B elieve it or not, high school graduation season not only has arrived, but already ended in Tribland.
With the way the calendar falls this year, commencement-related activities in our region, which normally play out over the first three weekends in May, have been compressed into two weekends. (The first weekend of the month was May 1-2, a little early for graduation). So the action has been fast and furious — and by the time graduates of Hastings High School walked out the doors on May 16 following the last of the ceremonies, brand-new high school alumni areawide are now turning their eyes to new horizons.
The school rituals of spring — high school and college graduations, awards banquets, final concerts, promotions from elementary school and middle school — are great milestones in the lives of students, families, the schools themselves, and entire communities. They are the treasures of this season.
Rich in history and infused with their own unique traditions, these events at their best link generations and eras and reinforce the bonds of identity, pride and loyalty that give life added meaning. They mark the passage of years and help keep communities knit tightly with the sturdy thread of memory and shared experience.
Joyful yet often bittersweet, these poignant gatherings make for a hectic but lovely time of year when we celebrate our successes, embrace our aspirations, and reflect on how we have reached this point in our lives, individually and collectively. They are all about endings, beginnings, and the roads that lie ahead.
For me personally, graduation time (sometimes known as baked-beans-and-potato-salad season) is a yearly invitation to think back on my own experience as a teenage farm boy, growing up in a rural community and taking on all kinds of school activities in addition to academic work. I didn’t join every available group or team, but I signed up for plenty — and my plate was heaping full. I’m sure many of you can relate to that, especially if you attended a small school where your participation was not merely welcome, but needed.
I certainly pushed the limits of my time, attention and energy back then; at moments I was aware that I was “burning the candle at both ends,” and maybe was not doing full justice to myself or to every commitment in my life. But, like so many of my friends, I drew on the reserve of energy and passion that come with youth and just kept plowing ahead.
Then, one beautiful Sunday evening in May 1989, it was all over — and that certainly was a strange feeling.
Anyone who finds my story familiar may agree that this graduation weekend is a perfect time to share the following news:
For the first time ever, the Nebraska School Activities Association this year has released a list of students in grades 9-12 from NSAA member schools across the state who have participated in at least three sports or other activities sanctioned by the association.
In addition to its lineup of fall, winter and spring sports (cross country, football, softball, golf, tennis, volleyball, basketball, bowling, swimming and diving, wrestling, baseball, soccer, and track and field), NSAA activities include debate, journalism, music, play production, speech and Unified Sports.
According to the association, the list of 15,358 winners of the Nebraska State Colleges Multi-Activity Student Award for 2020-21 was compiled strictly through records submitted by member schools.
This new recognition is sponsored by the Nebraska State College System.
Furthermore, the NSAA lineup is nowhere near the final word in listing the ways students represent their schools, challenge themselves and serve their communities.
Let me be clear about this: To my mind, it is not necessary for any student to be carrying at least three NSAA activities in one year to have a robust, full and praiseworthy extracurricular experience. Plenty of students may be involved in only a single one of these activities and still be working their tails off through practice, training and other preparation that continues in some way, shape or form year-round.
Groups like FFA, FBLA, FCCLA and DECA immediately come to mind. So do student council and class government; church groups; faith-based student organizations like FCA and Youth for Christ; Scouting groups; 4-H; youth chapters of civic service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis; music activities outside the scope of NSAA; community theater; part-time and volunteer jobs; and a list of other opportunities too lengthy and varied to complete here.
The point of all this, though, is that so many of our young people work so hard when they are teenagers and even pre-teens. They do it for themselves, but they also do it to represent their families, schools and communities; to make the rest of us proud; to give back; and to uphold the community values and traditions they have learned from their elders.
Today, on behalf of the Hastings Tribune and the many communities we serve, I say to all of these young people, and especially those now graduating:
We appreciate all you do and have done.
We honor your effort, your perseverance and your self-discipline, season after season and year after year.
Congratulations on all you have accomplished, and best wishes for all the adventures and achievements yet to come.
Thanks for the memories!
Andy Raun is editor and news director at the Hastings Tribune. Contact him at 402-303-1419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following Tribland high school students were named winners of the inaugural Nebraska State Colleges Multi-Activity Student Award for 2020-21, recognizing individuals who participated in at least three activities sponsored by the Nebraska School Activities Association in this academic year:
Adams Central: Devon Ackles, Brooke Allen, Claire Anderson, Tobie Augustin, Jessica Babcock, Reuben Barry, Dante Boelhower, Jacie Boelhower, Lucas Bohlen, Cooper Byrnes, Addison Cass, Carissa Choyeski, Hyatt Collins, Tarin Confer, Hannah Crawford, Samuel Dierks, Emma Estrada, Jordan Faimon, Zachary Fleischer, Cameron Foster, Jeret Frerichs, Jaxen Gangwish, Hannah Gengenbach, Drew Goracke, Brooklyn Graff, Brendon Ground, Zoey Grove, Parker Hallett, Andrew Heckman, Sam Hemberger, Merci Hood, Broden Hultine, Emmery Huyser, Macrae Huyser, Creighton Jacobitz, Allie Janssen, Dylan Janzen, Dakota Kassebaum, Kadi Kimberly, Claire Kiolbasa, Tristin Klinger, Kylie Lancaster, Lynsie Lancaster, Ella Lieske, Carter Lipovsky, Sadie Loehr, Ixchel Lom, Elli Marker, Madaline McDaniel, Tate McIntyre, Michael Mertens, Kaitlyn Mousel, Charlee Mucklow, Elijah Mulligan, Jaden Nienhueser, Holden O’Dey, Jaxon Obermiller, Tyler Pavelka, Irelyn Samuelson, Mikeayla Samuelson, Taylin Schernikau, Evan Schumm, Caitlyn Scott, Lauryn Scott, Megyn Scott, Barrett Shea, Decker Shestak, Tyler Slechta, Jonah Snell, Emily Stoeger, Morgan Stoeger, Abby Stroh, Brianna Stroh, Dominic Stutesman, Nathan Sughroue, Jayden Teichmeier, Grant Trausch, Jack Trausch, Kyto Warner, Leighton Weber, Gracie Weichman, Camille Wellensiek, Tristan Weston, Spencer Willems, Johannah Winfield, Samantha Wioskowski, Bennet Wrightsman
Alma: Linden Biskup, Karsten Bradley, Carter Brandyberry, Lili Brown, Ryan Brugh, Karri Christensen, Austin Christian, Jonathan Clapp, Colton Dahlgren, Elizabeth Dubbs, James Dubbs, River Eddy, Jonah Felix, Abigail Fox, Kallie Hammond, Peyton Herrick, Ryan Kermmoade, Madison Korman, Sarah Kreutzer, Michelle Lujan Medrano, Caleb Malone, Grant McQuay, Addison Neal, Jakin Neal, Jessica Pfeil, Addison Pool, Andrew Russell, Riley Scott, Delaney Seyler, Addison Siebels, Griffin Stemper, Kendall Stemper, Jason Stenka, Carlee Stuhmer, Gage Thulin, Torrance Tischner, Haylee Wing, Alexis Wolfe, Madison Wolfe, Madison Zade
Blue Hill: Jacob Bonifas, Kenzie Bunner, Emily Canterberry, MJ Coffey, Arica Hartman, Ladelle Hazen, Michelle Henkel, Jaelyn Himmelberg, Jacob Hodson, Cody Hubl, Kyle Hubl, Ellie Janda, Caleb Karr, Brooklyn Kohmetscher, Mya L’Heureux, India Mackin, Keaton Mackin, Libby Macklin, Abigail Meyer, Madison Mlady, Kaytlin Muller, Klayton Niles, Krae Ockinga, Tony Ockinga, Chase Ostdiek, Reece Payne, Aiden Piel, Isaac Piel, Katelynn Rouse, Angel Runyan, Keiera Schmidt, Henry Seeman, Marcus Utecht, Koltan Wademan, Wynn Wilmot
Bruning-Davenport: Kyle Ardissono, Samuel Baysinger, Jordan Bolte, Tanner Bolte, Liberty Campbell, Hunter Cox, Addilyn Crockett, Jazmyne Diaz-McCall, Keenan Dickson, Malory Dickson, Derek Domeier, Samantha Enghauser, Gatlin Hinrichs, Gavin Hintz, Cameron Hoins, Hallie Hoins, Zachary Hoins, Alexa Houser, Katelynn Houser, JessaLynn Hudson, Jayda McCall, Jaron Norder, Paige Oltmans, Wyatt Ozenbaugh, Dominic Philippi, Elijah Philippi, Ethan Schaffer, Eric Schroeder, Anthony Schweer, Lathen Stanek, Shakira Sunday, Breya Trapp, Jazzmyn Ullrich, Rodney Wassom, Easton Weber, Trevor Whitesell, Kaylee Wilkins, Makenna Wyatt
Deshler: Brooklyn Blau, Trenton Buescher, Stormi Capek, Aidan Collins, Brenna Dubbert, Avery Eitzmann, Alfredo Galvan, Coltin Hansen, Cameron Harding, Gracie Hinz, Alexis Holtzen, Jayden Isernhagen, Mallory Kleen, Bryn Kniep, Kara Kniep, Jenna Lemke, Cayden Loomis, Gradyn McDonald, Gracie Miller, Chloe Mosier, Gavin Nash, Paiton Nash, Sena Petersen, Makinna Peterson, KayLee Jo Reinke, Brendan Rios, Cole Ruhge, Brooke Sasse, Blake Schardt, Cale Schardt, Tierra Schardt, Trinity Schardt, Lacey Schmidt, Taylor Sieber, Abbigail Tuma, Allie Vieselmeyer
Doniphan-Trumbull: Ariana Baland, Jordy Baland, Karsten Baxter, Camdyn Beirow, Alyssa Breckner, Kendyl Brummund, Zachary Burkey, Katrina Caraway, Jacob Collinson, Blake Detamore, Kaedan Detamore, Bree Donohue, Hannah Dunning, Tyler Engel, Adelyn Fay, Nia Fill, Sophie Fitch, Hannah Greathouse, Kiera Gregg, Chase Groff, Olivia Hoppe, Samuel Hoppe, Colton Horne, Collin Jepson, Hailey Keezer, Kayla Kennedy, Miah Kenny, Ayden King, Halle Kohmetscher, Preston Larson, Sophia Mason, Codi Obermeier, Aaliyah Olena, Keomi Olena, Kaleah Olson, Madison Osler, Bryson Rader, Danae Rader, Gracie Richter, Haley Robb, Emma Saathoff, Myles Sadd, Ridley Sadd, Everett Schuler, Carter Schultz, Owen Schultz, Claire Schwarz, Bryan Serrano, Bryan Shafer, Brylee Shafer, Emily Shimmin, Madison Shimmin, Harrison Sjuts, Andrew Stock, Abreham Stutzman, Joseph Sumner, Christopher Uhrich, Benjamin VanDiest, Jaden Williams, Corinne Wolfe
Exeter-Milligan: Ben Bartu, Jackson Beethe, Draven Birkes, Braden Capek, Briana Capek, Tyler Due, Cammie Harrison, Devin Harrison, Cameran Jansky, Troy Kallhoff, Daisy Kanode, Jozie Kanode, Marcus Krupicka, Savana Krupicka, Madison Luzum, Emma Olsen, Jaiden Papik, Draven Payne, Taylor Pribyl, Kiah Songster, Daysan Staskal, Malorie Staskal, Kole Svec, Olivea Swanson, Jasmine Turrubiates, Andrew Vavra, Chase Vnoucek, Morgan White
Fillmore Central: Baylee Alvarado, Carlos Andujo, Carson Asche Connor Asche, Teneal Barbur, Emily Bonilla, Jordan Broman, Zachary Coash, Kade Cooper, Tyler Cumpston, Harley Cunningham, Brett Dunker, Owen Dunker, Faith Engle, April Freel, Zachary Furnas, Maggie Fushia, Kelsi Gaston, Abbygail Geiser, Kathryn Godown, Bryson Hafer, Reyna Hafer, Domonic Harding, Kaili Head, Ivan Hickey, Kayilah Hickey, Aiden Hinirichs, Elizsha Hinrichs, Anna Janing, Claire Kimbrough, Lucas Kimbrough, Haley Korbelik, Amy Lauby, Isaiah Lauby, Isabella Lichti, Hunter Lukes, Vanessa Lukes, Demetrio Maciel, Travis Meyer, Noah Monroe, Elijah Myers, Cole Nedrow, Abby Nichols, Garrett Nichols, Blake Nun, Conner Nun, Wyatt Nun, Kale Perkins, Grace Probasco, Wyatt Rayburn, Aiyana Rhoten, Maverick Rhoten, Alexander Schademann, Averie Scheil, Ty Schelkopf, Nathan Schram, Lily Srajhans, Jacob Stoner, Krysten Tanner, Keegan Theobald, Aidan Trowbridge, Devin Uldrich, Hunter Verhage, Reilly Vrbka, Adela West, Brant West Jr., Jayden Wolf, Austin Wurtz, Ayden Wusk ,Kellan Wusk
Franklin: Matthew Ayres, Mika Baker, Sierra Bloos, Gregory Boettcher, Landon Boettcher, Kyler Carraher, Miles Cleveland, Macy Cline, Joshua Cooper, Isaac DeJonge, Jordyn Falkenstine, Michelle Falkenstine, Patrick Frerichs, Alexa Goosic, Anna Grube, Jacob Harrison, Barett Haussermann, Grant Haussermann, Bryanah Hindal, Caitlyn Hindal, Emma Jackson, Grant Kahrs, Joseph Kahrs, Evan Kolami, Emma Largent, Bailey Lennemann, Levi Lennemann, Levi Meade, Elizabeth Olson, Tucker Rose, Emily Rutt, Kaitlyn Schurman, Sheridan Trompke, Keller Twohig, Tavin Uden Madalynn Welsh, Yancy Welsh, Logan Wentworth, Spencer Wentworth, Aaliiyah Wilsey, Abigail Yelken
Giltner: Macie Antle, Kale Bish, Connor Craig, Hailey Eastman, Jaida Eastman, Landyn Ehlers Davidson, Branden Farrall, Eliana Hogan, Myka Hogan, Austin Holtzen, Camden Humphrey, Marshall Humphrey, Bre’ley Hunnicutt, Kylon Jurgens, Phillip Kreutz, Nathaniel Leichty, Wylee Margritz, Logan McKay, Cooper Reeson, Tanner Roth, Jacob Smith, Shayla Smith, Taylor Smith, Jax Wiesen, Alice Wiles, Tracy Wiles, Addison Wilson, Ethan Wilson
Harvard Maizie Boyd, Kinzee Derr, Brett Dillman, Alyssa Ferguson, Cody Fishler, Delainey Gaughen, Wyatt Getzfred, Jasmine Gonzalez, Dayana Gonzalez, Reazola Austin Harms Rubi Hernandez Ochoa Bethanie Hester Paisley Longoria Xavier Marburger Rylie McAleese Ashley Nierman Benjamin Okraska Ethan Piper Piper Porter Isela Ramirez Mejia Zahna Reutzel Noah Roberts Michell Rodriguez Harmony Rozmiarek Lathem Schumm Blaine Tessman Veda Thies Katrina Villalbaso Keira Wells Aimee Whetstine-Jones Drayden Whetstine-Jones
Hastings: Joseph Amaya, Cara Ansbach, Ryan Bauer, Carlie Beckby, Lainey Benson, Lexi Benson, Kiernan Bierman, Hunter Bradshaw, Diana Brailita, Travis Brakenhoff, Natalie Brandt, Anna Brant, Quinlan Braun, Logan Brooks, Charles Bryant, Narda Cabrera, Vida Cabrera, Cynthia Carlson, Alejandro Carreon Diaz, Tracey Cerrato Ramirez, Elijah Combs, Vincent Condry, Faith Cowling, Brady Creech, Brooke Donner, Candice Donner, Tethloach Duang, Karla Escoboza Perez, Daeton Espino, Rebekah Evans, Yajaira Flores, Cerda Jessalyn Fonseca Quintero, Adriana Fragoza Meeka, Francis Nathanael Glore, Cale Gowen, Jackson Graves, Keatan Grizzard, Jacob Haase, Blaine Hamik, Jordan Head, Caiden Henry Perlich, Kelyn Henry Perlich, Landon Hinrichs, Linnea Howie, Mary Howie, Landon Jacobus, Wyatt Johnson, Pauline Jonglertham, Shaylee Knott, Cianna Lane, Jamarion Lockridge, Tyrique Lockridge, Mckinsey Long, Charity Marino, Abie Martinez, Hayden Mays, Makenzie Miller, Lauryn Mullen, Justin Musgrave, Gretchen Muth, Austin Nauert, Sydney Nelson, Aaron Nonneman, Jordan Norris, Eleanor Oliver, Summer Parnell, Maison Reeves, Lillyana Rennick, Hannah Reynolds, Rebekah Reynolds, Ray Riley, Jett Samuelson, Johnathan Schmidt, Brayden Schram, Dacey Sealey, D’Andre Shipman, Kyle Siebrass, Erik Stankevich, Alayna Stephenson, Stella Stoner, Evan Struss, Aubry Sweley, Emma Synek, Demetrios Theoharis, Gauge Tinsman, Joshua Truong, Gavin Valle, Alice Vu, Joanne Vuong, Kevin Vuong, Conner Wademan, Lizabeth Weseman, Bree Anne Witte
St. Cecilia: Jenson Anderson, George Arthur, Edwin Ayala, Rachel Benal, Logan Bright, Abigail Burns, Shaye Butler, Anthony Bykerk, Lucia Bykerk, Caden Cerny, Emma Cerny, Emmanuel Consbruck, Graham Daly, Samantha De Loera, Addison Demuth, Hayden Demuth, Ammy Escamilla, Jammy Escamilla, Chase Evans, Lucy Fago, Cecelia (CeCe) Fanning, Talon Hawkinson, Magdalen Heckman, Leah Hentzen, Robert Hrnchir, Dawson Kissinger, Caden Krikac, Tatum Krikac, Carson Kudlacek, Collin Kuzelka, Olivia Kvols, Emma Landgren, Luke Landgren, Keegan Lindauer, Monica Nguyen, Oscar Padilla-Aguilar, Garrett Parr, Connor Pell, Lauren Redinger, Grant Rossow, Anthony Sabatka, Ryann Sabatka, Jackson Schaefer, Erin Sheehy, Allison Stritt, McGivney Swanson, Thomas Thomas, Isaac VanSkiver, Megan Vrooman, Sarah Walz, Joyce Wang, Aiden Weeks, Braxton Wiles
Lawrence-Nelson: Sydney Biltoft, Trevor Biltoft, Wyatt Brockman, Fayth Brudvig, William Dougherty, Nathan Elledge, Emma Epley, Riley Funk, Aleah Heikkinen, Claire Himmelberg, Jessica Himmelberg, Conner Janda, Elsa Jorgensen, Theodore Kathman, Toby Kotinek, Tyson Kotinek, Krayton Kucera, Avery Mazour, Katelyn Mazour, Keaton Mazour, Logan Menke, Alexandra Miller, Emily Miller, Rocky Miller, Victoria Miller, Mckenzie Ostdiek, Nolan Ostdiek, Jessica Sole, Jacob Swift, Savannah Tippin, Cole Troudt, Emily Troudt, Erik Wheeland, Clay Williams, Blake Wroughton, Devyn Zikmund, Gabriel Zikmund
Minden: Lexi Anderson, Kevin Aranda-Garcia, Antonio (Tony) Arner, Alejandro Banuelos, Nicholas Bendix, Jameson Birkestrand, Jasper Birkestrand, Lily Bloomfield, Alex Boudreau, Alexander Brais, Jonathan Brais, Sloane Branham-Beck, Brenna Bules, Connor Carpenter, Dedric Cervantes, Jose Ciprian, Kaden Clark, Marah Dornhoff, Daniel Eagle Elk-Brito, Bailey Eckhardt, Madilynn Emery, Lucas Epperson, Hunter Fredrickson, Gage Fries, Zachary Froid, Bronson Glanzer, Brooks Glanzer, Carrin Gramke, Jesse Gruber, Carter Harsin, Seth Hauserman, Hunter Heath, Ashley Helleberg, Rylan Holsten, Raegan Horner, Sarah Hultquist, Alejandra Iniguez Jauregui, Ryan Johnson, Maylee Kamery, Daulton Kuehn, Isaac Kuehn, Lauren Labenz, Cooper Land, Gracie Lee, Mariah Lempka, Leah Livingston, Jakoby Loibl, Levi Loseke, Gavin Lupkes, Austin Lutkemeier, Angel Madriz-Navarrete, Priscila Madriz-Navarrete, Kaleigh Melroy, Rozelynn Nelson, Kole Nielsen, Trinity Petty, Ayleigh Porter, Evan Porter, Alexander (Alex) Quintana, Abigail Rehtus, Lindsey Rehtus, Bailey Rogers, Jack Ryan, Jake Ryan, Riley Saunders, Braiden Schroeder, Brycen Schwenka, Olivia Sheldon, Sara Shirley, Dalton Sinsel, Evan Smith, Sonny Sowles, Alaina Suchsland, Colby Teel, Dane Teel
Red Cloud: Brooks Armstrong, Patricia Arroyo, Brandt Ayda, Kallie Brown, Samuel Dilley, Benjamin Ely, Avery Fangmeyer, Brody Fischer, Berrick Hersh, Marissa Hersh, Corbin Hoit, Olivia Horne, Kolton Kucera, Beau Lewis, Riley Lambrecht, Mahon Landon, Carson McCleary, Shaelee Minnick, Ord Paisley, Zechariah Sepeda, Dillon Simpson, Tate Schriner, Malaki Shriner-Horne, Brenna Stocker, Caden Trew, Kassidy Uhrich
Shickley Adam Alfs, Kenzie Bohling, Cloey Carlson, Tyler Grote, Jayden Heath, Briana Janing, Landon Johnson, Logan Johnson, Bryn Kadel, Hanna Kadel, Macy Kamler, Madeline Kamler, Delainey Kaster, Jay Kempf, Aaron Mick, Hannah Miller, Brooklynn Nelson, Elijah Noel, Owen Oglesby, Ashley Schlegel, Blake Schlegel, Raleigh Shiple,y Mariah Sliva, Taylor Sliva, Jada Spurling, Seth Stengel, Lynley Swartzendruber
Silver Lake: Sydney Bartels, Shaylen Beaty, Eric Blythe, Ashley Bonifas, Samantha Bonifas, Morgan Dinkler, Amanda Ehrman, Marissa Erickson, Adrian Gomez, Matthew Hanse,n Taylor Hanson, Trista Hanson, Brayden Hemberger, Easton Heuertz, Kassi Jones, Savanna Junek, Braden Karr, Brock Karr, Katelyn Karr, Keaton Karr, Kerigan Karr, Madison Karr, Tristan Kasson, Tayten Menke, Madison Miller, Rehgan Miller, Emily Monie, Lane Parr, Quinn Rosno, Josi Sharp, Blaine Simonton, Jack Sorensen, Jenna Strampher, Lana Swanson, Luke Swanson, Georgiann tenBensel, Trey Vance, Seirra Watts-Hofstetter, Grant Young
Superior: Aaron Allgood, Bayln Bargen, Cailyn Barry, Cayce Barry, Sierra Blackburn, Conner Blackstone, Haley Blackstone, Ty Boller, Jordan Brown, Payton Christiancy, Matthew Colgrove, Alexa Cox, Jonathon Druba-Rainge, Teegan Duncan, Lilly Edwards, Tyler Everhart, Kaylee Flaata, Ella Gardner, Brooklynn Grabast, Ashton Grassmann, Emma Henderson, Grady Henderson, Elijah Heusinkvelt, Madison Heusinkvelt, Kya Hodges, Luke Jameson, Dereck Kirchhoff ,Atlee Kobza, Carsyn Koenig, Aric Leibel, Janison Majors, Nadia McMeen, Neah McMeen, Jacob Meyer, Shayla Meyer, Brett Miller, Dane Miller, Clayton Morris, Raven Page, Owen Perrie, Ashleigh Primus, Sadie Rempel, Taygun Rothchild, Seth Schnakenberg, Tatum Streit, Lauren Tietjen, Anders Webber, Taran Zoltenko
Sutton: Ingelise Andersen, Leif Anderson, Nathan Baldwin, Kylie Baumert, Jesse Bergen, Garrett Bonnell, Claydon Claus, Shelby Dietz, Marlie Drudik, Grace Eastin, Julia George, Devon Griess, Kate Griess, Marai Guinyard, Whitney Hahn, Colton Haight, Jesse Herndon, Joseph Hinrichs, Alivia Huxoll, Quenton Jones, Olivia Kessler, Caleb Ladehoff, Savanna Mallet, Carson Mau, Grasha Nuss, Melaney Nuss, Dayvie Perrien, Kennedy Perrien, Tori Peterson, Gerardo Rico, Reagan Robinson, Alvino Sanchez, Owen Schelkopf, Grace Schmer, Kylie Schroetlin, Greyson Stengel, Jadyn Stevens, Glenda Vance, Cade Wiseman
Thayer Central: Jadyn Bowman, Taylor Broers, Nate Burd, Ethan Calabro, Cooper Casey, Kinley Casey, MacKenzie Cast, Ashlyn Cooper, Cambria Dake, Andrew Engle, Kaylee Engle, Sydney Escritt, ,Alanna Fangmeier, Trey Fischer, Madison Hammer, Andrew Heinrichs, William Heitmann, Cassandra Hergott, Chloe Hintz, Jayden Hissong, AnnaMae Howe, Cayden Huber, Jayme Huhman, Lindsay Johnson, Joel Kayser, Barrett Kiburz, Christian Krupicka, Kinsley Kugel, Jordan Lake, Megan Lukert, Jordan Mariska, Brenner McLaughlin, Caitlyn Mitchell, Gunner Mumford, Elijah Mumm, Kelby Mumm, Ella Murray, Bradley Neff, Lachlan Pickering, Elizabeth Poisel, Halle Pulliam, Mason Remmers, Allison Richardson, Kelbie Schmidt, Ashton Sinn, Kaisha Solomon, Chloe Souerdyke, Joshua Speichinger, Dominic Stewart, Elle Sudbeck, Luke Templin, Buchannan Tietjen, Natalie Tietjen, Taivry Virus, Traven Virus, Tara Waldmeier, Treyton Waldmeier, Josey Welch, Madelynn Wells, Triston Wells, Ava Wiedel, Duncan Wiedel, Grant Wiedel, Jasa Wiedel, Logan Wiedel, Siraya Wiedel
Wilcox-Hildreth: Keegan Anderson, Chase Beck, Luke Bennetts, Natalie Billington, Chase Bunger, Emma Donley, Tate Garrett, Samuel Gruwell, Sarah Jensen, Makayla Johnson, Abby Klein, Keya Knaus, Logan Knaus, Lane Lieb, Keegan Linden, Lucas Linden, Brodi Moss, Claire Ortgiesen, Addison Overholser, Brooke Quadhamer, Georgia Ramsey, Noelle Richmond, Robert Richmond, Gaige Ritner, McKinley Ritner, Ryeann Ritner, Grayson Sheen, Magnolia Springer
Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, provided an overview of the health department’s response to the novel coronavirus disease pandemic during a presentation to the League of Women Voters on Friday.
The coronavirus, later named COVID-19, was discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.
The first case in the United States was discovered on Jan. 21, 2020. The first death due to the disease was reported Feb. 29. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the spread of the disease constituted a pandemic.
Bever said the South Heartland District Health Department began preparing mid-January of 2020, as surveillance staff began to monitor activity in China.
During that time, the health department was working closely with Hastings College to advise students and faculty participating in the school’s travel programs. They discussed what would be done in case of exposures and put a plan in place for quarantine if needed.
Hastings College ended up reporting a case of COVID-19 on March 18, 2020, but Bever said it didn’t cause significant concern.
“There was no additional spread because all those things were in place,” she said.
As the disease started spreading across the United States, Bever said the health department was inundated with phone calls of people reporting flu symptoms and asking if it could be the coronavirus. Staff had to receive additional training and stay current on the best practices being offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health department employees also started contact tracing for reported exposures in the area. In July, they began working with the state’s contact tracing team as well, which offered additional resources in times when the local department was overwhelmed. Bever said that support was useful in the fall of 2020 as cases spiked in the area.
As the availability of testing grew, the health department worked with long-term care facilities and food processing plants to get tests administered to get an idea of how widespread the disease was in the area.
The health department started collecting information about the spread of the disease in the area and created a dashboard on its website to share updated statistics with the community.
As of Friday, Bever said there have been 4,896 confirmed cases in the health district’s four-county area. There have been 91 confirmed deaths, putting the fatality rate in the area at 1.9%. That information and much more is readily available on the website.
“We are really proud of this dashboard,” she said.
Visits to South Heartland’s website spiked from 476 views in February 2020 to 26,191 in April 2020, as residents sought information about the pandemic. She said the website traffic has decreased during the yearlong pandemic, but it remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic times.
The health department also provided assistance as demand grew for personal protective equipment grew. At first, these supplies came from a cache previously set aside by the department, but later the local health department would help distribute supplies provided by the state and federal governments.
“It became a large operation for us to do that,” Bever said.
Between the beginning of March 2020 through April 27, 2021, South Heartland distributed 264,800 surgical masks, 51,000 cloth masks, 14,201 face shields, 2,945 goggles, 1,315 containers of hand sanitizer, 9,240 containers of wipes, 624,100 gloves, 179,841 gowns, 784 thermometers, 12 gallons of bleach, and three containers of Eco Lab Disinfectant.
The health department also was tasked with reviewing and approving plans for large gatherings of any type, such as weddings or graduations.
They worked closely with the governor’s office and state health directors to develop directed health measures for the area. Bever said there was a fine line to balance the restriction of liberties with trying to curb the spread of the disease.
While the health department has a process for enforcing health directives, she said they hadn’t been put into use on a communitywide basis.
“We had these things in place but haven’t had to use them,” she said. “We were ready. We had plans in place. We had experience from H1N1.”
The main difference from the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 was the length of time the health department had to address the concern. Instead of a total of 19 months for H1N1, the coronavirus has entered its second year.
When a vaccine for COVID-19 became available in December 2020, Bever said the health department had to switch gears to assist with the process of vaccinating people.
“It was amazing to have something positive we could provide to people,” she said.
So far, she said about 41% of the eligible residents in the South Heartland area have been vaccinated. Around 47% of eligible residents have received at least one dose. Overall, 33% of the total residents have been vaccinated.
“Our goal is to have 70% or more vaccinated,” she said.
Those numbers don’t include people vaccinated through pharmacies or long-term care facilities since they go through other programs.
Bever said she was excited to learn that a vaccine was approved for children 12-18 years old because it will allow for a larger portion of the population to be inoculated.
Now, the concern is with variants of the coronavirus being found in the area. The main one found so far has been the B.1.1.7 variant, which often is called “the U.K. variant.” It has a higher transmissibility than the original virus, meaning it spreads more easily from person to person — and it can cause more severe illness.
“The sooner we get people vaccinated, the less chance we have of variants taking hold,” she said.