After watching the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a child, which is based off of Harper Lee’s best-selling novel, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson knew he wanted to be a lawyer because he had a great deal of admiration for attorney Atticus Finch.
But as he grew older, that thought went into the rearview mirror; and he started goofing off in class and not taking academics seriously. As a junior in high school, however, he was publicly ridiculed by his eighth-grade math instructor and his attitude began shifting.
“I got a 63 on my test, and she (the teacher) plopped it right down in front of my desk in front of the other students and said, ‘you could do really well in this class, but you’d rather be a funny guy instead of trying,” Peterson told Fremont Middle School students during a Thursday assembly held in the school gymnasium.”
Peterson told students that the teacher saw something in him that he didn’t see, and that motivated him from that point on to work hard in school and try to achieve the best marks possible. He told FMS students to not follow in his footsteps in that regard, but to start focusing now.
During the approximately hour-long assembly, Peterson spoke about a wide range of topics; but predominately focused on the negative aspects of drug use, peer pressure and internet safety.
Students in the sixth through eighth-grade range, he said, start experimenting with recreational drug use, often times marijuana. He highlighted that during these formative years, marijuana can have an adverse effect on children, especially those with preexisting mental health conditions.
“Doctors have done studies, and they indicate that those who participate in recreational marijuana use may be more susceptible to developing certain conditions,” he said. “ … And you may find yourself in a peer group where you have to make that decision in a split second. And I hope you says, ‘hey, I’m not going to do it.’”
In regard to internet safety, Peterson spoke about the risks of online predators and those online for the sole purpose of luring children and teens into human trafficking. As acting attorney general, Peterson said that he has seen several tragic situations involving young girls – and boys – that were the targets of adults.
He said that those targeting children online often times lure them in with promises of love, caring and understanding that they feel they aren’t receiving. Children can feel like they know someone just because of a five-minute online conversation, but in-fact they don’t, he said.
While conversation regarding human trafficking is uncomfortable, FMS Principal LaVonna Emanuel said that it’s something that needs to be talked about. It’s an adult conversation, but if children don’t know what to look for and what warning signs may arise they could be more susceptible to being taken advantage of.
“He (Peterson) really feels that we need to have more conversations with this age group, that sometimes when you wait to address a high school audience that you can be a little late,” Emanuel said. “It is a very adult conversation, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had.”
In addition conversations regarding drug use and human trafficking, Peterson responded to numerous student questions that they prepared prior to his arrival. Some student questions included: did he see himself in this career path?, what are the favorite aspects of his job?, what are the craziest cases he’s seen?, what should happen with gun laws?, questions regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and more.
Peterson said that he’s been to several assemblies such as the one that took place at FMS, and that this was the first time he’s done a question and answer session.
“I am just really impressed by how good these questions are, and I will tell you that as a seventh-grader I would have been really scared getting up asking these questions,” he said.
Emanuel said that having students prepare questions helps them learn and become more confident with speaking.
“Whenever we have some sort of special programming come in like an all-school assembly, we like to do some pre-teaching and some pre-learning,” she said. “We talk about who the attorney general is and some of those aspects, so there were some mini-lessons created and we asked them (teachers) to have the students submit some questions. From all the students questions, we selected some questions that we thought would be in line with his message for today and that would be timely in current events.”
Emanuel was impressed with her students’ questions and conduct during their time with Peterson.
“It’s very important for kids to show their best behavior when we have a guest in the room, and I thought that they did a really good job,” she said. “They were really attentive, and quiet, and I really hope that they took some good things away from this.”
As Americans around the country prepare to honor those who served the country on Veterans Day, ground has been broken locally on a project that aims to honor our nation’s veterans every day of the year.
That project is a Veterans Memorial Park that has been spearheaded by commanders and members of local veteran’s groups, according to Chris Madsen of Avenue of Flags and the Veterans Memorial Park Committee.
“For someone to be killed in war is not the worst that can happen, to be lost in war is not the worst that can happen, the worst thing that can happen to a soldier is to be forgotten,” he said. “So that is the whole premise, it is our strong belief as a committee as a whole that we are going to make this park happen because we are not going to let any soldier who served be forgotten.”
The Veterans Memorial Park will be situated in front of Sidner Ice Arena where the old Memorial Park was located, and will be an extension of the Eternal Flame Memorial on East Military Avenue.
Ground was broken on one aspect of the park, as flagpoles that hoist flags representing all six the branches of the military were recently installed at the site.
“So far all the flag poles representing the branches of service, as well as the American flag and POW flag, have been installed and we are working towards breaking ground on the rest of the memorial,” Madsen said.
According to Madsen, the Veterans Park Committee hopes to also install concrete footings that will anchor the monuments slated for the memorial before the ground freezes this year.
A hexagon monument will be in the center of the memorial’s concrete oval-shaped base. The monument will include pictures and information about conflicts and wars in which the United States has been involved. The memorial also will include six monoliths. Each monolith will represent a branch of the military and will include pictures and symbols, Madsen said.
There will also be a statue depicting a soldier holding a folded American flag and kneeling at what’s called a Battle Cross — a cross with a fallen soldier’s boots, helmet and rifle.
“There are still elements that are to be funded, we still need donations to pay for main aspects of the park, but it is proceeding forward and it is pretty awesome,” Madsen said. “We in the committee have all put a lot of work and effort in to it and we are very excited that the ground is breaking and very excited to move forward with it, we are just looking forward to the opportunity for the community as a whole to help in the project in any way shape or form that they can.”
The park will also include memory tiles that can be purchased to honor a veteran. The tiles will be displayed along a wall and will showcase the veteran’s name, branch they served, the years of their service, which conflict they may have served in, if they were a prisoner of war and if they were killed in action.
“The tiles can be purchased for everyone, they are for all veterans,” Madsen said. “The great thing about these tiles is that they will show the veteran’s name, what branch they served under, what years they served under, and whether they served in a conflict or not. They have an option of including a photo if they want, and then the third option is they can have a website built for them as well.”
The tile can feature a photo of the veteran and even have a scanable quick reference barcode that will link to the veteran’s own personal webpage that the family can continue to update for years to come.
“It allows people all over the world to go to that website and post their own comment to that veteran, their own pictures, to kind of keep a living history out there,” Madsen said.
Tiles range in price from $100 to $200. Order forms can be found on the City of Fremont’s website at www.fremontne.gov, paper copies are available at City Hall on the second floor, or by emailing Madsen at email@example.com.
“The proceeds from the tiles go right back into funding the rest of the park, and they are just a cool way to get the community involved by honoring local veterans,” Madsen said.
Donations for the construction of the Veterans Memorial Park are also being accepted, and according to Madsen a number of businesses and individuals in the community have already showed their support for the park through donations.
Local businesses that have donated to the park include Pinnacle Bank, First State Bank, First National Bank, Fremont Contract Carriers Inc. as well as many other local businesses and many private donations from members of the community.
Those interested in donating to the Veterans Memorial Park can contact Madsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 402-541-4482. Checks should be made payable to Fremont Avenue of Flags, in care of Veterans Park. The checks can be mailed to: Fremont Avenue of Flags, Attn: Veterans’ Memorial Park, P.O. Box 532, Fremont, NE 68025.
“We are also looking for donor help and support for landscaping, lighting, fencing,” Madsen said. “The actual structures the statues are already underway as far as we have people who are going to start that process and build it, but we need donor support to get to that done.”
For Madsen, the ultimate goal of the project and the creation of a Veterans Memorial Park is simply to honor all of those who have served and sacrificed for our country.
“We are going to do everything we can as a committee to make sure that we show duty and honor and respect to all those who have served, especially all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and are no longer here with us,” he said. “All of our flags that fly they don’t fly because the wind blows, they fly because of the last breath of a soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.”
MainStreet Fremont’s Annual Christmas Walk has become a tradition for many families.
The popular event will continue to offer a variety of activities throughout downtown this year – but with one big change.
The Christmas Walk is moving to the Saturday after Thanksgiving – Nov. 25 – instead of being held on Friday evening. The Saturday following Thanksgiving is known nationally as Small Business Saturday, which recognizes what smaller businesses have to offer for the holiday season.
Hayley Fisher, a member of the MainStreet Fremont Board and chair of the promotions committee, said a lot of thought went into making the switch to Saturday.
“We kind of talked about it the last couple of years,” Fisher said. “The Nebraska (football) game always kind of took over the event, so we decided to make that change with it being a later game this year. To go forward and take the plunge. It also made sense to pair the event with Small Business Saturday.”
In addition to the change in days, the Christmas Walk also will have a much longer time span. This year’s event will begin at 7 a.m. with coffee and drink specials at the Blue Bottle Coffeehouse and continue until 10 p.m. when Milady Coffeehouse will offer viewing of a Christmas movie from 7:30-10 p.m.
“(Families) have more time from 7 a.m. to 10 o’clock at night to pick a variety of activities that they can attend. … We were so limited with a 5 to 8 time frame before,” Fisher said. “This can really broaden the clientele that can come down, too.”
An abundance of food and beverage items, including waffles, donuts, cookies, hot dogs, chili, coffee, cider, wine and cheese will be offered at downtown businesses.
The Fremont Area Art Association will have several activities geared towards children at 92 Gallery West.
“The art association is going to be doing a craft with kids, face painting and storytime from 11 to 1,” said Barb Tellatin, FAAA exhibits committee member. “Mrs. Santa also will be there with cookies.”
The gallery will then be open the rest of the afternoon for visitors.
Santa’s reindeer will be available for photos. The reindeer will be located in the parking lot at Sixth Street and Park Avenue from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The annual Festival of Hope Tree Silent Auction which benefits The Bridge will be on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Abe Krasne’s Home Furnishings.
Musical performances, store discounts, cookie decorating and yoga also will be part of the festivities, as well as a scavenger hunt and tree decorating at the Junktion Flea Market.
“We do have quite a few more businesses participating this year with the extended time frame,” Fisher said.
The response to the changes in the event have been positive.
“We have received positive feedback so far,” Fisher said. “We hope to add to this event and make it grow and be bigger. We wanted to kind of see what this first year would bring. Everybody’s been excited with the Small Business Saturday pairing.”
She hopes people take advantage of all of the activities being offered at the community event.
“It’s a good all-around family activity to come down to and enjoy our downtown area,” she said. “We’ve had lots of good, positive façade changes and it’s a lot of beautiful things.
“We will have new Christmas banners that will be up and hanging, displaying children’s art work which I think would be another fun reason for people to come down this year.”