KEARNEY — Gov. Dave Heineman came to central Nebraska on Thursday to recognize what the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation's scholarship program does for the entire state.
“We wanted to come to the central part of the state to recognize that Ak-Sar-Ben does much more for the state than just the Omaha area,” Heineman said.
His press conference was in the Nebraskan Student Union at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He was introduced by UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen and joined by Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation President Jonathan Burt.
Heineman and Burt recognized three previous recipients of Ak-Sar-Ben scholarships: Jake Zitterkopf, a Chadron State College graduate from Scottsbluff now attending dental school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center; Amanda Overleese, a UNL graduate from Arapahoe with a degree in agricultural journalism; and Amanda Arnold, a senior at UNK majoring in journalism-mass media.
They spoke about the contribution Ak-Sar-Ben made to their educations and how Ak-Sar-Ben scholarships enabled them to take control of their futures.
“To hear these stories, very compelling stories of what this education means to them and how grateful they are to Ak-Sar-Ben, that's why we're here,” Heineman said.
Burt said: “Of the $1.4 million in scholarships that we manage on an annual basis, nearly a million dollars is for kids who are not located in the Lincoln-Omaha metro region. We are reaching out to rural Nebraska and, I think, having a definitive impact.”
For decades, Ak-Sar-Ben was known chiefly for operating the Ak-Sar-Ben Thoroughbred racetrack in Omaha. Its coronation and ball, in which a local business leader is crowned Ak-Sar-Ben king, remains an annual highlight for the city's business and social elite. This year's ball is Saturday.
The Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation also operates the River City Rodeo and Stock Show each year in Omaha.