February 11, 2016

Omaha girl is state finalist in “Doodle 4 Google” contest

Artwork by Abby Gilreath of Omaha

Artwork by Abby Gilreath of Omaha

A sixth-grader from Omaha is this year’s Nebraska finalist in the annual Google Doodle contest, where students create art using the six letters in the name of the search engine.

Abby Gilreath attends Russell Middle School. Google spokesman Patrick Lenihan says this is the 8th year for the competition.

“Every year it just gets better,” Lenihan says. “We get more and more submissions, we get more fascinating doodles from students all over the country. It’s a great opportunity for people to express themselves and a great opportunity for them to potentially get some money for a college scholarship.”

Out of more than 100,000 submissions, there are 53 state-level winners in five age categories and Google users are now voting online for their favorites.

“Every state winner gets a tablet PC and a sweatshirt, which is nice,” Lenihan says, “and we’re also giving in-kind donations to schools based on their doodles. In a lot of cases, we’re giving donations of art supplies or sports supplies, book donations for their libraries, every school gets a little something.”

The theme for this year’s contest is “What makes me…me.” The Nebraska girl’s doodle features things she loves, including: a baseball glove, a bicycle, ballet shoes and a paintbrush.

The national winner will get a $30,000 college scholarship and his or her school will receive a $50,000 Google for Education grant toward the establishment and improvement of a computer lab or technology program. That winner will also win a trip to California.

“They’ll work with the Google Doodle team here at Google in Mountain View to put their doodle up for the day on the Google homepage,” he says, “which is pretty cool.”

That doodle will have instant global fame. Google says the service is used for more 40-thousand searches per second, or around three-and-a-half billion searches per day.

Voting is open through February 22nd. The winner will be announced March 21st. To vote, just go to Google and type in “Doodle 4 Google”. To vote for Abby’s art, click HERE.



Nebraska higher ed seeking nearly $300 million for building projects

Hank Bounds, University of Nebraska president, addresses the Unicameral's Appropriations Committee on capital improvement projects.

Dr. Hank Bounds, University of Nebraska president, addresses the Unicameral’s Appropriations Committee on capital improvement projects.

Nebraska’s state colleges and universities are asking lawmakers for millions of dollars in building projects.

The Nebraska State College System is seeking nearly $50.4 million to renovate three buildings and construct a new facility on its three campuses.

Chancellor Stan Carpenter made the funding request (LB755) to the state Appropriations Committee Tuesday morning.

“We recognize the difficulty that the state faces in its revenue projections, but these are buildings that really need attention,” Carpenter says. “As I said to the Committee, these are buildings that are owned by the state, owned by the people of Nebraska, and they really need to have those issues that we talked about in there addressed.”

The project list includes renovations to the Math Science building at Chadron State, the Theater/Event Center at Peru State and renovating Benthack Hall and a building a new Applied Technology Center at Wayne State.

The University of Nebraska is asking the state for $242 million for building projects (LB858).

President Hank Bounds says that’s over a 12 year period and would be matched dollar-for-dollar by the university through a 1% tuition increase in each of the first four years of the capital plan.

“With tuition and fees, whether we’re talking about UNL and its competitors and its peers, or UNK, or UNO, or UNMC,” Bounds says, “we are in a very competitive position. We are a fraction of the cost.”

The university’s project list includes 17 facilities across the four campuses and only includes academic buildings.

Members of the Appropriations Committee say given the current state budget situation, additional spending likely will not meet the requested amounts.


York College offering courses to female inmates in hopes of breaking cycle

York College seal (567x581)A dozen inmates at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women (NCCW) are going to college.

York College, which is three miles from the facility, is piloting a program with 12 inmates.

Provost Shane Mountjoy says the first group started taking a class this month.

“There are so many cycles of poverty and poor choices and what-not that often lead to former inmates recommitting and having to go back in,” Mountjoy says. “We’re hoping to be part of breaking that cycle.”

One course is being offered this semester, but Mountjoy says plans call for two per semester going forward, leading to a general education associate’s degree for those who complete the coursework.

NCCW worked with college representatives to identify the first cohort of inmates to be part of the pilot program.

“Those women, I think they view this as a privilege and it’s something, I think, they’re going to work hard for,” Mountjoy says. “It was exciting to see their response just to getting a piece of paper saying ‘You’re accepted into York College.’”

York is offering scholarships to the first group of inmates in the pilot program.

Mountjoy says as soon as it was announced to professors, many of them volunteered to teach at the NCCW facility.

Gov. Ricketts proclaims “School Choice Week” in Nebraska

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks to private school children prior to signing the school choice proclamation.

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks to private school children prior to signing the school choice proclamation.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has proclaimed this “School Choice Week” in Nebraska, part of a national campaign to raise awareness of educational choices beyond public schools.

Ricketts says he believes in public schools, but says Nebraska needs to become more accommodating to other options.

“There’s other options we can look at with regard to school choice opportunities: charter schools, opportunity scholarships. These are all things that other states have used to help improve outcomes,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Ricketts says some studies indicate that providing educational options has not just narrowed the achievement gap among various groups of schoolchildren, it has closed the gap in some instances.

Gov. Ricketts greets schoolchildren from Holy Name Catholic Church in Omaha.

Gov. Ricketts greets schoolchildren from Holy Name Catholic Church in Omaha.

Ricketts says Nebraska needs to become friendlier for alternative schools.

“There’s always more that we could be doing with regard to how we improve everything we do in state government and the education system is the same way, that we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make sure that every child gets the education they deserve,” Ricketts says.

The governor’s proclamation comes as part of National School Choice Week, which claims to seek to raise awareness of effective educational options for children.

Nearly 90 events are planned throughout Nebraska this week to raise awareness about K-12 school choice; more than 16,000 nationwide.

Civics test to be required for Elm Creek diploma in 2017

The Elm Creek students who launched the effort: Sydney Hubbard, Anna Hoffman & Audrey Worthing

The Elm Creek students who launched the effort: Sydney Hubbard, Anna Hoffman & Audrey Worthing

Three Elm Creek High School students who are on a mission to solve what they call the country’s “civics crisis” are taking a first big step toward their goal.

The Elm Creek school board has approved a civics test requirement for graduation, starting in 2017. District Superintendent Dean Tickle says it’s a unique move that ought to catch on elsewhere.

“Three young ladies really pushed to have the policy and I appreciate their efforts,” Tickle says. “They really have done a fantastic job getting support for the measure not only from our school board but we also heard from our two U.S. senators and also from Congressman Adrian Smith. There’s really been a large groundswell of support for this.”

Tickle says the test should not become a barrier for students seeking high school diplomas.

“We don’t think it’s much of a stretch for our students to pass the test,” he says. “We gave the test last year to our 4th, 5th and 6th graders and without taking American Government or American History, we had 14 of them pass it and one third grader.”

Elm Creek becomes the first school in Nebraska to require a student to pass the U.S. Citizenship test to graduate from high school.

“The test does put an emphasis on creating good citizens and being involved in the community and the state and nation and globally,” he says. “We think that’s a large part of what we’re here to do.”

State Senator Bob Krist of Omaha recently introduced a bill that would require Nebraska students to pass an American civics test before they could graduate from high school. Legislative Bill 868 would require that students be tested using questions drawn from the naturalization test.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney