuscript or playbook. For some things you have to see what works and find out what doesn’t work,” he said. “That’s one thing I like about our school board is they’re willing to roll up their sleeves, say, ‘Let’s give it a run,’ and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll change it.”

Hoesing believes the film will also highlight the work being done in the community to accommodate immigrants.

“It’s an honor to be featured in this,” he said. “Once again, Schuyler can be seen as taking the lead on tough political and social issues in the community and bring out the best in our kids and in the community.”