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Leila Hybl takes over Keep Fremont Beautiful, hopes to expand reach

Leila Hybl believes keeping Fremont beautiful is a community effort.

And in her new role as executive director of the environmental advocacy group Keep Fremont Beautiful (KFB), she hopes to get more of the community involved. That means updating the group’s communications strategies, getting more of its environmentally friendly message out over digital channels and increasing face-to-face interactions.

“The work that Keep Fremont does has always been stellar and is stellar,” she said. “So I, of course, want to maintain the quality of the work that Keep Fremont has done. I just want to expand the reach that we have.”

Hybl, who was born in raised in Fremont but recently returned to the city after living in Kansas City, MO for 12 years, officially took over as executive director on Jan. 29.

She’s taking over the role recently left by Cathi Sampson, who took over from Sue Reyzlik in spring of 2017. KFB is an affiliate of the larger Keep America Beautiful and Keep Nebraska Beauiful, which aims to educate and inspire local communities to take action and take care of their environments.

Hybl studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute. She then worked in the Kansas City Art Institute’s continuing education department, giving her a background in education, which she plans to use to help educate the community about the environment in Fremont. In July, she returned to Fremont, where she has many familial ties, including through her sister Lottie Mitchell, who is the city’s executive assistant.

With a husband who travels frequently and a 3-year-old at home, Hybl was looking for a part-time job when she noticed the posting for KFB’s executive director position. It spoke to her passion for the environment.

“Our family is vegan, of course for animal rights reasons, but also environmental reasons as well,” she said. “So keeping the environment beautiful, keeping Fremont beautiful is just a natural progression from my lifestyle.”

One of the first projects Hybl will be working on is working with the city Parks and Recreation department to expand recycling programs in Fremont’s park systems.

Early on, Hybl plans to emphasize expanding KFB’s outreach to inspire more community members to get involved. Hybl proposed doing presentations to different organizations and businesses and physically handing copies of their print newsletter in order to create more personal bonds. She also hopes to create a strategy to grow the group’s Facebook page, which currently has 400 followers, and to create a digital archive of KFB’s newsletters.

She also proposed trying to establish creative events that, while still linked to environmentalism, will appeal to more diverse interests. For example, a recent trip to buy a shawl at the Wise Olde Owl gave her the seedling for an idea to create a Fremont fashion show, themed around environmentalism. She’s still toying with the idea, but she believes initiatives like that could get residents excited about the environment.

“Even if it was just a re-used fashion show, or to highlight local made goods, anything that’s relative to recycling, reusing, environmentalism, just to kind of draw in some different points of interest,” she said.

Bright Beginnings goes above and beyond

It’s safe to say that Angie Lange enjoys her career.

“Where else can you go to work and get so many hugs?” she said during a phone interview with the Tribune. “There are lots of hugs and lots of laughs, sometimes there are tears, but we are a family here.”

Since she took over as owner and director of Bright Beginnings Child Enrichment Center in Scribner in 2012, Lange has strived to not only provide high quality child care, but also to provide educational programming to all the kids at the facility.

“Basically we wanted education to be on the front burner,” she said. “To us, that is important, to have more educational activities and opportunities for the kids at a younger age.”

As a result of her and her staff’s work to provide educational programming, Bright Beginnings was recently recognized by Nebraska Step Up to Quality for its commitment to quality child care and education by receiving a Step 4 rating.

With the Step 4 rating, Bright Beginnings has joined the ranks of less than 25 programs throughout the state that have attained a Step 3, 4 or 5 following an onsite program observation and rating review.

Step Up to Quality is the state of Nebraska’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), which helps the state assess, improve and communicate the level of quality of early childhood programs.

The optional Step Up to Quality programming goes beyond state licensing requirements to better serve the needs of young children and their families and to prepare them for success in kindergarten and beyond.

“We chose to participate simply because we have always wanted our level of care to be more like a school,” she said. “So that is definitely a priority here and none of it could be done without the staff that I have. They all have bought in and they definitely put in extra hours outside the center to make everything successful.”

Step Up to Quality is administered through the Nebraska Department of Education and participating programs are awarded quality ratings for meeting a defined set of program standards.

“It is crucial that providers and educators across the state have a mutual understanding of what quality looks like in the child care environment and that they feel supported on their path to quality,” Lauri Cimino, director of Step up to Quality, said. “Programs enrolled in Step Up to Quality have access to coaching and resources that enable any provider – big or small – to take quality to the next level.”

Programs are rated on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Ratings for Steps 3-5 are determined by the number of points the program earns during an independent observation and by review of quality indicators.

“Step Up has allowed us to take what we were already doing and improve it with the help of our Step Up to Quality coach and observer’s feedback,” Lisa Licht, curriculum director at Bright Beginnings, said. “It has definitely been a positive learning experience for us all.”

Part of Bright Beginning’s effort to be more than just a child care facility includes its use of The Creative Curriculum, which is recognized by Step Up to Quality.

The Creative Curriculum was developed by Teaching Strategies, LLC and is a comprehensive, research-based curriculum that features exploration and discovery as a way of learning, enabling children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills.

Bright Beginnings also participates in Rooted in Relationships which is an initiative that partners with communities to implement evidence based practices that enhance the social-emotional development of children, birth through age 8.

One part of Rooted in Relationships initiative supports communities as they implement the Pyramid Model, a framework of evidence-based practices that promote the social, emotional, and behavioral competence of young children, in selected family childcare homes and childcare centers, according to information on the organization’s website.

Along with four full-time staff members and six part-time, which include several high school kids that come in after school, Bright Beginnings serves an average of 28-30 kids on a daily basis, according to Lange.

Lange and Licht have both been involved with Bright Beginnings when it opened in 2009, with Lange purchasing the child care facility in 2012.

For Lange, trying to provide the highest quality child care and education to all of the children enrolled at Bright Beginnings is just her small way of ensuring a bright future.

“It’s fun to teach our future and to have a hand in that,” she said. “These kids are definitely our future and there is never two days that are the same. They are full of love and energy and they just make coming to work fun.”

Courtesy photo 

This plane is part of a permanent display honoring the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland.

Brent Wasenius / Evan Nordstrom, Fremont Tribune  

Megan Kucks of Midland University looks to the basket as Makaela Karst of Dakota Wesleyan defends during a game last month at the Wikert Event Center. Kucks, an Elkhorn South graduate, eclipsed 1,000 career points during Wednesday’s game against Briar Cliff.

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Governor, teacher talk about importance of FFA

As an FFA adviser at Logan View Junior-Senior High School, Dan Mowinkel can tell you about the importance of the organization.

Mowinkel believes FFA promotes leadership, personal growth and career success in students.

FFA is an organization for middle and high school youth that supports agricultural education.

On Wednesday, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts had a proclamation signing ceremony for “FFA Week” in Nebraska, celebrated nationally from Feb. 17-24.

Ricketts was joined FFA officials and members and Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

“FFA is helping raise up the next generation of Nebraska’s farmers, ranchers, and ag innovators,” Ricketts said. “Through FFA, students across Nebraska receive great agricultural education and training from this historic organization. FFA is developing the fresh thinkers and strong leaders our growing agriculture industry needs to innovate and move it forward in the 21st century.”

The Nebraska FFA Association was the sixth chartered by the National FFA Organization.

Nebraska has more than 8,500 FFA members in 185 chapters.

“FFA Week provides us an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our FFA members,” Wellman said. “FFA allows students an opportunity to grow as leaders while building their agricultural education, and, in turn, impacting their communities for the better.”

Originally known as “Future Farmers of America,” FFA started in 1928.

The organization has grown since then.

“A lot of people look back and think of FFA still as Future Farmers of America, but it deals so much more with leadership now,” Mowinkel said. “We really have all different varieties of kids in FFA—whether they live on acreages or whether they live in town.

“You’ve still got the farm kids, but people are seeing the benefits of being able to get up and speak in front of groups.”

Mowinkel cites an example.

“I know our English teacher once said he could always tell the kids that were in FFA when they were giving speeches because they carried themselves so much more confidently,” Mowinkel said.

As an ag teacher, Mowinkel can see the benefits of the organization and the opportunities for scholarships and even employment and internships that it can provide for youth.

Mowinkel believes an employer at an ag-based company may want to look a little more closely at an applicant’s resume if that person was involved in FAA, especially if he or she earned a State or American degree.

He also noted a conversation he had with one of his former classmates, Scott Kurz, the physiology laboratory manager at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Animal Science.

When looking to hire young people as interns, Kurz told Mowinkel that he strives to find those who were more involved in school with groups such as FFA and band, which he attributes to their having a little better work ethic.

Nebraska State FFA Adviser Krystl Knabe also noted the value of FAA during the governor’s proclamation-signing ceremony.

“The agriculture industry is the driving force for Nebraska’s economy,” Knabe said. “Our state’s educational system has recognized the importance of agriculture. We have a record number of agricultural education programs in Nebraska high schools and record high FFA membership.

“We are thrilled that Governor Ricketts is recognizing the Nebraska FFA Association during National FFA Week as the organization continues to develop and prepare future leaders of our great state.”