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bt-officials-talk-about-past-present-future-of-facilityG.I. Boys Town officials talk about past, present, future of facilityCentral Nebraska
Photo copyright: Independent/Barret Stinson
Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018

This article is written by Austin Koeller. It was posted on the January 16, 2018.

In 1917, Father Edward Flanagan borrowed $90 to rent a boarding house on the corner of 25th and Dodge in Omaha. Now, more than 100 years later, Megan Andrews, senior director of program operations at Grand Island Boys Town, said Boys Town is "not just an orphanage."

Andrews spoke about the shelter's operations, its history and its future goals during a presentation to the Grand Island Noon Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon.

Sometimes, Andrews said, people tend to think the Grand Island Boys Town shelter is a detention center, which she said is not true.

"It is truly a homestyle environment," she said. "We also eat meals as a family. The family-style environment is really important. We eat together and we pray together. The kids have self-government meetings where they have make decisions as a group for themselves.

"It is a good environment for these kids to get some of the help they need."

Andrews said Grand Island Boys Town does not just take in juvenile justice kids, but also serves Grand Island families "privately." She said if a parent is struggling with their children, but do not feel law enforcement or Health and Human Services is warranted, they can call Boys Town and place children at their facility for a period of time.

"We want to serve kids where their needs are," Andrews said. "We do not believe the answer is just taking them out of their homes and putting them in our family homes or shelters. Sometimes, we can prevent that from happening if we reach them earlier."

Andrews added the Grand Island Boys Town shelter is the only Boys Town shelter in the state between Scottsbluff and Lincoln.

Andrews and Stan Kontogiannis, regional major gifts officer, also told Rotarians in attendance about its planned kitchen renovation. According to a document provided at the Rotary meeting, the kitchen renovation project consists of repairing the floor and sub-floor, cabinets, counters and labor costs.

In addition to the work required for kitchen renovation, Grand Island Boys Town also plans to replace a stove, a sterilizer, lighting, blinds and a roll-up counter door. The total fundraising goal for the project is $100,000. Kontogiannis said Boys Town has raised about $30,000 since the fundraising campaign kicked off in the second half of 2017.

"It is the original kitchen from 1991 when our facility was built. So it has been used constantly for about 27 years," Andrews said. "I did some math to figure out how many kids have been in and out and we used to serve about 300 kids per year. With all these kids, we've served over 500,000 meals.

"When you think about the wear and tear your own kitchen has with kids — for us, 12 to 18 teenagers at a time — it is past due for a remodel."

Kontogiannis asked Rotarians in attendance to donate funds to the kitchen renovation fundraising campaign. He told them the project is about more than just a floor and a kitchen.

"This is about kids. When you invest in kids today, you are saving your money and lives tomorrow," Kontogiannis said. "The physical structure is something we need to address. For 27 years, we served so many meals and so many individuals coming through the shelter."

Kontogiannis added that anyone interested in donating to Grand Island Boys Town's kitchen renovation project is encouraged to call his office at (402) 498-7979. He said the project has received donations from the Grand Island Community Foundation and TOBA Inc.

Andrews said the kitchen renovation project is expected to be completed this fall.

boys-town-offers-several-programs-to-help-kids-families-in-the-communityBoys Town offers several programs to help kids, families in the communityCentral Nebraska
Megan Welch
Wednesday, Sep 27, 2017

This article is written by Harold Reutter of the Grand Island Independent. It was posted on on September 24, 2017. 

Boys Town Grand Island has been in the community since 1989, serving simultaneously as a very high-visibility facility because of its location at 3230 Wildwood Road along Highway 281 south of Grand Island and as a low-key member of the community because relatively few people actually go into that residential treatment center.

"We've added several programs over the years to meet kids and families wherever they're at," said Megan Andrews, site operations director.

Boys Town programs in Omaha and locally include:

Psychiatric residential treatment center: This is Boys Town's highest level of care and also the most restrictive level of care. The facility is located in Omaha, which is the only place where those services are offered. It is intended to serve youth ages 5 to 18 who have more several behavioral and mental health problems.

Intervention and assessment program: This program is offered in the shelter on the east side of Highway 281 south of Grand Island. The average length of stay for a young person was 21 days for the year 2016, although there is a wide variety depending on the young person. Most youth are placed at the shelter by juvenile probation, although private placement is also accepted.

If parents are having difficulties and are not sure what to do, they can place their child at the shelter for a week until treatment options can be devised. The shelter includes a PASS program for Positive Alternatives to School Suspensions. The shelter has an agreement with some area school districts: if a student is suspended, he or she will serve that suspension the intervention and assessment program at the shelter

Family home programs are the third-highest level and third-most restrictive program. Married couples and single adults or parents take in children to live with them as part of the Boys Town Village in Omaha The adults are called family teachers. They usually have six to eight kids living in their homes, with homes designated either for boys or for girls. "The goal is to keep them there at least a year in order to be effective." The system includes support staff who serves as assistant family teachers.

Foster family services: This is the next level of care. Boys Town helps train and support the foster home. A consultant is available for these homes 24/7 in case of a crisis. Foster homes are always needed for older children, with some studies show that kids can be difficult to place in foster homes as early as 4, and the older the kids get, the more difficult they are to place. "We're always looking for good quality homes that are going to take older kids."

Ecological in-home family treatment model: Children stay in their homes as Boys Town helps family members work through conflicts. Boys Town performs assessments to determine what skills, resources and support the family needs to help them be successful and to keep children at home. The consultant coaches and guides parents "right then and there" as they interact with their children. Parents also work on skills such as interviewing for and getting a job, and managing personal finances. In-home family services have been offered in Grand Island for four years, with Boys Town and University of Nebraska Lincoln doing research to provide evidence of the program's effectiveness. The formal name of the program is the ecological in-home family treatment model.

Community support services is the sixth and least-restrictive level of service. Services include a behavioral health clinic in Grand Island, in which families can go in and get assessments or see a therapist in a typical therapy office setting.

Boys Town also offers an alternative K-12 day school in Duncan that educates about 40 students.

To celebrate the Boys Town's Centennial, Boys Town Central Nebraska is inviting the public for a special screening of the Oscar-winning movie "Boys Town" on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Grand Theatre, 316 W. 3rd St. The evening begins with a cocktail hour and hors d'oeuvres from 6 to 7 p.m., with live instrumental music. A showing of the 1938 classic, starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney, will follow.

People will meet Boys Town Central Nebraska staff and local community leaders who are dedicated saving children and healing families. People can have their picture taken with the Best Actor Oscar that Spencer Tracy earned for his performance. Tickets, which are $25, can be purchased at or at the Grand Island HyVee.

People with questions may contact Megan Andrews at (308) 224-3338 or

emilys-storyEmily's StoryCentral Nebraska
Emily's Story
Monday, Sep 18, 2017

Today, Emily is 20 years old and employed full-time as a waitress in Grand Island, Nebraska. She has plans to start school soon to become a nurse, and her future looks bright. 

But Emily's journey from adolescence to adulthood was filled with darkness, pain and uncertainty. Here, in her own words, she describes her experiences of loss and loneliness and, finally, with Boys Town Central Nebraska's help, her redemption.  

This story will make you sad, angry and, in the end, happy.

I am one of many youth who have had a troubled childhood. That doesn't make me different or special, but it for sure made me stronger.

At first, my story will seem like it's all over the place. It perfectly reflects how bad my situation was growing up.

We often take things for granted, especially the ones we love. This is exactly how I was feeling as I stood outside my mom's hospital room with my stepdad as the nurses were calling a code. I was 15 when I unexpectedly lost my mom that day, and I didn't think life could possibly get any worse.

Before I go on, let me rewind to give you a little background so you'll fully understand my story.

My biological father and my mother divorced when I was 10. To be honest, it didn't bother me because they fought constantly.

My mom later met a wonderful man who became a big part our lives. I still had visitations with my biological father until I was 12. But in that two-year span, he also met someone else and my visitations with him became unhealthy and emotionally abusive. So I stopped going to see him.

Fast forward to that day outside my mom's hospital room. Two things were running through my mind: the unbelievable grief I felt and the dread running through me knowing I was going to have to get in touch with my biological father.

I called him later that night and told him I wanted to continue living with my stepdad. But I offered to start visitations again. All I got in response were rude and unnecessary comments. The next few weeks were filled with the fear that I would be taken away at my mom's funeral, that there would be more unhealthy visitations and, finally, that a court order would be issued saying I had to live with my biological father.

All I wanted to do at that time was grieve for my mom. But instead, I was being eaten up by everything else going on around me. I eventually moved in with my biological father, but I only stayed there three days. Then I ran away.

I was on my own for a month before turning myself in. I became a ward of the state and was placed in the Boys Town shelter in Grand Island as the custody battle between my biological father and my stepdad started.

When I first got to Boys Town, I was an emotional mess. All I wanted to do was cry all the time. And I wanted to go home, to my real home with my stepdad. The first few days were very hard since I couldn't have any contact with any friends or family. I felt isolated, and I didn't open up to any of the staff. It wasn't that I didn't want to; it was more that I didn't want to break down crying in front of everyone.

After a couple of weeks, things started to change. I started to grow close to many members of the Boys Town staff. They were very helpful once I was able to talk to them about what I was going through, and they all made special efforts to make a positive difference in any way they could.

Megan, a supervisor at the shelter, was so kind. She made arrangements so she could personally drive me to the cemetery to visit my mom's grave. And when I had a call with my biological father, Angela, another supervisor, sat with me since I wasn't comfortable talking to him alone. The call was not a positive experience, and Angela later wrote a letter to the court on my behalf.

To this day, I believe she is the reason I was placed with and eventually adopted by my stepdad, who is now my real dad. Because of her, the courts were able to truly see what a negative environment my biological father would provide if I had to live with him.

I write this story now so others can understand how wonderful Boys Town is. To be honest, before my two-month stay there, I thought it was a place where terrible juveniles go. I was right about the juvenile part, being that I was one myself. But the only terrible parts are the painful situations that most kids who live at the shelter are going through.

To the Boys Town Central Nebraska staff, I want to say THANK YOU. I wouldn't be where I am today without you. You really do make a difference.

boys-town-a-beacon-of-hope-for-troubled-youthBoys Town: A Beacon of Hope for Troubled YouthCentral Nebraska
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
stuhr-announces-fantasy-of-trees-winners-for-2016Stuhr Announces Fantasy of Trees Winners for 2016Central Nebraska
A tree marking designed by Boy's Town won the “people’s choice” award during the Fantasy of Trees exhibit at Stuhr Museum.
Tuesday, Dec 27, 2016

​​This article was posted on on December 17, 2016.

A Christmas tree from the Wednesday Group Angels was named "overall best" in Stuhr Museum's annual Fantasy of Trees display.

A tree from Boy's Town marking the 15th anniversary of 9/11 earned the "people's choice" award.

Other awards went to: AseraCare Hospice, most creative; Hall County Historical Society, most traditional; the Liederkranz, best tree skirt; Islandaire Dance Team and Engleman Kindergarten (tie), best tree by children; Diocese of Grand Island Child Protection Office, best use of recycled material; Pirates of Grand Island; Tech Challenge Robotics Team 7-12 Grade, best tree topper; Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity, best represents ​organization; Girl Scouts, STEAM Ahead, "proud and geeky;" Bockoven family, most unexpected.

Judging the trees were several members of the Grand Island art community. More than 60 trees were entered in the annual exhibit.

The trees will remain on display through Jan. 3 in the Stuhr Building. ​

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

​​​This press release was published on 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 " 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-town-hires-andrews-as-director-in-grand-islandBoys Town Hires Andrews as Director in Grand IslandCentral Nebraska
Sunday, Aug 21, 2016

​​This article was published August 20, 2016 on

Boys Town Grand Island has hired Megan Andrews as the new director of central Nebraska operations.

As director, Andrews will oversee programs and offices in Kearney, Columbus, Grand Island, Duncan, and North Platte. She takes over for Dave Reed who has accepted a new position at the Boys Town headquarters.

Andrews brings a variety of program experience, a passion for helping children and families, a strong commitment to developing staff, and ensuring ​Boys Town provides quality programs and services.

Andrews holds a Master of Science degree in youth and family services from Bellevue University. She began her career with Boys Town as a Youth Care Worker in Grand Island in 2007 and was promoted to intervention and assessment services supervisor in 2009. In 2013, she launched the In-Home Family Services program. Under her direction, the program grew from two staff to 15 staff with offices across central Nebraska.

boys-town-welcomes-new-director-of-central-nebraska-operationsBoys Town Welcomes New Director of Central Nebraska OperationsCentral Nebraska
Outgoing Director of Central Nebraska Operations Dave Reed (right) stands next to his successor, Megan Andrews.
Friday, Aug 12, 2016

​​​This article is written by Robert Pore. It was posted August 11, 2016 on

An open house took place on Thursday at Boys Town Grand Island to welcome the new director of Central Nebraska operations, Megan Andrews.

Andrews holds a master of science in youth and family services from Bellevue University. She began her career with Boys Town as a youth care worker in Grand Island in 2007 and was promoted to Intervention and Assessment Services Supervisor in 2009.

“I am eager to continue to help Central Nebraska families and children gain access to our important programs and fulfill this need in our community,” Andrews said.

Andrews launched the In-Home Family Services program in 2013. Under her direction, it grew from two staff members to 15 with offices across Central Nebraska.

As director of Central Nebraska operations, Andrews will oversee programs and offices in Grand Island, Kearney, Columbus, Duncan and North Platte. She takes over from Dave Reed, who held the position for nearly 20 years and will now serve as Senior Director for Family Services for Nebraska/Iowa.

“This promotion will allow me the opportunity to help Boys Town take care of more children and families over a wider area,” Reed said.

Reed said he will still work in the Central Nebraska area.

“What I will remember the most is that there is always something new going on here every day, so you never know what is going to happen here,” he said. “We had a lot of successes here and have been able to help a lot of children and families.”

When he started at the Boys Town facility in Grand Island, it provided mostly residential care. Now, Reed said, more than 75 percent of the children are served in their home or the community.

Last year, they served 821 children in Central Nebraska, Reed said.

Andrews said becoming the new director of Central Nebraska operations is an exciting opportunity.

“We want to be able to serve more youth and families here in Central Nebraska,” Andrews said. “We want to continue our efforts to keep kids in their homes and keep them safe and help them succeed.”

Andrews said Boys Town needs more foster parents.

For more information about becoming Boys Town foster parents, contact Shawna Hammond at (308) 381-4444 or

local-student-finds-future-at-alternative-schoolLocal Student Finds Future at Alternative SchoolCentral Nebraska
Elizabeth Anna Valla, Columbus Telegram
Monday, May 9, 2016

This ​story is written by Elizabeth Anna Valla of the Columbus Telegram . It was posted May 4, 2016 on

Yesenia Encarnacion sees a positive future for herself, but that wasn't always the case.

Being the third youngest of six siblings, it’s always been in the back of her mind that while some of her brothers and sisters graduated from high school, some didn't.

The biggest demon she began to fight was not knowing which category she was going to fall under.

Things weren't looking good for a while.

“I didn’t like being at school and I didn’t like (where I was),” Encarnacion said. “It was annoying more than anything.”

After getting into a fight at Lakeview High School halfway through the 2014 school year, she was taken to the office where district officials found a knife in her backpack.

With the school’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons, she was immediately expelled.

“I knew I wasn’t going to last there,” said Encarnacion, who had already transferred from Schuyler Central High School.

If she wanted to finish school, her next option was Youth for Christ’s alternative education program, Out of School Suspicion, which is offered to students for a variety of reasons.

But once again, her attitude landed her in hot water when she refused to do her “boring” schoolwork.

Susan Uhl, director of the Boys Town Day School in Duncan, remembers the day Encarnacion showed up at the school.

“I was like, ‘Oh heavens, I don’t know about this girl,’” Uhl said.

She knew Encarnacion's attitude was going to cause issues.

This was either going to be Encarnacion’s third strike or her saving grace. It was up to her.

Her biggest pet peeve was having to interact with other girls, so this school was perfect with the male-to-female ratio being five to one. And another plus, Encarnacion was the only girl in her grade. She was getting exactly what she wanted — left alone.

Uhl said Encarnacion has done a 180 since she arrived at the Day School.

“She’s made the most progress out of any of our students,” Uhl said. “She’s much more pleasant to be around, much more personable and willing to step out of her comfort zone and socialize.”

Now Encarnacion can look back and laugh at how dumb her past self was acting, but she also wants others to know it’s all about keeping your mind set on your goal.

“Agree to disagree,” she said, advising others to just keep their mouths shut. “It’s just easier for everyone that way.”

Uhl credits the Duncan school's courses for keeping students like Encarnacion engaged and motivated.

“We sit them down, say, ‘Finish this, this and this and you can be done,'" Uhl said. “That was a pretty big deal to (Encarnacion).”

Encarnacion said she likes the way the school doesn’t drag out classes and makes it clear what needs to be done. This allows her to schedule around a job at Wal-Mart.

When Encarnacion found out how many credit hours she needed to graduate, she hit the books right away, bound to be one of the siblings who graduates.

“There was a time when I thought I’d never finish school,” Encarnacion said.

With only a couple of weeks left in the school year, Encarnacion is counting down the days until she reaches her goal — graduation.

After graduation on May 15, Encarnacion plans to join the Army, something Uhl says fits perfectly with her new attitude and personality.

single-woman-adopts-three-foster-brothers-to-give-them-stabilitySingle woman adopts three foster brothers to give them stability Central Nebraska
Lindsie Lybarger considers herself blessed to be a single mom to three boys — Chance, left, Xavier, and Sean, right..
Tuesday, Jan 19, 2016

This ​article is written by Kim Schmidt of the Kearney Hub . It was published December 24, 2015 on

Some people may think Lindsie Lybarger is a little crazy.

This fall, the single, 31-year-old Kearney woman adopted three biological brothers ages 6, 7 and 8.

She prefers to call herself blessed.

“To me it was a no-brainer,” she said of adopting the boys. “I was more than willing to take them in. God did me a favor giving me them.”

Lybarger met Sean, now 8, and Xavier, now 7, in February 2012 when they were students in her preschool class. The boys, including their youngest brother, Chance, now 6, needed a foster family.

Lybarger wasn’t a licensed foster parent, but she quickly got approval and took the boys in temporarily. At the time, Lybarger was finishing her bachelor’s degree, working full time during the day, taking care of the boys, and, after they went to bed, finishing her own homework.

To complicate things more, in September 2014, Lybarger was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Medication regulates her disease, and family and friends help her to manage the boys’ schedules.

In May, Lybarger was recognized by the state Department of Health and Human Services as the 2015 foster parent of the year for the Central Service Area. Three years after becoming their foster parent, Lybarger adopted the boys on Sept. 11 in a Buffalo County Courtroom.

Once the adoption was final, the boys legally took Lybarger’s last name. They bounce between calling her “Lindsie” and “mom.”

“All I’ve known is being a single parent, and going from no kids to three kids,” she said with a chuckle. “When it’s all you know, you just do it. We’ve figured out a routine and a schedule and what works for us, and it just kind of flows.”

Lybarger is a true example of someone who put the boys above herself, said Nichole Hersh, a supervisor for the state Department of Health and Human Services foster care system. Hersh said Lybarger was open to and encouraged the boys to have a relationship with their biological family.

“For her to be willing to really involve the parents through this whole process was very important for the kids and their well-being. She was willing to take in children that she was not related to and, technically, had no obligation to them, and did a wonderful job caring for them and really putting them first.

“She could’ve easily said no,” Hersh said.

After the formal adoption hearing, the Lybargers celebrated with family and friends at a party where each boy wore a Superman T-shirt that read, “Superman was adopted, too.”

“I think it was a relief for them, because they had a home, and it was stability for them,” Lybarger said. “They were really excited.”

Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent may call 800-7-parent (800-772-7368).

thanksgiving-luncheon-lets-youth-progress-take-the-spotlightThanksgiving Luncheon Lets Youth Progress Take the SpotlightCentral Nebraska
Wednesday, Dec 23, 2015

Thanksgiving can​ be hectic. With all the preparations involved, it can be hard to give kids the attention they deserve. At Boys Town Day School in Duncan, Nebraska, however, they’ve made Thanksgiving a time when kids are the center of attention.

Each year, the school hosts a Thanksgiving Luncheon, where students – and the progress they’ve made through the year – are the stars of the show.

This year, the lunch was held on Tuesday, the 24th and marked the fifth successful iteration of the event. Started as a way of bringing teachers, families, and students together, the lunch allows everyone a chance to connect in a more relaxed environment than during other social events.

The youth also love showing off how far they’ve come. “For many of our students and families, school has not been a positive experience in the past” says Susan Uhl, the school’s Director. The afternoon gathering lets them show that they can excel when given the proper care and attention.

The school provides the meal which, at about 100 attendees and growing, is quite an offering. Students serve as the hosts of the event, decorating tables, greeting guests as they arrive, and giving tours of the school. The middle schoolers even created a ‘thankful tree’ for the luncheon, displaying colorful leaves with expressions of gratitude written on them.

Also present at the event are some members of the student’s “home school”, or the school they attended before coming to work with Boys Town. Ideally, these teachers remain aware of the youth’s challenges and accomplishments while at the Boys Town Day School, so that if and when they return, they can continue being engaged in the youth’s progress.

Parents also love to talk about how the Boys Town Model has impacted youth behavior. Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, after all, and Uhl says that “families have been very thankful for our program and our staff, sharing how much better their student is doing and how it has a positive effect on their home lives as well.”

Boys Town wishes to express gratitude to the entire team at the Day School in Duncan for all of their hard work, as well as the community which has helped to make this year’s celebration another heart-warming success!

know-a-teen-dealing-with-depressionKnow a Teen Dealing with Depression?Central Nebraska
Tuesday, Dec 1, 2015

Boys Town is offering a "Coping with Depression Group for Teens" for high school students to help develop their ability to overcome depression. The group meets on Thursdays from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic in Grand Island (2313 N Webb Rd).

What is Coping with Depression?
Coping with Depression consists of three areas of focus:

  • Emotional Regulation (monitoring mood & activity, tension reduction, learning how to engage in positive change)
  • Changing Your Thinking (learning the power of positive thinking & how to dispute irrational thoughts)
  • Communication & Problem Solving (engaging in assertive, effective, & healthy communication)

Wondering if the group is right for your child? The Coping with Depression Group is designed for teens in high school struggling with depression (i.e., sadness, anger,
hopelessness, irritability, social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, etc. ) and having difficulties in relationships, school, and/or at home.

If you are interested in the program, an intake appointment will be scheduled (and billed to insurance) to determine if the program is appropriate. To register, call the Behavioral Health Clinic of Grand Island at 308-381-8851 and reference the Coping with Depression Group.

boys-town-receives-5000-grant-from-principal-financial-groupBoys Town Receives $5,000 Grant from Principal Financial GroupCentral Nebraska
Friday, Sep 18, 2015

Boys Town Grand Island recently received a $5,000 grant from Principal Financial Group to fund Common Sense Parenting® classes, benefiting local families in the Grand Island community.

“The support of Principal Financial Group will allow us to offer parenting classes to more families in the Grand Island community,” said Dave Reed, Boys Town Director Central Nebraska Operations. “Common Sense Parenting is a valuable resource for many families in the area.”

The CSP classes are available to any family in the community, and will be offered at the Grand Island YWCA, with the facility providing free childcare for attendees.

Thanks again to Principal Financial Group for providing the resources for Boys Town to help more families in the Grand Island community.

boys-town-celebrates-1-year-in-north-platteBoys Town Celebrates 1 Year In North PlatteCentral Nebraska
Monday, Aug 3, 2015

This article is written by Adam Uhnerik of 10/11 News.  It was posted July 31, 2015.

A group in North Platte is helping parents with troubled teenagers. Boys Town is seeing a growing need for their services in North Platte.

During a lunch on Thursday the conversation centered around how Boys Town helps troubled families and kids by offering a different type of service.

"It's a preventative service because we are preventing the kids from having to be removed from their home and for example go to a group home or be placed into another home," said Dave Reed with Boys Town.

They do that by visiting families and kids right in their home.

"It can be defiance in the home and really not having the skills to work with a teen. Sometimes it can be other skills or resources they need that they are not sure how to access," said Reed.

In turn they give families tools, skills, and resources they need to help them get through tough times.

"Especially the single parents and divorced parents they need a little bit of guidance maybe some parenting skills or just brushing up on banking items and stuff like that," said Terry Scott with Guardians of the Children.

Scott works with kids through the group guardian of the children he says groups like boys town are really needed in our area.

"There is a lot of drug abuse and alcohol abuse with our youth," said Scott.

Scott says he likes how boys town works with families in their own home.

Helping kids and families lead a better life.


dave-reed-receives-for-the-love-of-children-awardDave Reed Receives For the Love of Children AwardCentral Nebraska
Monday, Jun 8, 2015

On May 7, ​Boys Town Director of Central Nebraska Operations, Dave Reed, was one of three recipients of the For the Love of Children award for his accomplishments in successfully expanding Boys Town Services in Central Nebraska.

The inaugural For the Love of Children Award Ceremony was held at the Riverside Golf Club in Grand Island, Nebraska. A committee of non-profit organizations, board members and volunteers in Grand Island held this event to recognize those in the community who have affected children in a positive way through their efforts.

During the ceremony an excerpt from the nomination letter was read, “Dave is a quiet servant for children.  He does not focus on what he has accomplished, but what he needs to accomplish and for whom he is accomplishing it. In short, he gets the job done.”

Former State Senator and current Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, Annette Dubas, was the keynote speaker.  She spoke of Nebraska children in poverty, uninsured, mental health needs and the hope that child welfare is turning the corner to address those needs.


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