KEARNEY – For many, a country school was the center of their early education and in many case the social center of the rural community.
Country schools dotted Nebraska’s rural landscape. As with so many things, change came to those little schools on plains as fewer and fewer exist. Two years ago Betty Stukenholtz wanted to do something to preserve the memory of these buildings and their occupants by founding the Nebraska Country School Association (NCSA).
On July 14-15, on the campus of UNK, where so many rural teachers received their schooling, the second annual NCSA Conference took place. Attendees heard from speakers on a variety of topics including: the Orphan Train Movement, the Willa Cather Foundation, The Blizzard of 1888 and much more.
Beth Stukenholtz is now the director of the NCSA. She said that the mission of the group is to help people preserve the memory of these school houses and the people that taught and attended them.
“We want to be able to help people who are rebuilding the schools,” Stukenholtz said, “there is an effort underway to get database with names of students and teachers around the state.”
Ardis Yost was a teacher in several country schools in Webster County starting in 1949. She said that it was a special place.
“It was the center of everything,” Yost said. “Many times people didn’t get together very much in those days. The schools were where people gathered. The Christmas Program was a very big deal. If you were the teacher and didn’t put on a good program, you might not get your contract renewed.”
The rural school was an integral part of Nebraska’s past. The NCSA is working to preserve that history for generations to come.