Three Columbus natives selected to be part of the 13-person University of Nebraska-Lincoln Innocents Society were recently recognized with their peers on April 7 during the annual Ivy Day ceremonies held on campus.

With more than 100 junior students applying this winter to be a part of the senior honors group, the Columbus trio was surprised to learn that they all made the cut.

Amy Heusinkvelt, a 2016 graduate of Scotus Central Catholic High School, was sitting in class in late February when eight or nine people clad in red robes and sunglasses walked into her class announcing that someone in the room was becoming the newest addition to the 1903-founded society.

“I wasn’t making eye contact with anyone because I really didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Heusinkvelt said, with a laugh. “But when they did end up saying my name, it was really incredible.”

Ironically enough, Heusinkvelt just a few hours earlier received a phone call from her roommate, Jess Humphrey, saying that she had just been ‘shaded’ in.

“It kind of reflects what the Innocents Society stands for,” said Humphrey, a 2016 Columbus High School graduate, of the shading process where sunglasses are placed over new members’ eyes. “It’s about reflecting the group as a whole rather than our own identities. Working for the betterment of the university and not seeking the individual recognition.”

During the newly inducted Innocents’ first meeting shortly after, Heusinkvelt saw her old Scotus classmate, Dana Hoppe, in attendance.

“When I saw Dana there I was like, ‘no way,’” she said. “It’s pretty crazy on a campus that has so many people that three from Columbus are part of this.”

Selection to the Innocents Society is based on leadership, scholarship and service to the university and greater community, according to information from the university. The group was created in the early 1900s to promote the spirit of the university and is the chancellor’s senior honorary.

Heusinkvelt, a secondary English education major, is a member of the UNL Cornhusker Marching Band Color Guard, a member of planning committee for UNL’s Relay For Life and also an ambassador for the College of Education and Human Sciences and Morrill Hall.

Hoppe, a computer science major minoring in art, philosophy and math, is the vice president of Initialize UNL, a computer science organization dedicated to several initiatives relating to software development, education, coding and societal implications of computer science and technology.

Humphrey is a food science and technology major who is also minoring in Spanish. She is the vice president of a UNL peer mentor group that helps acclimate new honors students to the rigorous schedule and lifestyles they will inevitably face. She also said she’s president of UNL’s Relay For Life group, noting she was involved with Relay For Life in Columbus through her participation in Lynette’s Dance Studio in Columbus. After completing her undergraduate degree, she will move on to her master’s.

“I’m a big school person, I think I’m just going to stay at it for a while,” she said, with a laugh.

Although all three are initiated, their real work will start gearing up this fall when they are seniors. They will complete monthly service/philanthropic projects on campus and in Lincoln, as well as taking a 13-passenger bus around the state completing volunteer projects in several communities, said Humphrey, who is serving as the Innocents’ philanthropy chair.

Hoppe said that before applying for the society he was aware of the Innocents, but was unsure of what they were all about.

“I would see them (Innocents) around campus and I was aware that it was a thing but it was all pretty vague,” he said of the society. “But then I always noticed that they were people who were super involved and who were doing big things and I admired that.”

He added that being around this group will inevitably help him continue being the best version of himself.

“When you’ve been really pushing yourself to do the best you can and try to make a difference in the community and on campus, it is nice being recognized for that,” Hoppe said. “And then you get to meet these other people who have been doing the same thing in terms of developing themselves and working to better the campus and community.”

Humphrey had a similar sentiment.

“It’s awesome getting to know the other 12 members,” Humphrey said. “These are some of the most dedicated, selfless people on this campus. It’s honestly unreal the kind of people who are part of this organization. It’s humbling to be part of this organization and I’m just really excited to get to know everyone better.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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