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nebraska-quarterback-visits-boys-town-high-schoolNebraska Quarterback Visits Boys Town High SchoolNebraska
Nebraska Quarterback Tommy Armstrong speaking to Boys Town
Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017

There is one thing that bonds all Nebraskans together: Husker football. That's why it was an honor to have Tommy Armstrong, University of Nebraska quarterback, come speak to the students about the impact of mentors, the value of education and the importance of taking advantage of opportunities.

Armstrong and his two siblings were raised by his single mother, who was his biggest influence growing up because of her incredible work ethic and immense support she provided. "She taught me to overcome adversity," Armstrong said. "My mentors encouraged me to stick with sports ... tune out distractions. It was not just football, but school in general. They helped me become the person that I am today and helped me become the leader that I am today."

Along with emphasizing the value of mentors, Armstrong also highlighted the value of education. School was a reality check for Armstrong and he knew he wouldn't be able to achieve anything on or off the field without an education. "Take advantage of your education and opportunities that school gives you. Don't just go to college for football, go to better yourself," said Armstrong.

After speaking, several students were able to ask questions and after the lunch period all students received a Tommy Armstrong signed photograph.

Armstrong's message resonated with the youth and mirrored the mission of Boys Town: Take advantage of education, value mentors and relationships with loved ones and work to be the best leader you can be. Seeing Tommy Armstrong thrive this season and hearing about how he has overcome adversity serves as motivation for the youth and employees at Boys Town alike.

For more on Tommy Armstrong's visit, check out the Omaha World-Herald article written by Kevin Cole.

hallofhistorynewexhibitoffersglimpseofmodernboystownHall of History New Exhibit Offers Glimpse of Modern Boys TownNebraska
Hall of History Remodel
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017

​​​​​Each year, around 30,000 people visit Boys Town's Hall of History to learn about our humble beginnings and the vision that Father Edward Flanagan had for the organization. 

Opening in 1986, the museum filled its space with memorabilia, newspaper clippings, an Oscar statue, and many more artifacts that showed what life was like for kids not only at Boys Town but also in America. 

This year, the Hall of History received a major facelift for the first time in its 30-year existence. 

"Over the last 30 years, we have refreshed exhibits every five to six years; however, this is the first major update since 1986," explained Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs and the Hall of History. 

To design the new exhibit, Lynch and his team went back to its roots commissioning the design firm Eisterhold Associates of Kansas City, Missouri to do the job. Eisterhold were the original designers of the Hall of History and have a history of working on museums that involve civil rights. In fact, they have designed exhibits for both the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Rosa Parks Museum and Library and Children's Annex in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Eisterhold set its sights on designing Boys Town's Hall of History in 1986 because of Father Flanagan's commitment to helping boys of all races and religions. 

"We were excited to bring this project to Eisterhold," said Lynch. "The same designer that worked with us 30 years ago, worked on the new exhibit, as well." 

In 2015, Eisterhold laid the blueprint for the design of the new exhibit. The new exhibit was built by McCullough Creative in Dubuque, Iowa and transferred to the Hall of History in fall 2016.  

The exhibit offers a glimpse of the modern Boys Town, educating visitors on Boys Town programs and issues Boys Town youth face today through interactive presentations and videos. Each Boys Town site is represented on a large map, and a whole wall is dedicated to the care we provide children and families through the Boys Town National Research Hospital.  

In addition, special artifacts, such as the Centennial Coin Bill signed by President Barack Obama, and a window from Saint Patrick's Church in Omaha are also in the exhibit. Boys Town youth also will display artwork. 

"The intent was to show visitors how our children live in the Village of Boys Town and across the United States. Coming to this exhibit, they get a feel for what it's like to be a Boys Town youth or family," said Lynch. "A lot visitors to the new exhibit have said they didn't realize the scope of Boys Town's work and are interested in learning more."

To see the new exhibit, stop by the Hall of History Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. To schedule a group tour, contact Tom Lynch at 402.498.1186.

foster-family-services-serving-the-community-by-serving-a-mealFoster Family Services: Serving the Community by Serving a MealNebraska
Foster Family Services
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​​​​Mugs of hot chocolate, grandma’s famous roasted ham, and your second (okay, maybe third) holiday cookie of the evening: Hearty meals with lots of sugary snacks in between is a staple part of holiday celebrations across the country. However, not being able to put food on the table is a harsh reality for families in need during the holiday season.

With this in mind, the Boys Town Nebraska Foster Family Services staff decided to go a step further during the holiday season and give back to the community on a more personal level through by partnering with In-Home Family Services to help a Boys Town family. On December 22, Foster Family Services generously donated a meal to a family in need just in time for the holidays.

This tradition began three years ago when Foster Family Services heard about a family in need and jumped at the chance to help the family and spread some joy. After donating the funds and purchasing the food, the staff picked up the holiday meal for the family. This experience ended the program for the year on a perfect note, so they decided to maintain the tradition and it continues to this day.

Matthew Priest, Director of Boys Town Nebraska Foster Family Services, says that this is just one small way his generous staff goes above and beyond when it comes to caring for the community. “While our staff is committed to helping others as part of their career at Boys Town, giving back on a personal level is just as important to us.”

Foster Family Services is a community-based program where professionally-trained foster parents provide care and support to children of all ages. While their incredible staff work with families in need throughout the year, this tradition is a great way to support families in the community who would appreciate this gesture from the staff. This tradition is just one small way Foster Family Services works to support other programs in the Boys Town's Integrated Continuum of Care®.

Thank you, Foster Family Services, for being an inspiration through your caring and generosity this holiday season. It’s employees like the Foster Family Services staff that maintain Father Flanagan’s vision and what make Boys Town® the unique nonprofit that it is today.

changing-communities-boys-towns-south-omaha-officeChanging Communities: Boys Town's South Omaha OfficeNebraska
South Omaha Office
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

In 2014, Boys Town opened an office in the heart of South Omaha, Nebraska, as part of community initiative efforts outlined in the Strategic Plan.

"We went into the community and listened to see what the community needs and how Boys Town fits in as part of Father Boes' initiative to concentrate services in areas of high need," said Chris Miller, Director of South Omaha Program Operations.

Nearly three years after opening, the office is making huge leaps to help children and families in the high-risk Omaha community. Now a staff of 12, the office has a new three-year strategy to take their programs and services even further.

This three-year strategy focuses on establishing community partnerships, offering an array of services to children and families, collaborating with other organizations and providers for the benefit of the community, demonstrating a clear physical presence, generating new and innovative ways to fund Boys Town services, implementing data collection, and establishing a marketing plan.

"Our overall goal is to strengthen families, keep youth in school, out of trouble and safe at home," said Miller.

Both Miller and Regina Costello, Manager, South Omaha Programs, were brought into the South Omaha office last summer with the responsibility of leading the charge on this three-year strategy and growing the programs. Specifically, the two were tasked with beginning both Care Coordination Services and the Parent Connectors Program.

Care Coordination Services is an intensive, family-centered case management program designed to help families navigate through complex systems such as the mental health care system, school systems and available community programs. Through the Parent Connector program, parents can speak to a peer-parent from the community who has been in a similar situation and who can help the family navigate the path to helpful services.

"We spent time last summer at both the California and Nevada sites being trained on these programs," explained Costello. "We are now at the one-year mark since beginning these services in South Omaha."

That one-year mark has brought success to the office and has helped grow Boys Town's presence in the community. So far, the South Omaha office has helped 551 children and 221 families through Care Coordination Services, Parent Connector Program, Common Sense Parenting® classes, Behavioral Health Services, and a Community Speaker Series.

"Someone is coming in our door every day for help," said Costello. "That's why our location in the community is so important. Word of Boys Town's presence in the community is spreading."

The South Omaha office is unique to the community because it helps non-system children and families. This means that children and families are able to receive help before a crisis occurs and the police or State of Nebraska gets involved. "Helping non-system families is imperative to the community. These families now have access to programs and services designed for early intervention," Miller said.

In addition to its location on one of the main streets in the community, Boys Town also has a staff member whose office is located in South High School. "Our staff is easily accessible and it removes barriers for students or families looking for help," added Miller. "We are also looking to partner with the middle schools that feed into South High School so we can connect with families even before high school."

The South Omaha office also uses community events for outreach and to bring awareness to their services by setting up a booth or participating in a parade. Just recently, the office staff and additional Boys Town volunteers took part in the community's annual El Grito Celebration – a parade and festival celebrating the Mexican Independence Day and National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Both Miller and Costello agree that without their staff, the South Omaha office would not be as successful as it is today.

"The staff understands that work is outside of a regular 8 to 5," Costello said. "Our staff is very dedicated to the mission and a lot of them are from the community and are graduates of South High, so they want to see the community change for the better."

Going forward, Costello and Miller want to continue to spread the word about Boys Town in South Omaha and foster community partnerships. They do, however, realize there will be some challenges along the way.

"It's a challenge because we're on the front edge of the mission," said Miller. "We are living in the grey area and need to learn as we go."

Miller, Costello and the staff at South Omaha are excited to see where the office will be in the next few years and to witness firsthand the changes they can bring to the South Omaha community.

tom-lynch-awarded-prestigious-DAR-national-community-service-awardTom Lynch Awarded Prestigious DAR National Community Service AwardNebraska
Tom Lynch receiving DAR Award
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

​​​Congratulations to Tom Lynch, Director of Community Programs, Boys Town Nebraska, on his recent receipt of the Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award. 

The Daughters of the American Revolution formally known as DAR, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to historical preservation, promotion of education and encouragement of patriotic endeavors. This organization was founded in 1890 and has since grown nationally to 3,000 chapters with 185,000 members who dedicate their time and efforts to DAR’s mission that values God, home and country. ​

The Omaha chapter of the Nebraska State Daughters of American Revolution awards a National Community Service Award every year to a deserving recipient who values the organization’s main goals of historical preservation, education and patriotic endeavors. 

Kim Justus, the Current Public Service Director of Omaha DAR, is in charge of finding a member within the community whose values align with that of DAR’s. Kim then compiles information regarding their service to the community and submits this to the National DAR Committee for review. The decision whether the nomination is accepted is ultimately up to the National DAR Committee.

“Thinking about this year’s recipient and all the important things that the DAR does, I realized that Tom Lynch also has the same visions and values.” Justus said. “When I thought of his extensive work with the Boys Town Hall of History and his involvement with many different community outreach programs, I knew he would be the perfect person for the award.” 

Tom has worked with Boys Town for over 30 years and continues to preserve Boys Town’s rich legacy in the Hall of History.

“Community engagement has allowed me to reintroduce Boys Town to the Omaha community. Many people are surprised by the current Boys Town programs and are eager to learn how they can help the Home through volunteering and giving.” Lynch said. 

Through his knowledge and expertise, Tom and other volunteers have been able to maintain a large archive filled with nearly 100 years of history. This also includes many relics and photographs that are on display at the Hall of History.

“It was an honor to be able to present Tom with the national award for outstanding community service for his ongoing efforts in preserving history, honoring our troops and promoting education,” Justus added.

boys-town-national-hotline-partners-with-nebraska-medicine-and-omaha-public-schools-to-assist-with-suicide-preventionBoys Town National Hotline Partners with Nebraska Medicine and Omaha Public Schools to Assist with Suicide PreventionNebraska
Your Life Your Voice
Monday, Jan 23, 2017

The Boys Town National Hotline® recently partnered with Nebraska Medicine and Omaha Public Schools in an effort to provide lifesaving information to more at risk youth in the Omaha community. Nebraska Medicine's mental health-related initiatives aligned perfectly with the Hotline's efforts within the Omaha community. By partnering with Omaha Public Schools, Nebraska Medicine and the Hotline are able to reach a large number of students across the Metro.

The partnership between these three organizations will provide Hotline materials such as posters, wallet cards, banners, pencils and many other small items containing the Hotlines contact information to 85 different schools across Omaha. Over 52,000 students in the Omaha community will be given potentially lifesaving contact information due to the large donation of $25,000 from Nebraska Medicine and the support of Omaha Public Schools.

"We are so grateful for this opportunity to reach the students of Omaha Public Schools," said Ginny Gohr, Director of the Boys Town National Hotline. "We are a national hotline, but Omaha is our home, and we want all of the students in Omaha to have our contact information in case they ever need someone to listen."

Boys Town extends a thank you to Nebraska Medicine for the substantial donation and to Omaha Public Schools for their support. With the help of these two organizations, the Boys Town National Hotline will be able to serve more youth within the Omaha community.

Boys-Town-Helps-Foster-ParentsBoys Town Helps Foster ParentsNebraska
Boys Town Helps Foster Parents
Tuesday, Jan 3, 2017

This article was posted on on December 20, 2016.

Colin and Colby are two former Boys Town residents that perfectly exemplify the life changing quality of Boys Town.

The two children hit a very rough patch in their lives and were in desperate need of help, and foster parents. April and Joey Falk stepped up and became the foster parents of the two boys, but, as first-time parents, the Falks needed help of their own. That is where Boys Town came in, providing everything from training to supplies and even a visiting expert.

"Boys Town's been a huge support for us. I don't know that we would have taken on more than just the one child we started with had it not been for Boys Town" said April.

The help from Boys Town has really been paying off as the Falks, along with Colin and Colby are all adjusting really well to their new family. Joey Falk says it's been an experience like no other.

"It's amazing to see these little kids and see smiles on their faces and know that they are in a safe place growing up," he said. "And they feel safe here and we've seen then grow up right before our eyes which is awesome."

boys-town-a-beacon-of-hope-for-troubled-youthBoys Town: A Beacon of Hope for Troubled YouthNebraska
Thursday, Dec 29, 2016

​​​​​​​This story aired on CBS Sunday Morning and was posted on on December 25, 2016.

"There's no place like home." Rarely is that truer than this time of year. Our Christmas Cover Story is all about a very special home for some very needy children, as reported by Tony Dokoupil:

Right near the midpoint of America, ten miles outside of Omaha, Nebraska, there's a town that sits between childhood and whatever comes after.

"These young people are about to become citizens of the most famous village in the world," said Father Stephen Boes at a swearing-in ceremony.

In this town, almost every kid is at a crossroads -- and the goal of all the grown-ups here is to help kids leave Boys Town behind.

"I do solemnly promise … that I will be a good citizen."

Eighteen-year-old Chase Pruss, from Dodge, Neb., was sworn in here six months ago --  arriving, like a lot of the kids, straight from jail.

"I took the school safe," he said.  "Just for money. For Beer money. And gas money. And buy cigarettes."

Two more break-ins followed, and Pruss ended up arrested in front of his bewildered parents. "My mom was crying, my dad was crying," he said.

He had run through four different schools, stolen and lied.

And he faced 80 years in prison, ​until a judge helped get him into Boys Town. "I ​​had that mindset of, "I never want to ever ​put myself in the position where I could land myself back in an orange jumpsuit," Pruss said. "I never ​wanted my ​jail ID ​number to say ​who I was."

Andre Harris (right) in class at Boys Town. CBS News

Seventeen-year-old Andre Harris came to Boys Town the same way.  Nearly three years ago, back in Amarillo, Texas, he stole a car, and ended up in juvenile detention.

"I didn't feel like I was gonna amount to anything after that," he told Dokoupil.  

Frankly, he didn't think he'd amount to much before jail, either. College seemed out of reach. He can't remember hearing someone say they were proud of him.

Dokoupil said of Boys Town, "More felons per capita here than any town in Nebraska."

"Probably!" Harris laughed. "But we're all doing our best to change."

Almost every week here at Boys Town, new boys (and since 1979, new girls, too) are sent by social workers, judges and desperate parents. Most of the kids have been unable to live anywhere else without getting in trouble.

And Boys Town is their last chance.

"A lot of people would say they're bad kids," Dokoupil said. "Is that how they see themselves when they get here?"

"Some of our kids do," replied Tony Jones, one of Boys Town's "family teachers." "They see themselves as, you know, on the bottom of the totem pole."

And how do they change that mindset? "You show them that this is your decision. This is your life."

Jones and his wife, Simone, run one of 55 homes on campus. Eight Boys Town children live there like a family, alongside the Jones' three biological kids.

"Every single young man that has come through my home has now become a part of my family," Jones said.

This is a large part of what makes Boys Town so powerful; all 360 kids living here have paid Boys Town parents like Tony and Simone.

"It's a professional, full-time Dad, brother, uncle, cousin -- whatever my boys may need me to be at that particular time in their life, that, then, is who I become for them," Jones said.

Tony Jones and his wife, Simone, and three children share their home with eight Boys Town students. CBS News​

He began at Boys Town as a boy himself. He was born to a shattered family in Detroit. "I can recall my brother and I standing at a bus stop, and it was in the dead of winter. And we only had one pair of socks to share between the two us," Jones laughed.

But then a priest gave the Jones brothers a chance to change their lives at Boys Town. "It was a total transformation," he said.

Dokoupil asked, "Where do you think you would be if you had said no to Boys Town?"

"Oh, two places: I would either be incarcerated, or I would be dead."

Father Edward Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. CBS News

The Jones story is typical of a hundred years of stories at Boys Town, which began in 1917 as Father Flanagan's Home for Boys. The most beloved clergyman in America, he created arguably the most famous reform school in the world.

Of his charges, Father Flanagan said, "His bruised and tortured heart and mind must be nursed back to normal health through kindness."

You may remember a 1938-Oscar winning movie about the place starring Spencer Tracy. But what you probably don't know is it's a real town, with a real post office and police department.

At about $65,000 per student per year, Boys Town is comparable to a top private college -- and it's mostly taxpayers footing the bill.

But taxpayers pay for prisons, too -- more than $39 billion a year nationally. Boys Town says it can help keep those prison cells empty, while nearly doubling the chance that these students will graduate from high school.

Dokoupil asked Jones, "How do you avoid coming in and being just another person telling them all the things they're doing wrong?"

"By telling them all the things they're doing right," Jones replied. "That's how you help kids change. It's being able to say, 'Hey, young man, you did a good job this morning getting up.'"

"It almost sounds like a joke."

"Well, you know something? That little praise goes a long way."

That little praise goes all the way back to Father Flanagan's ​founding idea: "There are no bad boys."

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful … well, the results say otherwise.

When asked where he would be without Boys Town, Chase Pruss replied, "I'd be in lockup." As did another.

And if that all sounds too pat to be successful, just listen to the results. Tesharr said, "I've been here for a short amount of time. But since my first day I didn't feel like I was in a place where I couldn't leave. I felt like I was home."

Of course, the Boys Town way does not work for every child who comes here; there are failures. But for Chase's parents, Dan and Trish, it's been nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

Dokoupil asked them, "Who was Chase before Boys Town and who is he today?"

"He was dishonest, disrespectful, a thief," said his mother. "And now he is the Chase that I always wanted him to be."

For Andre Harris, the change has been no less dramatic since stealing that car. "It's not even the same person," he said.

And how is he different? "My actions, the way I speak. I've grown up. I've become a young man."

He's a school leader now … a star on the track team … and he's just found out he's headed to college next year.

But first, he's headed to Amarillo for the holidays … a place he hasn't seen in nearly three years. It's a place that Boys Town has been preparing him for since the very day he made his grand theft exit:

It's home.

"This is my Christmas gift," Robert Harris told Dokoupil. "This is all I wanted!"

Andre Harris is welcomed by neighbors back home in Amarillo, Texas. CBS News
boys-town-saves-troubled-mans-lifeBoys Town Saves Troubled Man's LifeNebraska
Nick's Story
Tuesday, Dec 27, 2016

This article was posted on w​ on December 13, 2016.

At age 15 Nick Manhart was on a troubled path. It was a path his mother Karen had no clue how to handle. Nick made his way through life by doing many illegal activities.

"I never had a job or anything but I used to sell my prescription medication so I could get money to do things like smoke pot and shoplift stuff like that. So it was never, good times, it was never good," confessed Nick.

When his mother Karen found out about the drug dealing she made one of the hardest decisions a parent can make. She turned in her own son.

"I had to save him from himself because he was going down a road that was not gon​na be good it wasn't gonna end well," Karen said.

Luckily, for both Karen and Nick after time in the Douglas County Youth Facility Nick found his way to Boys Town.

"If it wasn't for Boys Town I'd be dead or in jail," Nick told WOWT 6 News.

While Nick is just one of the many young people that attended Boys Town he and his mother both know that without Boys Town their family wouldn't be as strong as it is now. ​

Former-Youth-Rises-Above-Mental-Health-ChallengesFormer Youth Pins Down, Rises Above Mental Health ChallengesAll, Nebraska
Tuesday, Dec 27, 2016

Nick Boes knows firsthand the pain and turmoil that comes from living with mental health issues. He also knows that with the right help, a person can learn to cope with those challenges and thrive in his or her personal, family and academic life. For Nick, that help came from the compassionate caregivers at Boys Town. Nick spent a year and a half as a citizen of the Village of Boys Town, Nebraska, where he found hope, healing and a new approach for the future. This is his story, in his own words.

My earliest memory of my anxiety, obsessiveness and some of the start of my depression was about the age of 6. I was already showing symptoms and unusual behaviors so my mom took me to a mental health professional. My parents were given some behavioral modification techniques to use with me and I was prescribed medication. They were told to bring me back in a couple of years if things got worse.

When I was 12, my parents brought me back because my anxiety and depression were bad again. I was given therapy and medication and things improved for a while. 

In high school, anxiety would come and go, but when it came back, it was bad. I managed it fairly well my freshman and sophomore years. The exercise from wrestling on the varsity team helped a lot and wrestling became a big part of my life. I was also doing well in school.

During my junior year, I had a real bad turnaround.

Even though I was a leader on the wrestling team and doing well in school, my anxiety was a huge factor in how I felt. I held in a lot of fear and anger, and I never told anyone about it.

My home life started to fall apart. I began to be abusive to my family, stole money from my parents and harmed the ones I love.

I tried everything in my power to defeat my crippling anxiety and depression but nothing worked. One day, I ran away from home just to escape; it didn't help, and I returned home.

I was 17 years old and my parents were really desperate to help me find help. So we tried a new doctor and new medication, along with therapy.

Things didn't get better this time. I thought nothing in my life was going right and I had a lot of self-pity. I was so anxious and always worrying about myself. It got so bad that thoughts of suicide began to creep into my head.

That's when my parents contacted Boys Town.  

At first, I went to the Intensive Residential Treatment program. After about a month, I moved to the Family Home Program.  

My Family-Teachers® (the trained married couple who care for youth in Family Homes) were incredible and I consider them like my family. I love them so much.

At Boys Town, I bought in right away. It was my chance to change. I got the help I needed from my Family-Teachers, therapist, teachers and coaches. Life got much better. I did well in school and ended up playing three varsity sports.

At graduation, I remember walking across the stage, so proud of overcoming all the adversity and troubles I had faced. For the first time in a long time, I could look my dad and mom in the eye. 

After graduation, I attended Concordia University. My freshman and sophomore years, I had a bit of a relapse with my anxiety and depression. But I kept telling myself things would get better and this would pass – and it did.

My sophomore year, I was a manager on the wrestling team when I decided to walk on to the team. I knew what to do to make the team because of all the skills I learned at Boys Town. Not only did I make the team but I earned a scholarship.   

I am on track to graduate in May of 2017 with a degree in behavioral science and psychology and a minor in sociology. I have rebuilt my relationship with my family and have the right group of friends.

Boys Town gave me hope and taught me that even though anxiety and depression will never go away, I can learn to accept them and live a great life. The key is to know how to manage them daily and ask for help when they become overwhelming.

I hope my story can inspire others with similar issues to stay hopeful and ask for help.

5000-cookies-boy-thats-a-christmas-party5,000 Cookies! Boy, That's a Christmas PartyNebraska
Guests at the Christmas Family Festival
Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016

​​This article is written by Collin Ruane. It was posted December 10, 2016 on

Boys Town held its annual Christmas Festival on Saturday, featuring a wide variety of entertainment, including a visit with Santa and his reindeer.

Organizers were pleased with the turnout. "We have a large crowd this year," said Director of Community Programs Tom Lynch. "We really promoted it. We wanted the public to come and learn about Boys Town."

"We made close to 5,000 cookies and about 4,800 frosting cups and we're fully prepared to make about 250 gallons of ​cocoa," said Food Services Director Robert Tapio.​

boys-town-choir-set-to-perform-before-symphony-show-gets-advice-from-the-prosBoys Town Choir, Set to Perform Before Symphony Show, Gets Advice from the ProsNebraska
Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016

​​​This article is written by Betsie Free​man, World-Herald staff writer. It was posted on on December 14th.

It was billed as a master class on music.

Members of the Boys Town Voices sang side-by-side Tuesday with seven Broadway performers in the Music Hall on campus. The professional singers,​ in town for the Omaha Symphony Christmas Celebration, joined the 41-member choir on "O Holy Night," offering an audio-visual tutorial on expression and breath control and sharing a few thoughts about the song.

After that, in a revealing question-and-answer session, it morphed into a master class on life.

How to handle defeat. How to persevere. How to give thanks for blessings, apparent and otherwise.

The visit from the Broadway veterans was set up to help the choir prepare for its preshow at Thursday night's symphony concert. The group will perform about six songs, including "O Holy Night," in the Holland Center lobby, then stay for the Christmas show with other Boys Town representatives.

"It's an experience that most kids don't get," said Stephanie Ludwig, the symphony's public relations manager.

Ludwig said the symphony reached out to Boys Town in an effort to get additional groups for preconcert activities — something new to supplement the bell choirs and violin students who have performed for several years. It's the first time Boys Town has participated.

The students gave the pros a warm welcome with applause and whoops. When the performers joined the choir, several students were clearly awed.

Senior Shae Nielsen, 18, was wowed when professional singers Tiffany Haas and Siri Howard chose seats near her. She said she loves Broadway and plans to major in music in college.

"They were both in front of me, and I felt like I was going to fall over," she said.

When asked if they would like to pursue a performing career, more than half of the choir's members raised their hands. That surprised Haas, one of four headline performers in the symphony show who also has played the role of Glinda in "Wicked" on Broadway and in a national tour.

"That's not usually the case," she said.

The choir members — students in ninth through 12th grades — had several questions about what it's like to be a professional singer, actor and dancer. For each question, the students received answers that spoke volumes about the struggles they may face, no matter what path they choose.

They especially were riveted when the actors talked about how many times they had auditioned for shows.

"I got 72 nos for my first yes," Haas told the group. "If you want something bad enough, you have to keep trying."

And that's true no matter where you are in your career, added dancer Erin Moore.

Each student faced a fair amount of competition when auditioning for one of the spots in the Boys Town Voices, said Sierra Sanchez, who is in her first year as director.

The professionals also said it's important to take care of yourself and to be authentic.

"Don't waste time being what others want you to be," Haas said. "Hold your head high and like who you are."

They also stressed that a stage career means you sometimes have to be creative to support yourself.

Many performers also teach, judge competitions or find other jobs, said dancer Connor Schwantes.

"I am personally a hand model — that's my fun fact," he said. "You have to make money somehow. ... New York is expensive."

And Howard — who appeared in "Les Misérables" and "The Sound of Music" on Broadway — said she had a big lesson she wanted to impart.

"There's a fine line that's important to note, between gratitude and confidence," she said, encouraging the students to be gracious in victory and defeat. "It's not about being the star but about making art."

At the same time, she said, "it's also knowing you have something to offer."

The advice resonated with those who don't have stage aspirations as well as those who do. Senior Daemon Hug, 17, is in the choir merely because he loves to sing. His post-graduation plans include either joining the military or playing college football. Even so, he took a lot away from Tuesday's session.

"Everywhere you go, you're going to have to fight internal battles, and finding a way to deal with those will get you places," he said.​

food-football-and-fun-boys-town-teacher-tony-jones-hosts-regular-tailgates-for-hundredsFood, Football and Fun: Boys Town Teacher Tony Jones Hosts Regular Tailgates for Hundreds Nebraska
Joey Butler, left, and Tony Jones grill burgers to serve to students and fans before the game. MEGAN FARMER/THE WORLD-HERALD
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​​​This article is written by Jon Nyatawa, World-Herald staff writer. It was posted on on November 25, 2016.

Tony Jones stood behind the grill and peered out at a green space that would soon be full of familiar faces bustling about as they filled their plates before a Boys Town playoff football game.

There were bins packed with burgers and brats. A table loaded with cookies. A tub of ice-chilled bottles of water. And plenty of Boys Town staffers ready to serve and direct traffic.

"Um-hum. All right," Jones said as he nodded his head on a gorgeous late-October Friday. "We're ahead of the game." He checked over the scene once more. "Yeah, we're ahead of the game."

Jones has confidently claimed this before. Almost every week, actually. His buddy and right-hand man, Joey Butler, confirms this.

But the moment they start relaxing, then suddenly the line is backing up and the picnic tables are filling up. Somewhere between 200 and 300 people tend to show up — Boys Town students, teachers and their families, graduates, friends, police officers, opposing fans, and essentially anyone else whose nose could recognize that classic barbecue aroma.

But Jones won't ever complain. This tailgate idea was something he and some colleagues came up with a couple of decades ago.

They're Boys Town Family-Teachers — living on-site with their own families while they provide a stable home environment for six to eight students per family. They're always looking for ways to create new experiences for the kids, who may not have been consistently exposed to a community setting before stepping foot on the Boys Town campus.

What's better than food, football and fun?

"It gives us the opportunity to meet and greet, an opportunity to get together, meet new people and have a good time," Jones said.

This has been the routine for every Boys Town home game Butler can remember for 20 years. Rain or shine. Pleasant or frigid.

Jones and Butler started setting up the grill around 2 p.m. on this particular afternoon, a little bit earlier than usual. They were mostly done cooking by the time folks started arriving three hours later. Even then, they were always on the ready, quick to offer a bottle of water to a thirsty kid while they closely monitored their stash of meat.

Meanwhile, the place was coming alive.

Music emanating from the football field's PA system echoed off the nearby buildings. The hip-hop beat at one point inspired a couple of girls to start a quick dance-off. A half-dozen footballs were punted and tossed about. A couple of kids dribbled a soccer ball through traffic. The basketball court hosted a shooting contest, a dribbling battle, a two-on-two bout, and then a four-on-four game. Some families sat picnic-style underneath trees. Others simply crowded onto a picnic table and started sharing stories.

"We've got kids and families from all walks of life here," said Jeff Peterson, Boys Town home campus director. "It's a tremendous organization to work for. We try to make events out of everything. We believe that's part of the healing (nature) of this place."

They've grilled out for a couple of volleyball games this fall. Dinner on Thanksgiving Day will be a momentous gathering in all of the Boys Town households. Christmas is just as big.

Jones is glad this tailgate is part of that.

He remembers it starting as a backyard party, right next to the football field. About six Weber grills were lined up side by side, with kids and parents bringing their own items to be cooked. But it's grown every year since.

And on Oct. 28, a picture-perfect evening before a Class C-1 playoff game between Boys Town and Fairbury, Jones was having a blast. He was stationed behind his grill, cherishing every moment.

"That's why I'm standing here, right by the grill, because you can see everything," he said. "And I ​like to see all the smiles on the kids' faces. This is fun."​

new-era-of-behavioral-health-research-at-boys-town-national-research-hospitalNew Era of Behavioral Health Research at Boys Town National Research HospitalNebraska
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​This article was posted on​ on November 22, 2016.

As Boys Town prepares to celebrate 100 years of service to children and our community, state of the art technology will help researchers better understand troubled young people.

A new era of childhood behavioral health is underway at Boys Town National Research Hospital. This impressive machine is part of the effort. Using magnetic resonance imaging a research team led by Dr. James Blair is looking for unusual activity in the brains of troubled children.

"Understanding what brain systems are necessary for performing particular functions and if those brain systems aren't working so well what types of behavioral problems we might see in the child and therefore understand some of the reasons for those behavioral problems and then potentially augment interventions to help those children better in the future," said James Blair Ph.D.

Subjects play video games while the machine tracks activity in the brain.

"These computer games are organized around making specific brain circuits work and so we can then see those brain circuits on the machine behind us and see the extent to which those systems are working well," Blair explained.

He's excited about what the team is seeing so far and what their work will do.

"Change the way that America cares for kids change the way that we adapt the interventions we have based around this increased knowledge of the strengths and difficulties that children have at the level of the brain," Blair said.

Blair doesn't expect this work will benefit every child who comes to Boys Town National Research Hospital but he thinks it will help some and that's an important step.

"About 20 percent of children who come to Boys Town who don't do as well as we would like to believe they ​should really help that 20 percent do even better in the future," he said.

Blair expects to see some of this research start to impact treatment as early as next year. ​

boys-town-receives-15000-grant-from-first-national-bank-of-omahaBoys Town Receives $15,000 Grant from First National Bank of OmahaNebraska
Tuesday, Dec 6, 2016

​​​​​​​​​​​Boys Town Among 51 Organizations to be Awarded Community Development Grant

November 30, 2016

Boys Town has ​been awarded a $15,000 grant from First National Bank of Omaha, which also operates as First National Bank Fremont and First National Bank North Platte. The grant will be used to fund the Ways to Work Program that operates out of the North Omaha Boys Town office.

"We are so grateful for this grant from First National Bank of Omaha," said Virginia Ayers, Boys Town Ways to Work Program Coordinator. "A reliable automobile makes a huge difference in the lives of these families."

In total, First National Bank of Omaha has awarded more than $1.1 million in community development grants to 51 organizations in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas. The grants, which support Affordable Housing, Educated Workforce and Economic Development programs, mark the bank's final disbursement of grant funding for the year. First National Bank awarded a total of $1,840,000 in community development grants in 2016 to organizations across its seven-state service area. 

The Boys Town Ways to Work program provides small, short-term, low-interest loans to low-income families on a yearly basis as well as financial education, one-on-one credit and financial coaching and case management throughout the life of the loan. The loans will finance the purchase of an automobile to be used primarily for transportation to work, school, and childcare facilities and will enable individuals with challenging credit histories to remain in or move forward in their jobs and become banked by traditional financial institutions.

To view First National Bank's 2015 "First in the Community Impact Report" and learn more about the full extent of its community contributions, please visit:

About Boys Town

For 100 years, Boys Town has been a beacon of hope for America's children and families through its life-changing youth care and health care programs. In 2015, almost 500,000 children and families across the United States were impacted by Boys Town programs. This includes those who received services from Boys Town's residential programs as well as those served by the many varied programs that comprise the Boys Town Integrated Continuum of Child and Family Services, including In-Home Family Services, health care services provided by Boys Town National Research Hospital and the Boys Town National Hotline. You can find more information about Boys Town online at

About First National Bank of Omaha

First National Bank of Omaha is a subsidiary ​of First National of Nebraska. First National of Nebraska is the largest privately owned ​banking company in the United States.  First National of Nebraska and its affiliates have ​​​​more tha​n ​$21 ​billion in assets and 5,000 employee associates. Primary banking offices are located in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, ​Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.


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