Southwest grad leaves her mark in northeast Lincoln

Southwest High School graduate Emma Kauf with students from Norwood Park Elementary.

For all of her accomplishments in the classroom and on the playing field, recent Lincoln Southwest High School graduate Emma Kauf will leave behind no greater legacy than the generosity she has shown to the Northeast Family Center.

The family center, located in the Havelock neighborhood, serves the northeast Lincoln community and is the Lead Community Learning Center Agency for Norwood Park and Brownell elementary schools.

The family center will receive a $10,000 donation from Gatorade, thanks to Kauf being named the 2019 Nebraska High School Gatorade Player of the Year for softball. Honorees from each state win a $1,000 donation to the non-profit of their choice, as well as the opportunity to be the one softball player nationwide who wins a $10,000 donation to their chosen organization. Kauf - who graduated this spring with a 4.3 grade point average - wrote the winning essay about why Northeast Family Center deserved $10,000.

She wrote, in part, “I believe the impact these awards can make is important because it will help close an opportunity and equity gap many of these scholars face due to various barriers, including access, awareness, limited financial resources, and advocacy. Being on numerous athletic teams I know the impact athletics can have on a young person’s development both on and off the field of play.”

On Tuesday morning, Kauf was joined at the Northeast Family Center by family, coaches, teammates, educators and Norwood Park students to celebrate the donation, which will go toward the purchase of equipment, experiential service opportunities, leadership development, and program development and enhancement.

“It’s going to make a huge impact,” said Curt Krueger, Northeast Family Center’s executive director. “We’re a small non-profit so a donation like this makes a big difference...It’s possible because of Emma.”

Kauf formed a bond with the Northeast Family Center through a partnership between the Southwest High School girls basketball team and students at the Norwood Park Community Learning Center (CLC). She and her teammates visited the students, taught them basketball fundamentals and - even more importantly - served as mentors and role models. The partnership was forged years ago by Pete Ferguson, LPS youth development coordinator. 

“It’s about Lincoln,” said Dana Berger, the school coordinator for the Norwood Park CLC. “It’s not about northeast Lincoln, it’s not about southwest Lincoln, it’s about Lincoln the community.”

Kauf leaves in a couple weeks to continue her academic and softball career at Georgia Tech. On Tuesday, she deflected praise for the donation and instead thanked those in attendance.

“I wouldn’t be the same person without all of you guys. Thank you so much for all of the support.”

Published: July 16, 2019, Updated: July 16, 2019

"It’s about Lincoln. It’s not about northeast Lincoln, it’s not about southwest Lincoln, it’s about Lincoln the community."

Dana Berger, school coordinator for the Norwood Park Community Learning Center