Nebraska City students from Lourdes, school for blind strike up friendships
Story by Lesa Tines
NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) – The verse above (1 Timothy 4:12) is the inspiration for the campus ministry group at Lourdes Central High School in Nebraska City – aptly named T4:12.
T4:12 was started in 2004 by four members of the junior class, including Jill Liesemeyer, who is credited with naming the group.
According to school guidance counselor Lisa Whitten, the ladies were “on fire with their faith” and wanted to start a campus ministry. In the past 10 years, the group has grown to 80 students in grades 9-12.
Students in T4:12 meet once a month and do a variety of community service activities including helping with freshman orientation, praying at the abortion clinic and organizing the all-school Mass once a month. The students’ monthly visits to Ambassador Nursing Home in Nebraska City were the inspiration for their latest community outreach project.
Dana Welch contacted Ms. Whitten with the idea for the T4:12 group to visit her students at the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children Who are Blind or Visually Impaired (NCECBVI), where she is a house parent.
NCECBVI is located in Nebraska City. It was founded in 1875 and serves children from infancy to age 21. NCECBVI’s program offers the expertise and specialized skills of the center’s staff to blind, visually impaired, and multi-handicapped students in residential, day, and outreach settings. Residential students live in dorms on campus and return home to be with their families on a weekly basis.
Students at NCECBVI can be enrolled on a long- or short-term basis and parents and staff work together to determine the needs of each student. Their goal is to help each student successfully transition from the center to home or other local programs.
The T4:12 visits started in the 2014 school year. Once a month, six students from the group visit the center where they play a game with students, work on a craft project together, and end with a snack. During their visit, each T4:12 student is paired with two students from NCECBVI.
The visits have already had an impact on students from both schools. According to Ms. Welch, one of the male students from NCECBVI made a connection with another male student from Lourdes Central High School.
Another example of the impact the T4:12 students are having comes from Audrey Graves, center-based program principal. According to Graves, one of the students, who is autistic, was in a bad mood during the T4:12’s visit. He did not want to participate in the activity. A member of T4:12 sat next to the NCECBVI student, talked to him and encouraged him to participate.
After a while, the NCECBVI student joined the activity and left in a better mood.
Graves said her students look forward to the visit from the T4:12 group.
“It is such a great partnership for all of the students to get together, learn from each other, and form new friendships. I truly think that all of the students are impacted from these visits.” she said.
Students from NCECBVI are given an opportunity to learn social skills and T4:12 students gain an understanding of students with disabilities and a chance to see them as peers, who have a unique set of challenges.
Whitten said she feels that her students have also been positively affected by the visits.
“They have been very touched by the students that they have met and their strength on overcoming challenges.” she said.
More visits are planned for the remainder of the school year, giving all 80 students in Lourdes Central High School’s T4:12 the chance to participate in the latest outreach program.
Editor's Note: Lourdes Central School in Nebraska City serves 310 students: 146 in K-5; 64 in Middle School; and 100 in High School. Parishes that support Lourdes are: St. Joseph in Auburn, Holy Trinity in Avoca, St. Bernard in Julian, St. Benedict and St. Mary in Nebraska City, St. Joseph in Paul, St. Clara in Peru, Church of the Holy Spirit in Plattsmouth and St. Paulinus in Syracuse.