My Immigration Story

My ancestors came from Germany, Canada, and England to America in the 1700s and 1800s. They tossed and crashed about on ships for months travelling to the “New Frontier” in search of a better life and more opportunities. Once they arrived, some rode into uncharted territory on covered wagons. Two robbed a bank and escaped. Others had to uproot their whole family because of the Civil War. Most of them spent their days toiling for hours on end, farming to harvest the powers of the virgin and sacred earth. My ancestors had to do things we can only read about or see in Wild West movies.

My mom’s side of the family came over on a ship from Germany in 1776. The Orndoffs landed in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. They lived in that quaint little settlement for about two generations, but when the Civil War broke out, they were forced to move to Illinois for fear that they would lose their land. After moving, they became farmers. My great-great grandmother and her family rode in a covered wagon from Illinois to Iowa seeking better land. For weeks they travelled, fearing the treacherous trails, the wild, untamed prairie, and attacks by the natives. However, it seemed as if they were the ones to be feared once they got there. When they arrived in Iowa, my great-great grandfather’s brothers robbed a bank in Modale, Iowa. One of them escaped. He fled to Montana and managed to live there for about twenty years until the local authorities found him. But, the authorities deemed that he had been an “outstanding citizen” during those twenty years,and the Iowa judges pardoned him from his crimes.

My great grandfather continued to farm on the land they acquired after their move to Iowa. Later, he moved to Cairo, Nebraska, and the stars began to align which would allow me to be born.

The LaBrie side of the family comes from a similar place. Six or seven generations ago, they lived in France. They came over to North America about four generations ago: to French-speaking Quebec, Canada. For the generations before my parents, having about ten children was the trend. Take, for example, my great-great-great-great grandfather, Jacques LaBrie. He had twelve children altogether, but two died of smallpox as infants. In 1874, Jacque, his wife, and his ten children rode on the new railroad to Hastings, Nebraska. They settled on land just west of town and became farmers. With their settlement in Nebraska, they lost their French language abilities. English dominated the family now. Eventually, the Dust Bowl and Great Depression forced them to find a different method of income. They moved to a nearby town, called Aurora, to work in a factory—just in time for the industrial revolution.

My grandparents met in this town and had ten children (continuing the trend)—seven boys and three girls. They kept with the family tradition of farming, and life on the farm was adventurous. My dad told me the boys used to dig holes seven feet deep just for the sake of digging holes. They ran around pretending to be World War II soldiers and used sticks as fake guns as they reenacted battle scenes, screaming a made up German phrase, “ZEBIDY KAH!” as they fought each other. When they weren’t playing around, they would help their dad out on the farm wherever possible. Almost every night at suppertime they would eat popcorn, because it was the cheapest and most readily available way to feed all twelve people in the family. My migration story was about to begin, and the spark that would eventually lead to my birth was ignited in that small farming town where my parents met.

I was born in Hastings, Nebraska. It seems to be a family tradition to be born there—all of my aunts and uncles, my parents, and even my grandparents were born there. From the time I was born until fifth grade, my family lived in Doniphan. There was little opportunity in that small “village” of 800 people. My mom worked in Hastings and my dad in Grand Island. Doniphan was just a middle ground place. I felt very repressed there. I was always the “odd one out”—even though I tried really hard to fit in. I was raised Catholic, but one evening during church, the priest told me dogs did not have souls, and then told me I could not go to church if I believed they did. So, I took his word and I never set foot in a church again. I suppose an important part of my family’s tradition is lost with me. Almost every one of my ancestors was catholic. I feel like I’m betraying them, and if there is a God, I feel like I’m betraying him as well. When we moved to Hastings some of that guilt vanished and I was able to freely express myself.

It is amazing what just fifteen miles can do to change a life. Hastings was full of opportunities. I learned it was acceptable to not be religious. I could take part in whatever my heart desired. If I had not moved to Hastings, I would have never been involved in band, never would have had the opportunity to learn German, never would have made the connections I did.

Because Hastings had a wonderful German department, I was inspired to become an exchange student during my junior year. If I thought just fifteen miles made a huge difference in my life, four thousand miles was an even more life-changing distance. I was practically thrown into the unknown the second I stepped off the plane. I knew very little German, knew not a single person over there…and for a second, I realized that that was probably very similar to how my ancestors felt when they stepped off the boat those three hundred years ago. I had a sort of eureka moment; my exchange meant more to me than just learning German—it meant paying homage to my ancestors. I am the only person in my generation who still speaks German. When I came back from my exchange, I knew I wanted to do something in the future with my German skills. I became more confident in myself and was not afraid to meet new people or face new challenges. The year between high school and college was really tough for me. I had to assimilate back into the American culture, and everyone expected me to be the same person I was before I left. It was very hard for me to pretend to be unchanged. I became direct and headstrong, but some of my friends didn’t understand that that was just the “German” inside of me.

Needless to say, I was ready for college when the time came. I knew that I wanted to attend UNL since I was a small child. It was the only school I applied for because I knew it was the only place I wanted to go. I was in love with the Husker Football program and the atmosphere, and both of my sisters had graduated from there. Another huge reason I came to UNL was because of the marching band. I love Husker game days, and the experience is greatly improved and made more amazing by wearing a band uniform and playing with 299 of the football team’s biggest fans. I feel a sense of belonging here at UNL. I am continuing to pursue my passion for German, and also am studying Global Studies. I could not imagine being anywhere else than here, learning to do what I love—and all because of my ancestors and their paths throughout time and this country.


The Doors Sing “Reading Rainbow” (Jimmy Fallon)

I saw this last night on the special of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I love The Doors and Jimmy Fallon, so I thought this deserved a post on my blog! He does a really good job!

Second Semester Schedule Change Rant

There’s a new schedule that the administration is going to implement this semester. In this rant, I am going to bring up many points and arguments debating the change.

For one, the student body is not being represented in their process. What I mean is, in order for something to be done that will better the student body as a whole, a wide variety of students out of the student body need to be represented. A council including people from all grades, social statuses, family situations, grade standings, and cultural backgrounds should be at the meetings that the staff are having. There needs to be diversity.

The staff cannot base its “intervention”, if you will, solely on the fact that students are doing worse than they have in previous years. It may be true that there are more people with bad grades, but there are lots of things that factor into a student’s grade output.

Things like home life, difficulty of the students’ classes, the way a teacher teaches (or doesn’t teach), the amount of homework a student has, the amount of effort a student is willing to put in to their schoolwork, what activities if any that the student participates in, if the student cares or not about school, and peer pressure are all factors that determine the output of a student. I’m sure that is only a fraction of what I could have listed.

Think also that, perhaps, the staff/faculty members have something to do with the output of the student body’s grades. There are teachers in this school system that need to either fix the way that they teach so that less and less people fail, or they need to stop teaching. Some may even need to be fired. I’m not saying that I want teachers to be fired, but if the teacher is going to sit in a classroom and stare at the students as they try to work but fail because the teacher has not taught the material and probably never will, then you need to get with the program or get out. One of my friends even went in for extra help and her teacher said to “Look it up on the internet.” I believe that the teacher should have offered extra learning opportunities to my friend instead of telling her to turn to the Internet. She had no idea even what to search for and the teacher then said that she was “Busy and could no longer help [her]”.  The teachers that do not teach their students are being paid to do nothing.  I would be furious if I knew that my employees were affecting my output in such a negative way. Their lack of teaching is translating to a lack of a capable workforce in the future. Today’s students are tomorrow’s future. And they are promoting the decline of intelligence! Then, they blame the failure of the students on our work ethic. Perhaps they should be looking at their own work ethic.

To give another example, I, having been a student at HHS for two years, have had a number of teachers that did not seem to care about whether or not a student did his or her homework and classwork. One of my teachers was gone at least once a week, every week. This teacher would then return to school and think that he/she could hand us a quiz and expect us to know the information. As a class, we all turned it in blank. That may not have been the most studious thing to do, but otherwise we would have failed. We did not know the information and therefore were not prepared to take a test over information we had never learned. Where is the reformation for the way the teachers teach?

A third and final example is one of my teachers currently. This teacher gives homework on nights he/she knows students cannot get it done, like during away basketball games and swim meets. Then, the next day, when a student comes in to class with their homework incomplete, this teacher begins a lecture on the importance of getting homework done that lasts the entire class period. I’m sorry. You can chew us out for not doing our homework, but that’s not going to make us do it. And you don’t have to make it last the whole class period. Maybe make it a five-minute ordeal, and then move on to teaching us valuable skills. The teacher’s solution for this problem next semester is to have us write ten pages over each chapter. How is that an effective solution? People are still going to fail to do their homework. Some students could care less about their grades. (Which I believe is sad. We have one job as teenagers, and that is to set ourselves up to be as successful as possible for our futures. Bad grades are hard to overlook when applying to colleges, and nowadays, if you do not go to college, you will most likely be overlooked when applying for that job you really wanted. “Dang it, I needed a degree? But my grades were so bad in high school that no college would accept me.” Sad day.) Some people were not taught when they were young that college was important, and that high school is like a stairway to your future.

It is true that sometimes administrators sit in on classes, but where are they when the teachers are doing a bad job? The teachers know when Mr. Opperman or Mr. Szlanda is going to sit in the room and observe the class. This seems silly. The visits should be random and more often, in my opinion. That way, the administrators can observe how the teacher really teaches, and not just see their planned-out one-time lecture that will only last the one period they are observed. This would be more effective.

Teachers should be passionate about what they do, and most are. But it only takes one bad teacher to make your whole day go down the drain.

Some students need extra help. Whether that means that they need a study hall or not, there is going to be opposition to any proposition that the administrators and staff have. Some kids, no matter how hard one may try to help him or her, will never have the desire to do better. Some kids do not see the value in our education.

Blame for this could be put on uninspired teachers, but also on uninspired kids. Kids should believe that what they are learning about has some type of value, whether it is for the future or for the next test. But sometimes it is hard to do that when teachers give lectures that aren’t interesting or are off topic. How can a student learn from or see value in that?

Teachers are being paid for what they teach. Whether students benefit from their teachings or not is only monitored by things like tests and state standards. When a student does amazing on the homework but horribly on the test, how does that accurately measure what the student does or does not know? If the student actively participates in class yet flunks a major quiz, how does that reflect that the student participates?

There are only so many hours in a day and some kids do not know how to time manage, nor do they care to start trying to. People think they can time manage after school, but sometimes get sidetracked with the excess amount of technology available to them. People decide to pay attention to their iPods or Facebook accounts rather than doing schoolwork.

 Technology also has a lot to do with the fact that students are not getting their homework done.  Computers are a blessing to have. However, they can also be a curse. Instead of doing homework, kids will divert to other things like social media and other distracting games or websites. I am not saying, however, that all social media and games should be banned from our computers when we are at home. I am just saying that kids are easily distracted. I can say that it is hard for me to do serious homework when I know that I could be chatting with my friends or playing Cookie Clicker.

Before you rethink the schedule, rethink the method. Think about the efficiency and percentage of the information taught in class that really soaks in to a student’s brain. Rethink the teachers, not just the students. It’s not simply our faults. Rethink the atmosphere of the school. Are we showing enough school spirit? To me, it seems that we aren’t as enthusiastic and excited about our activities as we should be.

A small amount of students attend the Girls’ Basketball games, but everyone attends the Boys’ Varsity ones. That doesn’t make sense. No one goes to swim or cross-country meets, but volleyball receives a lot of support. Everyone has a focus on football, and when we lose, we become angry and we talk bad about the team. The soccer girls and boys go to state soccer every year and a lot of people go out and support the soccer teams, which is great! However, a significantly smaller percentage of people come support Marching Band, debate, track, and the numerous other activities at HHS. Maybe it is because they are uninformed when and where the other activities are competing, but I feel a lack of support towards the lesser-popular sports and activities. A lot of the glory goes to sports like wrestling, volleyball, football, and basketball. If we showed more pride to other activities, then maybe people would be proud of their activities and would feel appreciated. People are focusing on petty little issues within the sports and activities when they really should be focusing on the fact that people are trying. Winning isn’t everything. We need to show pride in our school, and maybe that will translate to pride in our grades. I don’t know, call me crazy, but that could fix a lot of problems within our school.

Whatever the staff at Hastings High has planned for the upcoming semester, if it is a block schedule or shortened classes with an added study hall, it will hopefully benefit us as a student body.

Thank you,

Lindsey LaBrie

Class of 2016 

The Playground

The Playground

  When I first saw the playground from afar, I realized how exciting it was. It was so beautiful and shiny. The slide was so tall! The sandboxes so deep! A child’s paradise! Oh how I wanted to set foot on that playground! I saw it, and I knew, I just knew, that I would claim it as mine someday.

I craved this playground because of the joy it brought to me in my dreams. I dreamt of this playground many nights. The dreams were usually vivid and I could remember them after waking up.

In one of my dreams, I grabbed on to the sparkly surface of the monkey bars and I just hung there, without a care in the world. I enjoyed the feeling of blood rushing to my head after hanging upside-down for a while. I always went to the monkey bars on the playground in my dreams. I could’ve stayed on them forever, in that state of bliss and carelessness.

I never thought enough of myself to come close to it though. It was so beautiful, all I needed to do was see it, and I was happy. I wanted to set foot in the playground, but I was too afraid of what might happen if I did. I could fall from the slide or slip from the monkey bars and break my arm. I thought that maybe one day I’d overcome my fear.

That one day did come. A force greater than all other forces pulled me towards the playground. As I came close to it, I saw an opportunity to take in its grandeur. I only looked at it from beyond the fence. It tantalized my senses. I could imagine myself running up to the monkey bars and feeling their cool, polished surface. I wished for more, but it was late and I had to return home before dark.

I ran all the way from the playground to home, thinking all the while about those monkey bars.

The next day, I decided to go back. I was going to play on the playground, finally!

I ran faster and smiled wider when I saw the luster from afar. The sight of the playground filled me to the brim with such awe! It was beautiful! Every surface was so shiny and bright!

But suddenly, I stopped. I stopped because I was up close and I could see everything with greater detail. My heart dropped. It was as if an earthquake trembled through my chest. A tear rolled down my cheek. The wind whipped my hair around my head, and the whole atmosphere in the playground was shifting. My smile quickly faded and I had to stop myself from screaming.

I cursed at the wind and at myself.

The bars were so dilapidated! Every bar that wasn’t hanging on by a limp weld had fallen off. I went up to the resting place. To the victims of oxidation and time. It felt like a graveyard, a war zone. I picked up one of the sad bars and ran my fingers along its rusty, chipped surface. It left a dirty stinging cut on my finger.

It was far too sad to be true.

I looked up, just as a final hope that I was seeing something different from reality. However, what I was seeing was the truth.

I could see the shadow of the play set looming over me like a phantom. Faint and ominous children’s laughter was echoing through the wind. The basketball hoops were devoid of their nets, the swing sets swaying as if being propelled by ghosts. The slide and its once slick surface was now a defeated, defaced, and mangled piece of plastic. It was cracked in half and was barely held together. The graffiti sprayed over its once shiny shell did more than enough to tell me that this place was no longer welcoming. The sandbox looked weary. It was devoid of its white, beach-like sand. The only things that were left inside its four wooden walls were sand burrs, rocks, and trash.

I was shocked. Could it really be? Was I completely ignorant to the real world? Did this really look like a paradise to me? A place where children could play, could pretend? Did I really see this place as awe-inspiring?

I looked around again. What I saw was not like my dream at all.

No. There were no shiny surfaces. In fact, the only thing shining was the sun. Even the sun did not inspire me. It did not fill me with hope.

Inside, I cursed myself for being so foolish. Things like this were always too good to be true. I silently cried out, “Why?”, but the wind was the only one to hear me.

This was not at all what I had dreamt.

I was so infuriated that I took the rung that was in my hand and threw it as far away as I could. I sat down, defeated, like a child throwing a temper tantrum.

I sat in sadness a while. I recalled the amazing things that once happened in this playground. The laughter, the love, the recess, the friendships that must have formed. From that, I found enough strength to stand up. I ran home, angry at myself for believing that this playground would be as amazing as it was in my dreams. The playground doesn’t exist in the same state as it used to.

The school next to it has been abandoned for years. What led me to believe that the playground would be any different?

The epiphany stung me like a wasp;

Too long has it sat in disrepair to be mended to its original and glorious state. For it I would cry, if that weren’t so true. No more children will find repose or laughter in that fenced in once-heaven. To follow their dreams to that hell would only bring them defeat and sadness.

Follow the mirage of luster like a moth and you will find yourself burned. If you happen to get burned, remember that there are always remedies for pain. Always remember yourself and what brings you true happiness, so that when you find that your playground is not as it seemed, you will have yourself.