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Michener celebrates 26 years of working at Lighthouse

The “Give to Lincoln Day” fundraiser is going on to help non-profits like Lighthouse, which provides free tutoring and a safe place for kids to go after school.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 6:21 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Right now the “Give to Lincoln Day” fundraiser is going on to help non-profits like Lighthouse, which provides free tutoring and a safe place for kids to go after school. The executive director of the program says the program changes lives, including his.

Bill Michener moved to Lincoln at the end of his sixth grade year. He was the youngest in his family and felt lost in a city as big as Lincoln. He said he never connected to his peers, teachers, trusted adults or school, so by the time he was a sophomore in high school, he’d dropped out.

“Without the guidance and belief from Lighthouse I know I would be in prison,” Michener reflects from the library at the facility. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish or learn the way I have.”

And accomplished, he has. Much of Michener’s job as am executive director today involves paperwork, but interwoven with that- is a sense of deep love, understanding and pride for every student that walks through the door.

“I started to using the vernacular of at-promise youth with at-risk behaviors,” Michener said. “Behaviors are easy to change, labels are much harder to do that.”

Michener explains the Wall of Fame and how badly students want their graduation picture to make...
Michener explains the Wall of Fame and how badly students want their graduation picture to make the wall(Madison Pitsch)

Michener started going to Lighthouse in the 90′s after it opened. A friend had invited him to play pool there.

Bill started going to Lighthouse soon after it opened up in the '90s
Bill started going to Lighthouse soon after it opened up in the '90s(Courtesy)

But, one of the requirements to go to Lighthouse was to be in school, so Michener re-enrolled in 1991, the year he was supposed to graduate. With the support of the Lighthouse staff and several administrators at school, things started looking up.

“I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I was smart enough,” Michener recalls. Soon the report card started proving differently.

“I sent my report card to my dad and he started hanging it up all over Columbus,” he said. His dad passed months before he graduated, and his mom months after.

Michener and his mom at his graduation. He graduated from Lincoln High in 1993
Michener and his mom at his graduation. He graduated from Lincoln High in 1993(Courtesy)

Lighthouse has become a beacon of hope in his life ever since. He graduated high school in 1993, got a Bachelor’s degree in 2002 and a Master’s degree in 2006.

“I know I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish or learn the way I have,” Michener said. “Lighthouse has been that pinnacle point to me, that rock to help guide me.”

After school, Michener came back to the place that changed his life, and has been there for 26 years, serving in a variety of roles.

Bill works as the executive director at Lighthouse
Bill works as the executive director at Lighthouse(Madison Pitsch)

He now serves as the person he needed when he was younger.

“It helped me find my way into college and then back to Lighthouse as a part time staffer, then a full time staff member,” Michener said. “I don’t believe I’m ever going to be done here, just because of the connection I have.”

Michener's office is covered with mementos of students who have passed through the front doors.
Michener's office is covered with mementos of students who have passed through the front doors. (Madison Pitsch)

Lighthouse has impacted nearly every aspect of his adult life, including his spouse. He met his wife Michelle there when they were both younger. Now they work together, even sharing an office.

Bill and Michelle met at Lighthouse as teenagers
Bill and Michelle met at Lighthouse as teenagers(Courtesy)

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