Hope. It is for Everyone.

by NSEA President Jenni Benson

When I speak to outside groups and organizations about our state’s great system of public schools, I often play on Nebraska’s new tongue-in-cheek tourism slogan, “Nebraska. Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone.”

I tell those groups, with emphasis, that “Nebraska. It Is for Children and It Is for Public Education.” These last two months dealing with the pandemic, school closures and uncertainty has only confirmed that truth. Schools and school staff are the lifeblood of communities across Nebraska.

As we navigate the vagaries of this pandemic, we must maintain hope. Or, to paraphrase the Nebraska catchphrase once again, “Hope. It Is for Everyone.” That’s a basic fact of life. Every soul, every person needs hope. In this moment, we need hope more than ever.

Hope Often Lies in Our Actions

As I listen to the stories of teachers, support professionals, administrators and school boards going above and beyond to provide their students and families with the tools, the learning and in many cases, the food they need to survive this situation, I am filled with a great deal of hope.

Hope often lies in the actions we take. NSEA moved into action on Day One. In truth, it might be a more truthful characterization to say that we moved into action on Day Zero. NSEA Executive Director Maddie Fennell began planning with staff and leaders several weeks before the pandemic was known to have crossed our borders and make itself known in Nebraska. We had meetings and planning sessions with staff and leaders across the state and nation. Today, we continue to meet – now in a socially distanced manner – with dozens of stakeholder groups to ensure our children and our members are getting the resources they need.

Our teachers, professors, college students, counselors, administrators, para-professionals, bus drivers, and more have sprung into action in every corner of the state. They are stepping up to serve through digital means where possible, in person on the front lines, where necessary. They advocate for those who are not being served equitably.

The NSEA Children’s Fund Board of Directors invested heavily and voted to give $25,000 in funding to the Food Bank for the Heartland, which serves all 93 Nebraska counties. The NSEA-Retired board followed suit and will give $10,000 to that same food bank.

All of these actions continue to fill me with Hope.

‘Never Lose Infinite Hope’

I know some may experience feelings of hopelessness. There are children and families suffering, the sorely needed aid is not reaching everyone in need. In response to that, I would suggest that you do not give up hope, that you seek and help those in need, and that you keep this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in mind: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  

I find hope in inspirational stories of service, in music and humor, too. We need to practice self-care as well. Singing and laughing help me every day. Connecting with family and friends raises spirits and sustains a sense of hope.

Finally, don’t forget to give yourself some grace. I want you to know that I believe in you. NSEA is here for you. Never hesitate to reach out. Through hope and action, we will endure together.