Small School in Nebraska Wins Big

If you added the populations of Boston and San Francisco, they would equal the number of people who live in the entire state of Nebraska. Here, there are more than 250 towns with less than 1,000 residents.

Despite the sprawling frontier areas across states like Nebraska, small towns are a big focus of UnitedHealthcare. News Channel Nebraska, in partnership with UnitedHealthcare, increased awareness about health and wellness in rural areas across Nebraska through their “Small Towns Matter” program.

As a part of this campaign, Nebraskans participated in a statewide essay contest to win a $5,000 grant and bicycle helmets for every student in their school. Each entrant had to write a 250-word essay focused on why their small town mattered. More than 500 entries were received from 124 schools in the state.

Falls City South Elementary School in Falls City, Neb., whose population is 4,200, was selected as the grand prize winner. During the presentation ceremony on May 15, fourth grade teacher Leigh Anne Blankenship was surprised to learn she wrote the winning essay.

“Small towns matter because you can have a closer community and I’m proud of all my students who wrote essays,” Leigh Anne said. “It’s important to teach our kids to be responsible and take part in something. By participating, we earned something meaningful for our school.”

Before UnitedHealthcare leaders handed out 230 bicycle helmets on the penultimate day of school, Falls City South Elementary School Principal Mike Wentz had one more big surprise for the community. The $5,000 grant will be divided evenly between all of the teachers, so they would have extra money for school supplies next year.