CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week.
Our theme for the week is Mercy Education is Universal, so we are really focusing on Mercy's global connection. Each day is focused on a particular country where a Mercy school is located, and a few facts will be read about that country and/or that particular Mercy school over the morning announcements. In addition, throughout the week, we will be posting photos of a cardboard cutout of Catherine McAuley placed around Omaha, and it will be a competition for the girls to find out where the picture was taken. ("Where in Omaha is Catherine McAuley?" instead of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?")
Monday's country is Ireland. Students get a free dress down day in orange, white, and green: the colors of Ireland's flag. At the kickoff assembly - we play a trivia game. Then, we dance an Irish jig to the "Just Dance" Irish Meadow Dance together - student body and staff! We will hide pots of gold around the school and whoever finds them, gets to keep the candy.
Tuesday's country is Honduras. The free dress down day colors are blue and white. Students can visit the Media Center to color flags from the different countries where Mercy schools are located. Flags will be displayed, and each flag colored will earn the student their name in a drawing for a prize.
Wednesday will celebrate Jamaica. Students dress down in black, green, and yellow for free. We will play music during each passing period.
Thursday's country is Australia. Students dress down in red, white, and blue, but must bring in a donation to the Open Door Mission to participate in the dress down day. Socks, hats, gloves, underwear, etc. will be collected and donated.
Friday's focus will be on our favorite Mercy school right at 48th and Woolworth! Students dress in blue and gold (or other Mercy spirit wear) for free. Classes 1-8 will be held in the morning. Staff serve the students pancakes for lunch after 8th period. Then, students will participate in a special activity that will test their knowledge and international prowess.
Great times are sure to be had to celebrate our Catholic Mercy Schools around the world.
NATIONAL HONORS SOCIETY BLOOD DRIVE
NHS is hosting a blood drive on Saturday 1/28 with Holy Cross.
The blood banks around Omaha are still very low and could really use our help. Sign up today and save a life!
When: Saturday, 1/28 from 7 am - 12:30 pm
Where: Holy Cross School Cafeteria
How: Sign up at redcrossblood.org by searching MercyHolyCross
Dr. Kim Oliver Named New Assistant Principal
With great excitement, Dr. Kim Oliver has been named the Assistant Principal. She'll begin her post this summer. She is a member of the Class of 1998! She earned her doctorate in Education-Leadership and Transformation from Concordia University Portland. She is departing the beloved community at All Saints Catholic School. Congratulations and welcome back, Dr. Oliver!
ABRIENDO PUERTAS DONATES TO REFUGEE EMPOWERMENT CENTER
Abriendo Puertas donated nearly 75 gifts to the Refugee Empowerment Center. They raised money, bought, wrapped, and delivered the toys for refugees in the Omaha area. Check out the video to learn more.
ALL-STATE SCHOLAR ATHLETES
Congratulations to the following student-athletes for being named to the The Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) Fall 2022-2023 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association (NCPA) Academic All-State Awards.
Molly Pensick (Golf)
Julia Batenhorst (Softball)
Clara Behounek (Softball)
Lucy Euteneuer (Volleyball)
Abby Mills (Volleyball)
Mary Kate Nussrallah (Cross Country)
Sophia Rau (Cross Country)
NSAA Awards Program recognizes students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.
FALL SPORTS RECAP
Volleyball finished the season with 18 wins. That's the most since 2007. Great start for new head coach Brittany Spekhals. Emily Lee and Abby Mills earned 1st team All-Conference and Lydia Boyce and Lucy Euteneuer were named to the Honorable Mention team.
Mercy softball tied the mark for most wins for a season with 17 wins and a trip to the District finals. That's the most wins for the program since 2001. First year head coach, Maren Angus has to be very pleased with her first campaign. Victoria Placzek and Adrienne Pruss were named to the All-State Honorable Mention Team.
The golf team had two state qualifiers, Addy Powers and Molly Pensick.
Finally, every member of the cross country team set a personal record during the district meet.
LIZETTE CABRERA WINS ARTSONIA'S ARTIST OF THE WEEK
Congratulations to freshman artist, Lizette Cabrera! Artsonia's online voting ended on Saturday and Lizette's artwork came in 1st in the 7 - 9 grade division with 691 votes! She had close to 200 more votes than the 2nd place finisher and edged out a 7th grader from Holy Cross! She will be getting a plaque from Artsonia and a gift certificate from Dick Blick
NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY INDUCTS NEW CLASS
The McAuley Chapter of the National Honor Society inducted its latest class on Tuesday, November 1st. The latest members are:
Ahok Apayo Landry Lehan
Julia Batenhorst Kaitlyn List
Clara Baumker Sydney Malesker
Clara Behounek Malanna Muse
Aislinn Bilgere Mia Norton
Alyssa Daniels Hannah Peatrowsky
Kaylee Epp Rylee Rempe
Karol Franco-Barrios Hanna Riha
Isabella Hajek-Jones Amaya Sims
Savannah Hemsley Grace Swoboda
Maren Hollinger Delani Wiedel
They join the ranks of current members:
Kailey Anson, Gabrielle Brock, Hailee Davis, Sarah Day, Therese Drake, Isabella Earl, Lucy Euteneuer, Valeria Figueroa Garcia, Charlotte Hearn, Danielle Hoer, Reece Keenan, Riya Ketelsen, Abigail Mills, Mary Kate Nussrallah, Sophia Rau, Megan Riesberg, Eleanore Slavik, Grace Weber, Claire Wichita
The ceremony included short remarks by four current members of the chapter on each of the four pillars of the National Honors Society: Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character. The key note address was presented by alumna Erin Whiteside '07 on how her life has been impacted by those same four pillars since graduating from Mercy.
Congratulations to all the members of the National Honor Society of Mercy High School, especially our newest inductees, for your tremendous hard work and dedication to scholarship and character.
FRESHMEN UNITY DAY
On Friday, October 28th, the Class of 2026 participated in Mercy’s annual Freshmen Unity Day. The goal behind the day is to assist the acclamation of the freshmen class and build community among them. Throughout the day, the students participated in small and large group activities to promote unity. They learned about each others’ strengths and completed challenges working with students who share similar personalities and were grouped with individuals who had different personalities from their own. One activity even required them to create a “human machine” – where everyone in the group had to have an active part in the machine.
At the end of the day students exchanged bracelets that they created and the final challenge activity was to successfully complete a “human chair sit” with all of the attendees. Check out some of the photos.
Valentina Arriola Tirado Wins inSpire Scholarship
On Wednesday, October 26th, Valentina Arriola Tirado was awarded the Inspire Scholarship. It was a part of a larger ceremony put on by inSpire Celebrating Women's Leadership sponsored by Union Bank & Trust. This honor recognizes “An Omaha metro-area female high school or college student who has contributed to her community, excels in the classroom, and has great career aspirations.”
At that same lunch, Class of ‘66 Sr. Maryann Stevens, RSM received the Woman of the Year Award for her tireless dedication to the College of St. Mary’s. Read more at Omaha.com. We're so proud of each of our women of Mercy. Thank you for all that you do!
WILLEY DWYER '03 NEW VP FOR ADVANCEMENT
Anna Willey Dwyer has been named Mercy High School new Vice President of Advancement. She will begin her new role on Monday, November 7, 2022.
Willey Dwyer is an alumna of Mercy High School’s class of 2003. She is very excited about returning to Mercy. “Mercy has taught me so much. At the forefront has been service and giving back. It’s been my hope that I would have the opportunity to return and continue this school’s important work of educating young women.” She’s most excited about promoting its sense of community and hospitality. “To me, Mercy’s hallmark has been its sense of welcoming. Once a Mercy girl, always a Mercy girl. I want to make sure that this mission continues for several more generations.”
Willey Dwyer comes to Mercy with a wealth of experience helping to lead the development efforts for the Child Saving Institute. She’s been with that organization since 2016, exceeding annual fundraising objectives five years in a row. President of Mercy High School, Sister Delores Hannon, RSM believes that Willey Dwyer will be most successful at connecting with the various community members that support Mercy High. “She is a dynamo at making people feel welcome. Her joy is infectious and by the time the conversation ends you feel like you have known Anna for several years, regardless of having just met. She’s a welcomed addition to the Advancement Office at Mercy.”
Willey Dwyer is married to her husband Scott Dwyer and has two children: Rex, who is three, and Stella, who is one.
Valeria Figueroa Garcia Wins Scholarship
VALERIA FIGUEROA GARCIA WINS SCHOLARSHIP!
Valeria was one of 10 Latino Nebraska Students to win the Jesusita and Santos Courage and Fortitude Scholarship. She earned this by presenting an essay highlighting her leadership skills and how they will apply to her future plans after high school. She wants to become an elementary school teacher. She was awarded $1,000 to put towards any college of her choosing. Well done, Valeria!
Riya Ketelsen named National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist
This fall Riya Ketelsen was honored with the distinction of National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist. In the video below you'll see the surprise and pride from Riya, her parents, and the Mercy school community. We couldn't be prouder of the dedication and accomplishment of Riya. This make 3 National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalists in the past two years.
Congratulations to Ahok and Mary Kate!
First, congratulations to our own Ahok Apayo, who was recognized in the National African American Recognition Program. She is one of 62,000 students from across the country to earn academic honors from the College Board’sNational Recognition Programs! Ahok earned this recognition by excelling on her PSAT and AP Exams and in her classes. These National Recognition Programs grant underrepresented students with academic honors that can be included on college and scholarship applications and connects students with universities across the country, helping them stand out during the admissions process. Colleges and scholarship programs use these honors to identify students from underrepresented groups through College Board’s Student Search Service.
Congratulations, also, to Mary Kate Nussrallah, who was named a Commended Student based on her outstanding performance on the PSAT test last year. She is one of the top 50,000 students nationwide and one of only 60 Nebraska students from 36 high schools to achieve this honor.
Congratulations, Ahok and Mary Kate! We are so very proud of both of you!
Sr. Dee Leaving at the End of the School Year
On Wednesday, September 7th, Sr. Delores Hannon announced her resignation as president of Mercy High School to the Board of Directors effective June 30th, 2023. She has served as president since 2009, having served for 14 years.
Sr. Dee, as she is affectionately known to students, faculty and parents, has overseen many changes at the school. The school facilities have experienced improvements with The Hannon Center for Academic Success, heating and cooling systems, new lockers, bathrooms, a dramatic facelift to the front offices and entryway, to name a few. By the time Sr. steps down, most of the school will have gone through some sort of renovation. Mercy High School has also experienced growth in their academic reputation. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the expectation that our students will be readily prepared for college” Sr. Delores explains. “We’ve expanded our counseling and SAT/ACT preparation, while faculty and staff have increased the expectations of what our students are capable of accomplishing. I have a very strong faith that the Mercy spirit continues to thrive through our students as they serve in their respective communities.”
Sr. Delores has been an educator for more than 40 years. She grew up in North English, Iowa on a mixed livestock farm, the only child of William and Mary Hannon. She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1969 and quickly was tapped for leadership in schools. She became a principal at St. Matthew’s Grade School in Kalispell, Montana, in 1978 followed by a short stint at Our Lady of Grace School in Edina, Minnesota, from 1981-1983. From 1983-1995 Sr. Dee was the principal at several grade schools in Iowa. She moved on to serve as the Vice President of the Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the President of St. Edmond Catholic School in Fort Dodge, Iowa before ultimately coming to Mercy High School in 2009.
The Board of Directors will form a search committee to begin the search process in the near
Mercy Welcomes Two New Faculty
Jim Mayberger is our new business and technology teacher. He comes to us from OPS where he was a curriculum specialist.
He managed the Business Marketing and Information Technology, Family and Consumer Science, Skilled and Technical Science, and Robotics departments.
“I am excited to teach in a faith-based school. I really enjoy being in the classroom and I look forward to being part of the Mercy community.”
Jenna Saraka joins our math department. She comes to us from Omaha Central, where she taught for five years.
“I am most excited about joining a staff and community that offers strong educational opportunities and many extracurricular activities for students that are centered around faith.
I am also excited to work with students who are eager to learn in and out of the classroom!”
Two New Hires for the Advancement Team
Sammie Emsick Becker ’05 has accepted the Director of Events position at Mercy High School and began her new role on June 13, 2022.
Since graduating from Mercy, Sammie earned a bachelor in elementary education, a certificate in Catholic School leadership, and most recently, a Master of Science in educational leadership. Outside classroom teaching, she has served as the athletic director for St. James for the past three years where, in conjunction with supervising all things athletics, annually planned the “Spring Fling” fundraiser where dollars raised went straight to the athletic program. Her most recent “Spring Fling” event set a record for money raised for St. James. She further has event planning experience by way of her time at Dundee Bank, where she was the community involvement coordinator and worked closely with various Omaha businesses to promote and grow relationships with key stakeholders of the bank via special events.
She’s married to Tyler Becker and has two boys Ty (12) and Drew (10).
Welcome back to Mercy Sammie!
Brian Altenhofen began his new position as Director of Marketing and Communications on July 5th.
He comes to Mercy with a wealth of knowledge having earned a doctorate degree in communication and technology studies from Texas A&M University and teaching at Truman State University for the past five years. He also served as the Director of the Truman Leadership Scholars, mentoring and programming leadership experiences for Truman Scholars. Prior to his academic career he spent five years as a Jesuit Scholastic.
He is married to Michaela Cullan Altenhofen who will return to Mary Our Queen Catholic School teaching 3rd grade. They have four children Dylan (16), Lily (9), Dominic (7), and Clara (3).
Shining a Light on Leadership
Seven of Omaha’s community leaders Zoomed in for our final installment of Kaleidoscope 2021. For our second Leadership Symposium, our virtual visitors spoke with the sophomores and seniors about their personal leadership styles.
We are so grateful to our visitors for joining us!
Rachel Fox is the founder and Executive Director of You Go Girl Omaha. In addition to owning Catapult Consulting Solutions, Rachel serves as a freelance instructor at the Metro Community College of Omaha, where she facilitates coding clubs and courses. She is also the president of Fox Flooring, a local flooring and remodeling company which she co-operates with her husband Brent.
In 2018, she founded You Go Girl, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of self-doubt and low self-esteem in young women and girls by creating a vision for who they can be. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from the University of Nebraska Omaha and is pursuing a master’s in Leadership at Oral Roberts University.
In 2019, she was named the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Changemaker, was a 2020 TOYO Recipient, and received the Leadership Award from the Leadership Africa Summit in 2019. She was also a top finalist for the Mrs. Nebraska pageant in 2019 and 2020.
Theresa Franco ’74, Vice President of Operations at Nebraska Medicine, is a member of Mercy’s Board and is the first-ever recipient of the Distinguished Woman of Mercy Alumna Award.
Her work responsibilities include inpatient operations of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Pharmacy, Radiology, Interventional Radiology, radiation therapy and cancer ambulatory operations.
Franco, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, received a Nursing degree from Creighton University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas in Austin. Upon her return to Omaha, the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) hired her to work in Cancer Care Services, where she would later become its executive director. Under her leadership, the small bone marrow transplant program grew to become the Lied Transplant Center. She would later serve as vice president of Cancer Services and Radiology at Nebraska Medicine.
She has published, presented nationally and internationally on a variety of cancer program topics, and has served on several advisory boards to improve cancer care delivery. A member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Best Practices Committee since its inception and Franco also serves on its board.
She has received numerous awards including the Creighton University School of Nursing Alumni Merit Award, Leadership Development Award, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Carol M. Wilson Award for Quality in Nursing, and “Caring Kind Employee of the Year,” Nebraska Hospital Association.
Leah Georges, Ph.D., M.L.S., is an Assistant Professor in Creighton University’s Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership.
As a member of the Association of Leadership Educators, Leah advises students and leadership educators in teaching and advising best practices, leadership theory and policy reform. She conducts research and presents to local and national audiences in the areas of millennial leadership and generations at work, the power of effective followership, and emotional and legal decision making.
As a graduate of Leadership Omaha Class 38, Leah is also actively involved in the Omaha community through several nonprofit organizations. She serves as President of the Nebraska Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to improving the criminal justice system through education and reform.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Creighton University, a Master of Legal Studies degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law, and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Colette O’Meara McKinney, Ed.D. is Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Creighton’s School of Dentistry. Prior to her current role, she served as Associate Vice President in the Office of the President and within the Division of Technology at the university. Her career has spanned roles in journalism, video production, academic technology and strategic planning. She served as an adjunct instructor teaching both educational technology and ethics at Creighton for over 10 years.
O’Meara-McKinney earned her bachelor’s in Mass Communications from the University of South Dakota in 1989 and a master’s in Educational Technology from the University of Missouri in 2003. She completed her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies in May of 2020. She is also a recipient of the Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily Creighton Award and was co-chair for the Opus Prize, which was sponsored by Creighton in 2016.
Carolina Padilla, Executive Director of the Intercultural Senior Center, has been with that organization for more than 11 years. In that capacity, she is responsible for the overall operation of the Center which helps immigrants through networking, social activities, health and wellness support and much more.
She graduated from the Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala with a degree in Science Communications.
Katty Petak, M.A., is the Senior Director of Alumnae Relations at College of Saint Mary (CSM) where she has worked since 2001. Prior to her current role, Mrs. Petak served as Director of Student Leadership & Organizations (2001-2003), Assistant Dean of Students (2003-2015) and Associate Dean of Students (20015-2020). She is also a Mercy parent.
Some of Mrs. Petak’s contributions to college include: Serving on the CSM task force that recommended the Common Reading and developed the Statement of Open Discourse, helping develop CSM’s retention efforts focused on Latina students and the establishment of the annual Latina Summer Academy for area high school youth, strengthening the college’s multicultural programming emphasis and facilitating the establishment of several culturally-based student organizations, and developing two of the signature leadership programs at CSM, “Leadership Launch” for first and second year students and “Step It Up” for upper-class students. She is currently establishing an alumnae mentoring program where current CSM senior students will be paired with an alumna of the university.
In addition to her work at CSM, Mrs. Petak has been involved with Heartland Latino Leadership Scholarship Committee, the Multicultural Coalition, the Barrientos Scholarship Foundation, the Conference for Inclusive Communities and she served as President of the Nebraska Women in Higher Education Leadership organization. Recently Ms. Petak served on the planning committee for “El Camino Latino Virtual Conference” for high school seniors.
A native of Chile, Petak moved to Nebraska as an exchange student during her senior year of high school. While attending University of Nebraska at Kearney for her undergraduate degrees in Teaching, Translation and Interpretation, she became very active in campus life. She received a master’s in Higher Education and Administration from Michigan State University and was the director of three residence halls at the University of Arizona before moving back to Nebraska.
Ellie Rohr ‘04 is the Senior investigator in the Office of Equity and Inclusion at Creighton University. She has been with Creighton since 2019. Before coming to Creighton, Ellie served as one of the first Associate Public Guardians for Nebraska’s new Office of Public Guardian and worked with the Nebraska Public Service Commission.
Ellie received bachelor’s degrees in Secondary Education and Speech Communications from the University of Nebraska Omaha. She coached Speech and taught at Mercy before returning to graduate school. Ellie received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2014.