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Wayne State professor crafting young minds

Randy Bertolas makes atlases for Nebraska fourth-graders

Omaha World-Herald

Omaha World-Herald

Nathan Pearson, Staff Writer

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An article in the “Omaha World-Herald” recognized the Student Atlas of Nebraska, created by Dr. Randy Bertolas of Wayne State College and printed by Service Press of Henderson, Neb.

After receiving recognition from Susanne Shore, the wife of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Bertolas’ atlas was featured in an “Omaha World-Herald” article by Mike Kelly.

“Someone slipped Mike Kelly a copy and now I’ve got all sorts of people sending me emails, wanting a copy,” Bertolas said.

Bertolas first came up with the idea three to four years ago. He chose something that would apply to fourth graders, because they are required by the state to take Nebraska Studies, which focuses on the geography, history and government of Nebraska.

“I thought someone should make an atlas,” Bertolas said. “No one else was interested. I realized that if it was going to get done, I was the one who was going to have to do it.”

Bertolas was able to get funds from a number of businesses, which are given credit on the inside of the cover. From there he worked on the atlas for about a year, gathering information and content and then putting it all together.

Bertolas says that Dr. Lesli Rawlings and his wife were tremendous help in completing the atlas. Rawlings helped with the data collecting and necessary technology and his wife, Maureen Kingston, insisted on changing the language to make it easier for younger kids to read.

The first edition was printed in 2016. It was just a few thousand copies, which Bertolas handed out for free to teachers at workshops in the area.

But that’s when the atlas caught the attention of the first lady Shore. Shore really liked what Bertolas was doing and helped make it a statewide project. Shore was able to get funds from Mutual of Omaha, the Peter Kiewit Foundation and Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundations for a second edition.

The second edition of the atlas consists of 29,000 copies. It will be enough for every fourth-grade student in the state, as well as their teachers. Other copies will go to state senators and their families.

Bertolas says it would not have been possible without the help of Shore.

Besides gaining the help of the governor’s wife, Bertolas has now also gained attention from the “World-Herald.”

“It was nice to get some notice (in the World-Herald),” Bertolas said. “It will be a good way to alert teachers of what is coming.”

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Wayne State professor crafting young minds