Duchesne seniors show their grit

Duchesne seniors show their grit

Seniors Ally Parra and Maggie Dowd have received the Heider Foundation Grit Scholarship to Creighton University.

This scholarship awards students who “have a high aptitude to succeed, but whose talents are not evident through the standard metrics used to qualify students for significant merit scholarships at Creighton University,” according to the university.

Q & A with Maggie Dowd (center in photo):

Q: How did you feel when you received this scholarship?

A: I was super excited to receive the Grit Scholarship. It was an honor to have been chosen.

Q: What do you hope to study in college?

A: I am planning to pursue a degree in education. My grade school teachers and my teachers at Duchesne have been an inspiration and certainly have shaped my educational goals.

Q: What do you hope to do after you are finished with college?

A: I would really like to work with people, especially kids, to inspire and hopefully fulfill their potential.

Q: How did your education at Duchesne prepare you for college?

A: Although I know college will be difficult, I feel Duchesne’s challenging curriculum has prepared me for Creighton University. Duchesne has helped me figure out how I learn and gave me the tools to succeed. I am thankful for all the teachers at Duchesne who have helped me throughout the years. I am especially appreciative of all of the help Mrs. Atherton has given me during my time at Duchesne. I would highly encourage any struggling students to reach out to her for guidance, she is amazing!

Dean of Students, Martha Heck, set to retire

Dean of Students, Martha Heck, set to retire

OMAHA (Duchesne Academy) – She was nearly 20 years into her teaching career but Martha Heck felt something was now missing. She loved her students at Elkhorn High School, but the job just wasn’t the same since leaving Cathedral High two years earlier following its closure. When she saw an opening for an English teacher at Duchesne Academy in the summer of 1996, she felt called to apply.

“The minute I walked through the doors at portry, my life changed,” she said.

After 25 years of teaching and serving as Dean of Students at Duchesne, Heck will retire at the end of this school year.

Heck says she feels this is a natural time to step away and allow a new person to serve as Dean. She plans to take time for herself and spend time with family and friends.

“I will miss the hundreds of students, colleagues, and parents who have immeasurably impacted my life,” she said.

Heck says she felt a connection almost instantly with her students and the school’s mission and Sacred Heart foundation.

“I had never taught in an all-girls school, she said. “I loved the openness and confidence that the young women exhibited in this environment. I was pleasantly surprised at how willing and eager they were to learn.”

Colleagues quickly recognized Heck’s passion for her students and her work.

“Duchesne has been fortunate to have had Martha working and teaching here for 25 years. She models our values every day and I know that I and all our colleagues have become better educators by following her example,” said Head of School Meg Brudney.

Dr. Laura Hickman, Duchesne’s Principal, remembers Heck’s first years at Duchesne, working as fellow teachers.

“Her gentle presence and love of literature made her an instant favorite among students,” said Principal Dr. Laura Hickman.

Soon, Heck earned a reputation as a firm but loving role model.

“One time, I heard of her calling a student to apologize for them not feeling loved and respected by our community at Duchesne. She does truly care and that she wants to do her job to the best of her ability to ensure that all students feel loved and supported by not only their peers, but their whole community at Duchesne,” said Caroline Ortman, A20.

She was recognized in 2020 as the Omaha Catholic Schools Administrator of the year.

After leaving the classroom for the Dean’s office, Heck found new ways to connect with students. She serves as the Student Council moderator and often chaperones student trips.

“I have been able to go to places such as Uganda, France, Italy, New Orleans and other cities within the Network,” she said.

Of course, when Heck leaves so will Frannie, her goldendoodle who accompanies her to work. She began bringing her dog into school as a way to help students relax. Now, Frannie is as much a fixture at Duchesne as Heck. They both hope to visit often.

“I love Frannie. She’s the perfect thing when you’re having a bad day, just stop by and she’s happy to see you,” said Marissa Brown, A22.

Heck was raised in Council Bluffs and attended St. Albert High School before earning her bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Mary. She also holds a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She says she is a product of Catholic education believes in what it provides to children beyond regular subject matter.

“Catholic education is important to me because the teachings of Jesus, St. Madeleine Sophie and Rose Philippine inform everything that we do. We can, without any reservations, teach our young women to model Jesus and these amazing women. We can teach that ‘Love is our mission,’” Heck said.

Hickman believes Heck’s commitment to being an example of living the Sacred Heart goals and teaching with a loving heart will be her legacy at Duchesne.

Heck keeps a quote of Madeleine Sophie on her desk that reminds her “to never correct the children when out of humor or impatient; soften your reprimands with kind words; win them by an appeal to their piety.” 

“This, in short, has been Martha’s impact. She has taught as Sophie taught and loved as Sofie loved,” said Hickman. 

Enforcing rules can sometimes make someone feel isolated and Heck acknowledged those feelings in a farewell message to teachers and staff, but she says she found strength in Duchesne’s mission.

“Some of those days also brought anxiety, frustration, sorrow, and worry, but they were all part of teaching young women about the world and their bright futures. I cannot think of anywhere else that I would want to spend my days, and I thank all of you for that.”


Duchesne adds Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to staff

Duchesne adds Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to staff

Duchesne Academy welcomes Dorothy Johnson, as its new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Ms. Dorothy Johnson’s responsibilities include connecting with all members of the Duchesne community to promote inclusion in every facet of school life.

Johnson comes to Duchesne from Metro Community College where she was the Concurrent Enrollment Navigator overseeing the Millard Early College High School Program. Prior to that, she served as an Administrative Director for the Basic Hope Foundation, managing the SOAR program (structured teaching, opportunities for social inclusion, active learning, and rigor) for students with autism at Nathan Hale, Morton, McMillan, and Monitored middle schools.

Johnson has years of experience in hiring and recruiting initiatives with a concentration on diversity and inclusion. She is an active member of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce serving on the advisory committee for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In her free time, Johnson has coached volleyball for North High School and the Urban Omaha volleyball teams since 2009.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Grambling State University and is working on her master’s degree from Bellevue University.

When asked about taking on the role of DEl director Johnson said, “I’m excited to utilize my diversity experience for Duchesne. I can see there are many good inclusion programs already in place. Who wouldn’t be happy since this community just exudes an atmosphere of welcome.”

Duchesne students helping women in need

Duchesne students helping women in need

Students in the feminist club at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart have been researching and studying the struggles women worldwide face when it comes to obtaining menstrual products. The more they learned, the more they felt the need to act.

“Though we learned about women all over the world, we decided on this project to help women in our community,” said club co-president Clary Doyle, A21.

Club members came together this week to design and create menstrual products to donate to local women’s shelters.

“We are learning facts about how many women are affected by not having access to menstrual products,” said club co-president Claire Helton, A21.

Low-income families and women in prisons are particularly disadvantaged because they don’t have the resources to get the products they need for their health, Helton said.

The club members say they continue to research women’s issues and plan ways to help local women.

Duchesne Academy installs solar panels; part of school’s sustainability initiative

Duchesne Academy installs solar panels; part of school’s sustainability initiative

Duchesne’s power use has dropped significantly since closing in March due to the persistent community spread of COVID-19 but the panels are powering some crucial equipment in the school’s DREAM lab.

OMAHA — Duchesne Academy’s solar panels are generating electricity at the highest output since their installation in 2019.

Last month, the panels produced the most electricity since they were installed. Their production in April is on pace to be even higher at 400kWh. The panels are most efficient during longer, cooler days.

Duchesne’s power use has dropped significantly since closing in March due to the persistent community spread of COVID-19 but the panels are powering some crucial equipment in the school’s DREAM lab. Electricity from the panels help to power the FloraFelt Garden wall and a large tank used to grow trout which will be released into a local lake.

Living the Sacred Heart Goals during COVID-19

Living the Sacred Heart Goals during COVID-19

Eveline Gnabasik Bethune, A05, has overhauled her company’s production line to make hand sanitizer for professionals fighting the spread of COVID-19.

Eveline Gnabasik Bethune, A05, and her husband, Kenneth, own and operate Coastal Bend Distilling in Beeville, Texas. They have stopped making spirits and are now making alcohol for hand sanitizer they’re donating to first responders. She took time out of her day to talk with Duchesne:

What inspired you to make sanitizer?
Our distillery is founded on three values: craft, community and culture. We make it a point to live our values in every decision we make, and at this time we were really drawn to help our community in need. When we saw the opportunity to make use of our unique access to resources & how we could pivot our operations in a way that provided meaningful support during this time of need, we saw it as a way to support our community.

How long did it take you to switch from making spirits to sanitizer?
It took us about 2-3 weeks to shift over to making sanitizer. Several supply chains were interrupted and still are today, so our orders on bottles are often backlogged. We also had to be creative when sourcing hydrogen peroxide and looked to local or regional grocery and pharmacy businesses to help supply that.

How are you delivering the sanitizer to first responders?
Over the years our employees have formed a tight network in the community, and so we were already in close communication with local law enforcement, healthcare and other first responders before we even had product to market. Since then word has spread like wildfire and they’re contacting us faster than we can reach out to them. This has truly been an eye-opening experience to see the high level of demand that is out there for sanitizer and related products!

What is it like operating a business right now?
It’s uncertain times for small business owners. You have to be preemptive, innovative, and adaptive to change. That goes for all kinds of small businesses, not just our distillery. If you aren’t adapting with the times, you’ll lose essential income and lose relevance to your customer base.

Any message for current Duchesne students?
Try to learn from the unexpected changes thrust upon you right now. Your “normal” life may be temporarily upset, but try to look at it with a silver lining and keep faith that God has a plan. What skills do I have that can answer a need in the community or among my peers? How can I grow from this? How can I be a leader and a role-model helping to drive our community forward to a solution? If we all become more self-reflective during tough times like this, I think we’ll succeed in making the world a better place.

You can find out more about Coastal Bend Distilling here and by following them on social media: @coastalbenddistilling.