Jo Ann Jensen with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln Extension office in Washington County, and Mark Schulze, executive director of the Washington County Historical Association, are pictured with the award the two groups received for an after-school program in Fort Calhoun. (courtesy photo)


The Washington County Historical Association (WCHA) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office in Washington County were named a recipient of the 2012 Leadership and Innovation Award given by the Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA).

The awards were presented Oct. 2.

Established in 1953, MPMA is a regional museum association that provides services to museum professionals in 10 states: Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

MPMA is one of six regional associations in the United States that work in conjunction with the American Association of Museums.

In honoring the WCHA and extension office, organizers said the groups "found a way to have a big impact on their community" through an after-school program for elementary students on Fridays.

Each Friday, Fort Calhoun Elementary dismisses at 1:30 p.m. for teachers to participate in planning time.

While this is great for the teachers, the museum staff said they realized it was a problem for members of the community because many parents are unable to arrange their work hours to handle the short school day, leaving students with no supervision. With child care services in the area limited, the museum stepped in to help solve the problem.

As part of the program, the WCHA formed a partnership with UNL Extension office in Washington County, with the goal of providing fun, educational, historic and topical information on topics relevant to youth in the Fort Calhoun community.

The program also provides opportunities for the youth to create projects for submission to the Washington County Fair.

By the end of the first year, an average of 30 students participated in the program each week, which staff said is a significant number in a community of 800.

The museum now has plans to expand into another community.

Also receiving awards were the Nebraska State Historical Society and Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln.

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