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News Media Contacts

Kara Neuverth
Media Relations Director
402-498-1305
Kara.Neuverth@boystown.org

Lauren Laferla
Media Relations Specialist
402-498-1273
Lauren.Laferla@boystown.org
Twitter: @LaurenLaferla

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News From Across the United States

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Making-Family-Dinner-More-Than-a-MealMaking Family Dinner More Than a MealNebraska
Thursday, Sep 22, 2016

​​This article is written by Jenna Jaynes. It was posted on wow​t.com on September 19, 2016.

A new study out shows only 57 percent of families eat dinner together regularly, while 71 percent say they wish they had the time.

According to Boys Town licensed psychologist Amanda McLean, family dinner can be far more than just a meal. It's a time for families to come together and develop some positive interactions.

But with busy schedules, it can be difficult.

She suggests starting by just adding a few meal times a week by ​setting a time and a place to meet. If everyone is eating meals in different rooms, it doesn't help with that togetherness.

Plus, she said there needs to be some expectations, like no electronics or distractions.

By limiting distractions, kids can learn some big life lessons like manners, eating right and contributing to a family.

"I think it's important for kids to know that they're part of the family and have to contribute to the family and so they do this through chores, meeting daily expectations and that can be incorporated in the meal time," McLean said.

She suggests having older kids help with the cooking so they can learn how to prepare a meal. Then have the younger ones help with setting and clearing the table and doing the dishes.

However, McLean stressed the importance of positive interactions. It's easy to scold your child when they don't do the chores, but we often forget to praise them for their work.

McLean said we need at least five positive interactions for every one negative one. The dinner table is a great place for that.

In fact, studies show that children who eat dinner with their families are far less likely to be depressed, consider suicide or have an eating disorder.

They're also far less likely abuse drugs or alcohol. Not to mention, they're more likely to do better in school.

Plus, there's a big health benefit. Eating together means parents can decide the meal, which means kids will eat more fruits and vegetables. They're also more likely to eat the right portion and try new foods.

"Those children have better outcomes in their decision making skills and in terms of their eating habits and in terms of their academic progress as well," McLean said.

And if there's absolutely no time in your schedule for family dinner time, then you need to look elsewhere in your day to have those quality moments.

"If that scheduled time isn't an option because of busy schedules then they can provide that throughout the day with their child," McLean said. "So that comes through praise, showing affection, catching your child being good and just having positive interactions throughout the day."

If you're having concerns with your child, you can contact Boys Town's Behavioral Health Services for help at 402-498-6540.​

Teen-Puts-Heart-and-Mind-into-Achieving-Her-DreamsTeen Puts Heart and Mind into Achieving Her DreamsNebraska
Cheerleading was one of the many activities that helped Jenni gain self-confidence and grow as a person at Boys Town.
Monday, Sep 19, 2016

Slight in stature but strong in character, Jenni Ruiz is a ​survivor.

A 2016 graduate of Boys Town High School, Jenni spent a year and a half as a resident of the Family Home ProgramSM in the Village of Boys Town, Nebraska.

The experience proved to be both healing and inspiring.  

"I really enjoyed Boys Town," Jenni said. "I enjoyed the support I received, the help from teachers and just the motivation people gave me. They inspired me to try my hardest to be someone in this world."

Jenni's appreciation for Boys Town today is a complete reversal from when the South Omaha native first arrived on campus.  

It was a midafternoon when Jenni's mother picked her up from school, presumably, Jenni thought, to take her to a medical appointment. But when the drive ended, Jenni wasn't at the clinic. She was standing outside the Boys Town Admissions Office.

"I wasn't expecting it to happen," Jenni remembered. "I was mad; furious really. I didn't even get to say goodbye to my younger brother and sister."

The trip to Boys Town was the result of months of Jenni sneaking around and skipping school and a souring attitude that had broken the mother-daughter relationship. Jenni and her mother rarely spoke, and it was a tumultuous time.

Not only had Jenni made many bad choices, she also had been robbed of her optimism and innocence: a family acquaintance had sexually assaulted her, further deepening her feelings of isolation and aimlessness.  

While Jenni's shock at suddenly becoming a "Boys Town kid" slowly subsided, her first month on campus wasn't easy.

"I didn't know anyone, and it was awkward to sit in the classroom trying to get caught up on all the assignments the other kids had already done," Jenni recalled.

But continued support and guidance from Family-Teachers® Joey and Heather Butler eventually helped Jenni shed her insecurities.

"We really pushed Jenni to go beyond what she thought she could do," explained Heather. "Building her self-confidence helped Jenni open up and start trusting again." 

With encouragement from the Butlers and the other girls who lived in her Family Home, Jenni got active in campus life. She joined the soccer team and cheer squad, and ran cross country. She buckled down in the classroom, garnering academic awards and becoming a member of the National Honor Society. Her positive attitude and work ethic also earned Jenni Boys Town's "Competing with Character" award, given annually to a student-athlete who exemplifies good character both on and off the playing field.  

Jenni credits her success to all the positive adults and peers who pushed her to try her best and never give up. She says the lessons learned at Boys Town helped her emotionally rebuild her family relationships, too.  

"Now my sister and brother look up to me. I talk to them about staying in school and away from bad influences," she said.

No longer burdened or haunted by the past, Jenni's excited for the future. She was awarded a full-ride, two-year scholarship to a community college, and plans to pursue a criminal justice degree with hopes of joining the FBI.  

"It feels great to know that if you put your heart and mind into something, it can be achieved," Jenni said.​​

Boys-Town-California-to-Celebrate-25th-Anniversary-in-NovemberBoys Town California to Celebrate 25th Anniversary in NovemberCalifornia
Monday, Sep 19, 2016

​​Irish Priest's Mission Serving Children and Families Lives On

This article is written by Cathi Douglas. It was published August 21, 2016 in OC Catholic Weekly.

Father Edward J. Flanagan, who built Boys Town on a 75-acre farm west of Omaha, Nebraska in 1921, once said: "There's no such thing as a bad boy."

Today Father Flanagan's insightful sentiment is carried on decades later on the original property and at 11 affiliate locations across the U.S. including Boys Town California, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall.

Since opening in 1991, Boys Town California has grown to touch the lives of 48,000 people each year. It operates several family homes in Trabuco Canyon and Tustin, as well as offering In-Home Family ServicesSM and Community Support Services.​

"All our programs emphasize healing and faith," explains Boys Town California Executive Director Lawren Ramos. "We give desperate kids hope, keep families together, and help parents succeed. Our mission is to change the way America cares for children, families and communities."

Family struggles do not discriminate, Ramos notes, and Boys Town California works with families in crisis throughout Orange County – from wealthy Coto de Caza to the west side of Sana Ana to affluent Huntington Beach.

In supporting children and families, Ramos says, Boys Town California also advocates for systemic change.

"Father Flanagan created the village of Boys Town to set children on a new path. He did what was right for kids. He housed kids of all ​races in the same buildings. He did it because he knew that deep inside we're uniquely made in the image of our Creator – and each of us is uniquely made for something special."

Interestingly, Father Flanagan began his ministry by reaching out to homeless men after doing research to find out how to make their lives better. One day a man asked him, "Where were you when I was 14?" That haunting question prompted Father Flanagan to seek the assistance of Henry Monsky, a Jewish attorney who saw injustices every day in the Omaha courthouse. Monsky was the first donor to support the organization. "Boys Town was founded in Father Flanagan's heart," Ramos says.

At the time of its founding and for decades following, Ramos says, some Midwest community leaders criticized Father Flanagan for opening Boys Town's doors to boys of all races, backgrounds and religions. A nondenominational organization, Boys Town is unrelated to the Catholic Church, but Father Flanagan himself currently is on a path to possible sainthood.

"One of the things Father Flanagan said is that every boy must pray, but how he prays is up to him," Ramos says. "We encourage them to connect to their own religion and faith. If a kid comes to us and they are Buddhist, we will help them grow in that faith."

One 14-year-old girl arrived at Boys Town California after being placed in 26 different foster, group and other homes, Ramos recalls. "She had a pretty horrible existence. Each time a child has to leave a home, they leave everything behind. It breaks my heart to see kids come into the program and knowing all the heartache, pain and suffering they have to deal with."

That teenage girl now is a successful working adult with a family of her own, Ramos notes.

"She said thank you to me for giving her multiple chances. That is living out our faith of giving grace and forgiveness. We're supposed to forgive, so we do that at Boys Town. The kids become part of our family."

Ramos is proud to note that Boys Town California teens have a 90 percent success rate for graduating from high school.

"We want to continue to carry on Father Flanagan's dream and change how we care for children locally. We want to be a beacon, a light in the world for how we take care of kids."

Throughout the nation, the Boys Town affiliates help thousands of children each year with the Boys Town Integrated Continuum of Care®, which delivers the right care at the right time to help children and families who are edging toward crisis. The program's National Hotline fields more than 170,000 calls annually; its education programs reach 225,000 teachers, families and children; and Boys Town provides direct services to 75,000 people each year.​​

Locally, Boys Town California services include in-home counseling, a behavioral health clinic, parenting classes, support groups and family and peer mentoring, in addition to the four Family Homes for Adolescents and one Family Home for Young Children located on 80 acres in Trabuco Canyon and two Family Homes for siblings in Tustin.

Boys Town has a long history of serving as an excellent steward of donor support. It received one of the highest rankings from Charity Navigator, one of the nation's largest and most-respected charity rating systems.

The Boys Town California 2016 Silver Jubilee Night of Hope gala will take place on November 5 at the Resort at Pelican Hill on Newport Coast. More than 300 are expected to attend. Last year's gala raised more than $145,0o00, with all the proceeds going directly to help children and families in need. This year's target is more than $175,000. For sponsorship information, to register, or other questions, go to secure.boystown.org/CA_NOH/​ or call 714-558-0303.​

Boys-Town-Program-Always-Up-to-Rebuilding-ChallengeBoys Town Program Always Up to Rebuilding ChallengeNebraska
Monday, Sep 12, 2016

This article is written by Kelly Connolly. It was posted on wo​wt.com on September 12, 2016.

Friday nights are a little different at Boys Town, having to build a different team every year.

"Our kids come from all over the country and our average stay is 18 months for our young men,"said head football coach Kevin Kush. The athletes arrive during the summer and are expected to play in the fall. "Football's a great opportunity to do things right and that's what we use football for, to build a better young man."

Not only does the coach sharpen their football skills, he teaches the things that really matter. "I've learned a lot from this team, compete with character, ​fighting for each other," said junior Tijaih Davis. "It's a family thing."

There is a special meaning when student athletes put on that Cowboy jersey. "I've only played last year with Boys Town and just in that one year I've gained a lot of relationships with the coaches and teammates and it's just a great experience overall," said senior Cameron Christoffensen.

"We have low tolerances and high expectations in our program," said coach Kush. With a winning record and being state runner-ups in 2008, what they're doing at Boys Town is working.​

youth-profileYouth ProfileNew York
Victor holding his award
Friday, Sep 9, 2016

Vincent is a 15-year-old ​10th grader from Bronx, NY. He recently participated in a writing competition where students were asked to compare and contrast two preselected poems in an essay.  Vincent won the competition and shared his experience with a staff member, James Hill.

James: First off, how'd you come to Boys Town?

Vincent: The reason I was sent to Boys Town is because of my anger issue.  Someone had stolen my phone and I broke something, because I was mad, but I’m getting better at controlling my temper since I’ve been here.

James: What were the poems about?
 
Vincent: Poem one was about a mother and son’s relationship and poem two was about dreams; same writer, different poems. The Mother and Son poem talked about how the mother doesn’t want her son to give up on his life and follow her same path. She had a lot happen to her, but she didn’t want the same to happen to her son. The second poem talked about if you don’t have a dream, you won’t make it. You have to follow your dreams and they will come true.

James: How'd it feel to win?

Vincent: Winning the competition made me feel wonderful. I really liked winning something. People in the school like me. I don’t play around when it comes to school.

James: As the winner of the writing competition, I heard you received a ticket to see the Broadway show, Finding Neverland. How was that?   

Vincent: I've never been to a Broadway show, but the ticket was $90, so I didn’t want to turn it down. It was awesome! The show was real. This guy came right up to me and said ‘HI,’ it scared me! I wasn’t expecting it; he was dressed up like a pirate. It was good though.  

James: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Vincent: When I grow up I want to play football for the Philadelphia Eagles as either a line-backer and wide receiver. But if I don’t get a contract with the NFL, I’ll probably go to the marines, or write a book.

James: How do you like living at Boys Town New York?

Vincent: I like it; it’s keeping me out of trouble, and the point system is very good. I love to read. The library is one of my favorite places.  I can’t go to sleep without reading. I don’t have a favorite book, but the books that interest me are ones that are about real life, like Malcolm X, but I also like comic books.

boys-town-new-york-youth-tour-college-campusBoys Town New York Youth Tour College CampusNew York
Friday, Sep 9, 2016

Education is one of the most effective agents to ​transform lives and instill promise, motivation and hope. This is why Boys Town New York seeks to immerse our youth in programs and opportunities that help highlight how far a commitment to school - and themselves - can take them, as four special boys recently discovered on a trip to Washington DC.

For Boys Town New York youth, the trip was a rare chance to leave the confines of New York City. On their campus tour of storied Howard University, the experience was a chance for the boys to envision life as a college student and see the power of education as a means to better oneself. Boys Town youth, Henry, said he could picture himself at Howard University in a couple of years following the tour, while another youth, Andrew, began contemplating pledging an academic fraternity. More than just a vow, Boys Town sees these proclamations as obligations towards a better life and a personal promise that they will be the ones to break a cycle of poverty and displacement.

To further support these dreams, please consider making a donation to Bo​ys Town New York today!

teens-turnaround-takes-off-at-boys-town-nevadaTeen's Turnaround Takes Off at Boys Town NevadaNevada
Adan shows off his certificate for reaching the Achievement level of the Boys Town motivation system, the highest level possible
Tuesday, Sep 6, 2016

Adan Perez used to be a rebellious ​youth, running away from home and running into all kinds of trouble.

Today, Adan is a Runnin’ Rebel at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, the first member of his family to graduate high school and attend college.

Adan’s path to success was a long and difficult one. Fortunately, it ran through Boys Town Nevada.

Adan had been involved in the juvenile justice system since 2010 and had spent a year in a secure detention facility before he became a resident of the site’s Family Home Program. Like many youth who come to Boys Town, Adan had an extensive history of delinquency – substance abuse, gang affiliation, possession of a weapon, property destruction, truancy and running away from home. He also had been in 20 out-of-home placements during his younger years.

But Boys Town Nevada was different. Once there, Adan made a choice – a choice to change.

The Boys Town Family Home Program provides a structured, family-style living environment where youth have an opportunity to turn their lives around by learning social skills, finding success in school and building healthy relationships. In every Family Home, a trained married couple called Family-Teachers® helps youth create a foundation for success as productive adults.

Adan worked hard to achieve the personal and behavioral goals that were set for him by his Family-Teachers, Danny and Annora Holland. In school, he maintained a high grade point average and actively participated in choir and the track team.

Thanks to the efforts of the Hollands and other staff members, Adan also successfully reached the highest level of the Boys Town motivation system, making him a positive role model for other youth in his Family Home.

And Adan’s run of successes didn’t stop there. 

After graduating from high school, Adan applied for admission to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the University of Nevada-Reno. He was accepted by both colleges and chose UNLV; he recently moved into the campus dorms and started fall semester classes.

Adan earned over $6,500 in scholarships to help fund his college costs. He was selected for a Leadership Conference scholarship and accepted the award during an NBA Summer League game at UNLV between the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves. He also is an active member of a youth council for a local nonprofit organization that helps homeless high school students, and was recently selected to chair a successful community project sponsored by the council.

Additionally, Adan works at a local restaurant, using the opportunity to demonstrate the new skills he learned at Boys Town Nevada. He continues to hone his independent-living skills and is becoming familiar with the Las Vegas bus system, with the help of Boys Town Aftercare Specialist Tasha Leaver, so he can easily commute to and from work.
It’s a busy schedule, and it keeps Adan on the run. But now, the teen knows he’s headed in the right direction.

former-boys-town-youth-now-helps-others-as-advocate-for-at-risk-kidsFormer Boys Town Youth Now Helps Others as Advocate for At-Risk KidsWashington DC
Sloane provided impactful testimony during a hearing on a federal juvenile justice bill before the House Committee.
Tuesday, Sep 6, 2016

How does a 12-year-old cope as he struggles with his father’s substance abuse issues and his parents’ separation?

He argues with his parents, challenging their authority. Over time, he escalates his negative behavior, acting out, using alcohol and drugs, and ​getting into brushes with the law. And school becomes a major source of frustration because he’s failing and not learning.

That was Sloane Baxter’s life as he began the steady descent that would ultimately land him in a youth prison.

At 14, Sloane was arrested for attempting to steal a car. He was placed on probation, but repeated probation violations led to his incarceration at Oak Hill Youth Center.

“Oak Hill was a youth prison,” said Lisette Burton, J.D., Director of National Advocacy at Boys Town Washington DC. “It was an awful place with barbed wire; it looked and functioned like a prison for adults. It has since been shut down.”

Sloane spent several months at the center before his caseworker contacted Boys Town Washington DC about a possible placement in the site’s Family H​ome Program. After Boys Town staff visited with Sloane, everyone agreed it would be a good fit.

“Sloane is a very engaging young man,” Burton said. “He adapted quickly to the structure, skill teaching and family-style environment of the program.”

Besides providing a safe, nurturing home for the teen, Sloane’s Family-Teachers® worked with his caseworker, family members and others to place him in a school that better addressed his educational needs.

“This was a very big deal for him because he had not previously experienced any school success,” Burton said. “Once he was in the right environment, he began to thrive in school.”

Sloane also began to develop and pursue other interests that proved beneficial.

“The boys in his Family Home participated in a summer project called ‘Book in Day,’” Burton said. “This taught them the fundamentals of poetry, how to write poems and basic publishing. They created a book of poetry titled ‘Concrete Dreams’ and published it. Having these kinds of experiences, in addition to learning new skills and building relationships at home and in school, helped propel him forward.”

Sloane was 17 when he left Boys Town and moved home, which had greatly improved during his stay. He graduated from high school and later got an apartment of his own. He continued working at Starbucks – a job he started as an afterschool employee while at Boys Town – and eventually earned a promotion to a supervisor position.

“To this day, Sloane still keeps in touch with his Family-Teachers,” Burton said. “He’s on a great path. The big difference for Sloane is he now utilizes the resources around him, and he has well-developed problem-solving and communication skills. He also has a great relationship with both of his parents today.”

Sloane’s life experiences also have made him an ideal advocate for at-risk children.

In October 2015, Boys Town was advocating for a federal juvenile justice bill with the Chairman of the House Committee on Workforce and Education, Congressman John Kline.

“Chairman Kline previously visited Boys Town in Nebraska, and his staff knew young people from Boys Town had given valuable testimony before. They requested a Boys Town youth to speak at a hearing on juvenile justice,” Burton said. “We asked Sloane if he would be willing and he readily agreed. He was still young enough for his experiences to be fresh and relevant but also older and mature enough to be able to independently determine what he wanted to share and how.”

Burton helped Sloane, then 22, shape his story and experiences into his formal testimony to Congress.

During the hearing, Sloane spoke alongside a judge, a vice president of a large nonprofit organization and a leader who advocates for justice reforms. Sloane was asked pointed questions about his experiences and his opinions on juvenile justice issues.

“Sloane’s testimony was fantastic,” Burton said. “He was actually highlighted in Chairman Kline’s comments after the hearing because it was so impactful. Sloane’s testimony about being incarcerated as a young person and then thriving in a family-style, community-based program like Boys Town’s Family Homes had a big impact on the committee – and that impact is ongoing.”

In May 2016, Chairman Kline and his staff, along with ranking-member Congressman Bobby Scott, contacted Boys Town Washington DC to arrange a visit to a Family Home so they could learn more about the residential program and see it in action.

In addition, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan recently published a Republican Party policy brief called “A Better Way.” One of the policy’s major initiatives is to lift young people out of poverty and onto the ladder of opportunity.

“In this policy agenda, Sloane’s name and story are highlighted as an example of a young person who participated in the right kind of program that led to long-lasting success,” Burton said. “Also, there is a quote from Sloane where he talks about the fact that things could have gone a lot of different if it wasn’t for a place like Boys Town, and that it still serves as a lifeline for him when he needs it.”

Today, Sloane continues his work as an advocate for Boys Town and at-risk children.

“There is an upcoming youth justice symposium that Sloane wants to attend,” Burton said. “He is a great example of someone who benefited from residential care. And because of that, he wants to give back and continue to help those in similar situations.”

back-to-school-tips-and-tricks-to-start-the-year-rightBack to School: Tips and Tricks to Start the Year RightNew York
Friday, Sep 2, 2016

By Amanda Setlak, Ph.D., ​Boys Town

The end of summer vacation usually brings groans from children and parents alike, though for different reasons.

For kids, the end of summer means getting back into the swing of learning and sitting in the classroom. For parents, it’s getting kids back on a morning, bedtime and school routine, and juggling hectic schedules.

Boys Town is here to help get learning on track for families:

  • Grandma’s rule. Grandma’s rule refers to the general stance of eating your peas before receiving dessert. The rule doesn’t just apply to food; it can be widely applied to desired objects or activities. For example, access to any electronics should be withheld until the morning routine is complete.
  • Wake-times and bedtimes. Keep a consistent wake-time, even on weekends, and refrain from naps for school-age children. If your child is having a hard time falling asleep at the target bedtime, push back the time to within 30 minutes of when they’re likely to fall asleep and then gradually adjust it to be closer to the expected time.
  • Morning routine expectations. If your child struggles with organization or attention difficulties, mornings can be especially difficult. First go through a few dry runs and identify where struggles occur. Then put a system in place to help motivate your child during the morning routine, using techniques such as grandma’s rule, visual schedules and rewards. Always try to avoid rationales, such as an important meeting that you can’t miss, because this will often increase frustration or grumpiness. Give yourself enough time to get ready, bring out your positive vibes and keep your cool!
  • Homework routine. Your child may not have much homework at the beginning of the school year, but it is still important to establish a homework routine that fits with your family’s schedule. Generally, kids are more successful with homework completion shortly after school. The later homework is started, the more likelihood your child will demonstrate frustration, lack of motivation or behavior problems. Determine what time homework will be started, remove distractions and ensure a quiet work area with access to necessary study materials. Treat homework similar to a sporting event by cheering for accomplishments and offering support and encouragement when difficulties arise.
  • School participation. Researchers have consistently found that when parents are active participants in their child’s school activities, academic performance improves. The most effective approach to partnering with your child’s school and teacher(s) is to be involved from the beginning. If your work schedule does not allow for participation during school hours, there are other ways to be involved, such as e-mails to the teacher and a notebook for back-and-forth communication to ensure that schoolwork is completed and returned. Try to meet with the teacher at the beginning of the year so that the teacher knows who you are. Also try to have as many positive interactions as possible, as communicating only about concerns can hamper the parent-teacher relationship.
  • Learning concerns. If your child is struggling at school, don’t wait for the teacher to contact you. Taking the initiative to address concerns is another way to be actively involved in your child’s schooling. Notice what they are doing well and any areas where they seem to struggle. Learning difficulties are often embarrassing for kids, and they may act out to avoid tasks that are difficult. Whenever there is an increase in behavior surrounding schoolwork, be sure not to overlook learning problems. At the first sign of concerns, check in with your child’s teacher(s) and inquire about additional support or services available at school.
     
mother-teresa-in-omaha-humorous-inspiringMother Teresa in Omaha: Humorous, InspiringNebraska
Mother Teresa with the late Msgr. Robert P. Hupp, executive director of Boys Town, on her 1976 tour of the Boys Town campus.
Friday, Sep 2, 2016

This article is written by Roger Buddenberg. It was posted September 1, 2016 on catholic​voiceomaha.com.

Mother Teresa, the nun about to be declared a saint in honor of her humility and fearless devotion to the poor, left several other positive impressions when she visited Omaha in 1976.

"We had a lot of laughs. … She had a good sense of humor," said Bill Ramsey, a retired spokesman for Boys Town, one of the sites Mother Teresa visited during her two-day stop.

Now 86, Ramsey then was a nervous chauffeur, the person appointed to make sure the tiny Indian nun arrived at her stops on time. She repeatedly tried to put him at ease.

"Bill, don’t worry about that," she told him again and again as he fretted that the streams of people she stopped to talk with were trashing the schedule.

"She moved very slowly because she talked to everyone," he said.

"I was worried about getting her back to the airport on time" for her flight out, he said. "She didn’t have a real sense of timing" and paid no attention to the clock.

Mother Teresa spent about 40 hours in Omaha that May, touring Boys Town and accepting the Father Flanagan Award for Service to Youth, visiting two groups of cloistered nuns, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Poor Sisters of St. Clare, and speaking to a downtown luncheon crowd.

She stayed overnight at the Poor Clares’ monastery, then located near 29th and Hamilton streets. The abbess at the time, Sister Mary Clare, said Mother Teresa struck her, too, as a down-to-earth person.

"We had a chair re-upholstered" for the occasion, in gold fabric, "a nice chair for her to sit on," said the former abbess, now 87. "But she took me by the arm and had me sit in the chair."

While chatting with her fellow nuns after morning Mass, "about where her sisters were and a little about her life," Mother Teresa abstractedly stirred sugar into a glass of water instead of her coffee, said Sister Mary Clare. But, the former abbess said, when the other nuns tried to clear the mistake from the table, Mother Teresa insisted the glass remain. She simply drank the sweetened water instead of coffee.

At Boys Town, the visitor from India "was amazed by the village," how it was organized, said Tom Lynch, who oversees the home’s Hall of History museum.

Mother Teresa, he said, toured building after building, even the basements, and helped break ground on a new research center, now the home’s lakeside headquarters building.

"It was very inspirational to the kids. … She was a role model," he said. "She dealt with people nobody wanted, like Father Flanagan did, the people society had given up on and ignored." (The cause for sainthood for the Boys Town founder is under study now at the Vatican.)

Mother Teresa arrived in Omaha May 5, and the next day spoke to about 500 people at the downtown Hilton, accepting the award from Boys Town and telling the crowd:

"The boys do not need pity but love and compassion. Give your hands to serve them and your hearts to love them."

After the luncheon, Ramsey was fretting about getting his guest to the airport on time – and she once again threw a delay into the timetable by asking a favor:

Could she have the candles from the Hilton’s tables? She would like to take them back to her home for the poor in India, she explained.

But they are half burned, Ramsey said.

"Yes, but they are half good," she replied.

The candles were gathered and put into sacks supplied by the hotel. The plane didn’t leave without her.

"She must’ve known something I didn’t know," Ramsey said.

how-parents-should-talk-to-kids-about-stranger-dangerHow Parents Should Talk to Kids About Stranger DangerNebraska
Thursday, Sep 1, 2016

This article is written by Erin Murray. It was posted August 31, 2016 on wo​wt.com.

With stranger danger warnings coming from many metro school districts, parents are on high alert. But with the confirmed accounts there have also been some false reports too.

"There is nothing scarier than something like this,” said a metro parent.

"It scares me someone is out there doing this to our children,” a parent told WOWT 6 News.

With all the hype after recent incidents, parenting expert Laura Buddenberg says there is something we should all remember.

"First take a deep breath and be calm,” said Buddenberg.

While most stranger danger incidents have merit, a few in recent weeks have proven to not be true. So instead of panic, Buddenberg said think "education."

"If you are upset or appear agitated when you talk to your kids, it is harder for them to hear you, and they will get scared when they don't need to be,” Buddenberg told WOWT 6 News.

Things that should be in every conversation:

  1. Who is a stranger?
    a. Someone you have never met. You don’t know who they are, and someone that 'mom or dad' has said it is not OK to talk to or go with.
  2. You don’t have to talk to a stranger:
    a. You are not being impolite if you walk away and don’t talk to them.
    b. If they keep talking, shout 'no; loudly and run away. Then report it to an adult.
  3. Practice this with your kid:
    a. Have kids show you what they will say and what they will do if they're approached by a stranger.

Stranger danger should be a fluid conversation throughout a kid's childhood, so when alerts from schools or police do come out, kids feel prepared and not scared. Buddenberg says when going over stranger danger with kids, it's good to first give them some assurance.

"It isn't because I don't trust you. It is because I love you and I want you to be safe,” she said.

She said parents should also be wary about what they read on social media; never be afraid to confirm with police or school districts about the validity of a threat.

"Don't hesitate to call them and report if you have a concern. Or if you have a question about a concern they have raised,” Buddenberg said. “If your kid comes and tells you something, your first duty is to report. Then, you may figure out that your kid got swept up in something, maybe embellished a little bit. Don’t panic. That is the time to go back and tell them about the importance of telling the truth.”

Parents with questions, or kids who want to talk can call the Boys Town National Hotline for help. The number is 1-800-448-3000.

volunteers-team-up-for-boys-town-north-floridaVolunteers Team Up for Boys Town North FloridaNorth Florida
Volunteers helped Boys Town North Florida check off several needed items from its ART Town playground “wish list”.
Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

This article was published on tallahassee.com on August 30, 2016.

More than 20 local Lowe’s employees recently traded in their days off for a week of hard work under a scorching sun, all to benefit the children of Boys Town North Florida.

The community service effort came after the two Tallahassee Lowe’s stores chose Boys Town’s ART Town as its annual Lowe’s Heroes program project. The employees hung new cabinets, built a gravel pathway and installed several pieces of playground equipment, all with materials donated by Lowe’s.

With big smiles and open hearts, the ​volunteers helped Boys Town North Florida check off several needed items from its ART Town playground “wish list” and create a place where children in the site’s care could happily blow off steam, romp around and just be kids.

Since 1983, Boys Town North Florida has been serving local children who are most at risk due to behavioral and emotional problems. In 2015 alone, the site provided direct care for 801 children through its five programs. ART Town, the site’s newest program, opened in January as a retreat where children and families receiving Boys Town services can focus on restoring their spirits and healing their souls. ART Town provides mentoring and tutoring, therapy, family visitations, art lessons and a variety of other activities.

united-states-mint-unveils-designs-for-boys-town-centennial-commemorative-coinsUnited States Mint Unveils Designs for Boys Town Centennial Commemorative CoinsCalifornia
Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016

​This press release was published on usmint.gov August 23, 2016.

Designs for coins ​commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Boys Town were unveiled today during a ceremony at Boys Town Music Hall in Boys Town, Neb.

"​Each time a person looks at any one of these unique designs, it will spark an interest in learning about the history of Boys Town, acknowledging the extraordinary efforts made by this organization to give comfort and purpose to children in need, and recognizing the significant contributions of Father Flanagan," said United States Mint Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson.

Jeppson was joined by Boys Town​ representatives Cordell Cade and Kymani Bell, mayor and vice mayor, respectively; Dan Daly, Executive Vice President, Director of Youth Care; and Jerry Davis, Vice President of Advocacy.

Public Law 114-30 authorizes the Mint to mint and issue no more than 50,000 $5 gold, 350,000 $1 silver, and 300,000 half dollar clad coins with designs emblematic of the centennial of Boys Town. 

The gold coin obverse (heads) features a portrait of Father Flanagan.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN CENTENNIAL," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "FR. EDWARD FLANAGAN," "LIBERTY," and "2017."  The obverse was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Designer Donna Weaver and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart.

The gold coin reverse (tails) features an outstretched hand holding a young oak tree growing from an acorn.  As ​stated in the idiom "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," this design represents the potential of each child helped by Boys Town to grow into a productive, complete adult.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "THE WORK WILL CONTINUE," "FIVE DOLLARS," and "E PLURIBUS UNUM."  The reverse was also designed by Weaver and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.

The silver $1 coin obverse features a young girl sitting alone and gazing upward into the branches of an oak tree looking for help.  The empty space around the girl is deliberate and meant to show the child's sense of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN," "When you help a child today...," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "LIBERTY," and "1917-2017."

The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Emily Damstra and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna. 

The coin's reverse features an oak tree offering shelter and a sense of belonging to the family holding hands below it, which includes the girl from the obverse.  Inscriptions include "...you write the history of tomorrow," "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "ONE DOLLAR," and "E PLURIBUS UNUM."  The reverse was also designed by Damstra and sculpted by Menna.

The clad half dollar obverse features an older brother holding the hand of his younger brother in 1917.  They walk toward Father Flanagan's Boys Home and the 1940s pylon representing what would become Boys Town.  Inscriptions include "BOYS TOWN," "1917," "2017," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "LIBERTY," and "Saving Children."  The obverse was designed by AIP Designer Chris Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Renata Gordon.

The coin's reverse features a present-day Boys Town neighborhood of homes where children are schooled and nurtured by caring families.  Out of these homes come young adults who graduate from high school and the Boys Town program.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "Healing Families," and "HALF DOLLAR."  The reverse was also designed by Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.

Pricing for the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coins will include surcharges-$35 for each $5 gold coin, $10 for each $1 silver coin, and $5 for each half dollar clad coin-which are authorized to be paid to Boys Town to carry out its cause of caring for and assisting children and families in underserved communities across America.

The Mint will announce the release date and additional pricing information for the Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coins prior to their release in 2017.

 
boys-towns-teddy-allen-prepares-for-star-studded-senior-yearBoys Town's Teddy Allen Prepares for Star-Studded Senior YearNebraska
Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016

'I chose to come here for a reason'

This article is written by Josh Planos. It was published August 22, 2016 on ketv.com.

Teddy Allen wanted to know where the cameras were and why they weren't rolling.

Not in a bellicose way, mind you, nor even with a hint of irritation; he was just curious, perhaps a tad perplexed.

This isn’t uncommon: As a reporter for a local TV station, someone who doesn’t appear on air, working in an industry that doubles as a sea of often recognizable faces, the act of interviewing someone is altered fairly significantly. See, there sat a much-talked-about high school athlete, who spent the summer garnering scholarship offers for his craft at about the same pace he poured in buckets, dressed to the nines; on a breezy mid-August Wednesday, he donned a pastel-purple collared shirt and khaki slacks. Maybe he even woke up early for this obligation -- yet another interview with yet another journalist for a player getting increasingly comfortable with both. He sat next to his head coach, Tom Krehbiel, who was draped in business casual. They were flanked by two bright-eyed school representatives, dressed nice enough to get into any restaurant in the city.

I wore shorts and a light-blue short-sleeved shirt.

They were expecting cameras -- and there wasn't a single red light blinking back at any of them.

I stumbled over a repeated mumbling apology; clearly something was lost in translation.

People -- collegiate athletic departments, coaches, players, fans -- want to hear from the pride of Boys Town, which is what brought me to him.

But Allen, though, one of, if not the top basketball player on the Nebraska high school circuit, won't have to wait much longer for cameras. He might do well to savor the time not having to address them, not having to worry about them covering and dissecting his every move, because that clock is rapidly winding down.

****

Like many who flourish within its framework and structure, Allen was firm when he declared he's no longer the same person who first came to Boys Town. Gone is the boy who arrived in Omaha, nearly 1,400 miles from home. "As a person," he said, "I'm not the same as I was. I wasn't a bad kid; I just didn't have as open a mind to things that I do now."
What's changed, I asked.

"For me as a person, probably just calmer, smarter, more mature."

He understands the outside perception of his new home: Boys Town, a sanctuary for the at-risk, the neglected, those in need of help in some degree.

"Boys Town isn’t a place for bad people," he whispered with a genuine, spirit-lifting smile, nearly quoting Father Flanagan verbatim. "It’s a place for people who just want opportunities and an environment where they can thrive.

"It’s not what people think it is."

What "people think it is" varies, but high school athletics seldom bring out the politically correct -- or even accurate -- descriptors of a place where staff members work diligently, exhaustively, every single day, to save another generation of youths.

"I’ve heard everything, like from student sections, from people around the country. Like, ‘You’re a bad kid. What’d you do?’ Like, it’s nothing like that. I’ve not met a bad kid since I got here."

He speaks like a living, breathing made-for-TV commercial, which makes sense considering he's been nothing short of A Success Story since he arrived in mid-August of 2015.

"If you're trying to grow as a person and set yourself up for success, this is a really great place to come," he said. "I chose to come here for a reason."

When he was a freshman at Desert Ridge High School in Arizona, Teddy dunked for the first time during a water break.

"I had no bounce freshman year," he said, laughing, "but I was tall so I was on varsity."

His teammates made fun of him for not being able to sky over the rim. So one day he soared while his friends rested.

"Couldn't dunk for like two months after that, but I dunked that one time," he said.

Teddy became a standout player almost overnight, becoming the team's second-leading scorer while netting better than 50 percent of his looks from beyond the arc. His sophomore year, he earned honorable mention All-State while scoring better than 18 points and grabbing better than six rebounds per contest.

However, grade troubles were frequent, he told Husker Online's Robin Washut, and led to his father, a Nebraska native, recommending a move.

As far as basketball aspirations were concerned, the move was nonsensical on paper; players like Richard Jefferson, Mike Bibby and Channing Frye cut their teeth in Arizona high school gyms. But Nebraska? Four players ever who attended Nebraska high schools played more than six years in the league. Those numbers are even slimmer at Boys Town.

As Allen put it: "You don’t see athletes coming through here."

After not being allowed to play through Christmas, he made his debut in January against Scotus Central Catholic, the state runner-up the year prior. Allen had 32 points for a Boys Town club that was 3-4 at the time. Scotus went on to win the state title.

Less than two months later, Larry McBryde, an 18-year-old senior from Erwin, North Carolina, and a starting guard on the team, died from cardiac dysrhythmia associated with cardiac fibrosis. He was found dead on the floor of his private room. Larry had enough credits to graduate, so Krehbiel framed his jersey and sent it home to his family along with his diploma. The school still hasn't fully processed the incident, and plans to honor him again this season.

One day later, the team was to play Wahoo in the C1-5 subdistrict semifinals.

With heavy hearts, tear-stained cheeks and little sleep, Krehbiel rallied his team.

"The last thing I asked our team before we left for the game was just to stay in the moment, make the game important,’’ Krehbiel told the Omaha World-Herald. “It was OK to make this game important and then come back to grieving later."

Allen, one of McBryde’s closest friends on the team, donned a black long-sleeved T-shirt that read, “R.I.P. Big Brother."

Then he dropped 31 points on Wahoo, snapped their 12-game winning streak and ended their season.

****

Sitting in a conference room tucked inside the Skip Palrang Memorial Fieldhouse, a wry smile draped across Teddy's face when I mentioned one of his final, major high school hurdles: the ACT.

"That's a long test," he said. "It's a grind."

A tutor is helping him with math -- "It's not my easiest subject," he admitted -- ahead of the standardized test, which is scheduled for Sept. 10.

He's asking around -- for tips, motivation, advice, anything, really.

"I'll be prepared for it," he confidently said. "Just prepare and pray about it."

A good-enough score on the test could lead to more Division 1 offers, something Allen isn't short on but wouldn't mind seeing more of. Before moving on, he stretched his back and leaned back in his folding chair.

"I want to only take it one time."

****

When the season ended, Allen didn't wait long to pick up a basketball. After some conversations with Krehbiel, he decided to try out for the Omaha Sports Academy Crusaders. For some, that's when the show really started: on the AAU circuit.

Over the course of a few days in Las Vegas, Allen, who was only sitting on a few offers at the time, received scholarship offers from Iowa State, George Mason, Virginia Tech and DePaul almost instantaneously. He poured in 30-point performances, tallied up double-doubles and made scouts pay attention.

"Those guys are cool," he said of his teammates. "I didn’t really know any of them going into the season, but we grew real close over those nine, 10 tournaments we played or whatever. A great organization. Best in Nebraska.”

"We hand-picked the Crusaders and that coach, just for a lot of different reasons," Krehbiel said. "Nothing bad towards anybody else. We were very pleased with how that all turned out. They played in tournaments that allowed him to be seen and then he took full advantage of all that. He had a great experience. He was coached well, whether he likes it or not all the time (laughs)."

During the summer, Teddy put a ball off the glass and dunked it himself off the rebound -- a self-thrown alley-oop, a move mostly reserved for dunk contests and video games. His coach pulled him immediately.

Asked what he'd do with a breakaway this season, he smiled. "I'll put it off the glass. We'll see if he gives me some leniency on that."

Entering this season, he's sitting on around a dozen offers, from bigger programs like Cincinnati, West Virginia and Texas Christian, and smaller ones like South Dakota State and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Creighton and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are reportedly quite interested in the burgeoning stud.

"He’s considered seven," Krehbiel said of Teddy's offers. "Now, there’s more, but there’s some that are going to be turned down. There’s six or seven out there that he’s weighing.”
Worth noting: Allen's brother, Timmy Allen, who attends Desert Ridge, is a talented prospect, too. The brothers are only one year apart, and Timmy holds offers from Creighton, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Arizona State, and a few others. The one offer they have in common? DePaul.

Would they consider going to the same spot?

"It’s easily a possibility," Teddy said. "It’s something we talk about. We both aren’t like prioritizing our recruitment on that, but it’s a topic of discussion."

Fit is everything, and Teddy acknowledged that since it's a basketball scholarship being mulled over, he has a basketball decision to make.

"I just look at it like, where am I going to fit best? What's going to set me up best to maximize my potential in college so I can play at that next level?"

****

Teddy is quite tall in person.

He grew up being the tallest player on almost every court he stepped on and, at 6-foot-6, he remains one of the taller players in Class C-1 basketball.

He grew up in the post, a bruiser who could corral rebounds and find opportunities on the glass.

"Growing up, like, up until fourth grade as a post has literally shaped my game," he said. "Like, all these coaches I’m talking to, they really like the versatility in my game. And being able to do that just stems from how my coaches played me when I was young."

But he isn't about to walk into a college gym and helm the low block; he'll be a wing, albeit one with more refined back-to-the-basket moves and an impressive rebounding prowess.

"He’s learning to be more of a play-maker," Krehbiel said. "How to incorporate other people into his game. He was clearly very good with the ball in his hand last year and could really score when he wanted to. Now, when teams run two and three people at him, he’s learning how to be a play-maker, how to share the ball, what’s the right play.

"The thing he needs to work on and continue to work on is to move without the ball, play the game in other areas without the basketball in his hand, and he’s learning how to do that."

Asked who his game mirrors in the NBA, Teddy immediately mentioned Carmelo Anthony, the 6-foot-8, nine-time NBA all-star currently playing for the New York Knicks. "Score any type of way," he said. His favorite player has long been LeBron James. "I'm not going to say LeBron," he said when asked about his NBA composite, "because that's the G.O.A.T. I wouldn't disrespect him like that."

While his highlight reel is littered with splices of him attacking the rim, his ball-handling and defense will be refined over the upcoming season. After earning first-team All-State, while averaging better than 26 points and 12 rebounds per contest a season ago, one would expect Teddy to become complacent, or at least acknowledge the ceiling of potential improvement is considerably smaller than others. That's not his style.

"There's a lot of room for improvement," he said. "I would expect to blow those numbers out of the water."

"He's fun to be around," Krehbiel said when asked what the Omaha community should know about arguably the city's top basketball talent. "Fun to coach. I think the sky’s the limit.

"You know, he asked me a couple weeks ago when he got back, he said do I think he can play in the NBA? And he’s always on that, ‘I’m going to play in the NBA, coach. I’m going to play.’ Yeah, yeah. Well I told him that how far he’s come in a year should show us all that he can accomplish anything that he wants to. He’s done all this work -- some of it basketball, but a majority of it in the classroom, just in his personality and behavior, to set himself up to where it is a possibility to go make a living doing this game and something that he loves. That needs to be respected."

Teddy, it appears, is ready to take flight.

us-mint-unveils-boys-town-commemorative-coinsU.S. Mint Unveils Boys Town Commemorative CoinsNebraska
Copyright Brendan Sullivan / The World-Herald
Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016

​​This article is written by Courtney Brummer-Clark / World-Herald staff writer. It was published August 23, 2016 on omaha.com.

Father Edward Flanagan’s mission is now commemorated in currency.

Designs for coins celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Boys Town were unveiled Tuesday.

Rhett Jeppson, deputy director of the United States Mint, joined Boys Town officials and other dignitaries for the ceremony at the Boys Town Music Hall. Students, families and staff filled the auditorium.

“This literally took an act of Congress to get done,” said Dr. Dan Daly, executive vice president and director of youth care at Boys Town.

Last year, Congress authorized the U.S. Mint to produce a series of coins commemorating Boys Town’s 100th anniversary in 2017. The legislation was sponsored by current and past members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford attended Tuesday’s ceremony, along with Mayor Jean Stothert and former lawmakers Ben Nelson and Lee Terry. Ashford praised Congress’ bipartisan efforts to allow the coins to become a reality.

“There are a lot of issues that divide Congress, but when you tell them about Boys Town, there is no divide,” he said.

In 2015, a team of artists traveled to Boys Town to gather ideas. Three designs were selected by the mint and will be featured on gold, silver and clad (layered metal) coins.

“Each time a person looks at any one of these unique designs, it will spark an interest in learning about the history of Boys Town, acknowledging the extraordinary efforts made by this organizations to give comfort and purpose to children in need, and recognizing the significant contributions of Father (Edward) Flanagan,” Jeppson told the audience.

The heads side of the $5 gold coin features a portrait of Flanagan, Boys Town’s founder. Inscriptions include “Boys Town Centennial,” “In God We Trust,” “Fr. Edward Flanagan,” and “Liberty.” The tails side, which says “The Work Will Continue,” depicts an outstretched hand holding a young oak tree growing from an acorn. This design represents “the potential of each child helped by Boys Town to grow into a productive, complete adult,” Jeppson said.

The gold coin was designed by artist Donna Weaver.

The heads side of the silver $1 coin depicts a young girl sitting alone under the branches of an oak tree, looking up. The empty space around the girl is “deliberate and meant to show the child’s sense of loneliness, isolation and helplessness,” Jeppson said. Inscriptions include “When You Help A Child Today ... .”

The tails side depicts an oak tree offering shelter and a sense of belonging to the family holding hands below it, including the girl from the other side. It is inscribed with the words: “... You Write the History of Tomorrow."

The silver coin was designed by artist Emily Damstra.

The heads side of the clad half dollar depicts a boy holding the hand of his younger brother in 1917, ​walking toward Father Flanagan’s Boys Home. The 1940’s-era tower represents what would become Boys Town. Inscriptions include “Saving Children.”

The tails side depicts a present-day Boys Town homes, where children are schooled and nurtured. “Out of these homes come young adults who graduate from high school and the Boys Town program,” Jeppson said. Inscriptions include “Healing Families.”

The clad coin was designed by artist Chris Costello.

The mint will issue no more than 50,000 gold coins, 350,000 silver coins and 300,000 clad half dollar coins.

The price of each coin will include a surcharge: $35 for each gold, $10 for each silver, and $5 for each clad half dollar coin. Revenues first will cover production costs. Some revenue also will go to Boys Town, which will use the money to provide services.

The coins will be available in 2017; the mint will announce the exact date.

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