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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (June 25, 1998)
Rainbow award recipient fights hatred
Jonathon Judge, an academic senator at Nebraska Wesleyan University,
faced death threats after advocating for a gay student group, Plains Pride.
He was given the Rainbow award for his work on behalf of the group.
By Tim Karstens
While many of his collegiate
peers were worrying about midterm
exams and distant summer plans,
Jonathon Judge was preoccupied
with death threats and physical and
Judge, a 21-year-old academic
senator from Nebraska Wesleyan
University in Lincoln, presented a bill
to his fellow senators requesting
recognition of a student group called
What followed were assaults and
anonymous threats aimed at Judge,
his family and even an ex-girlfriend
of Judge’s. In the midst of the attacks
and threats emerged a ground swell of
support. Family, faculty, staff and stu
dents held rallies supporting Judge
and Plains Pride.
Although it was a difficult time,
Judge’s family weathered the worst of
the backlash and stayed behind him.
“It’s been a tough time,” said
Mary Jo Judge, Jonathan’s mother.
“But we are very proud of him.”
For his efforts on behalf of Plains
Pride, Judge received the first
Rainbow Award from the Lincoln
Pride Network during PrideFest on
June 20. The award, which recognizes
individuals or organizations that have
supported Lincoln’s gay and lesbian
community, was created to honor
those w'ho show strong, public sup
port for Lincoln’s gay and lesbian
The award was inspired by
Judge’s exceptional efforts on behalf
of the gay student group, and the
great personal sacrifices he made
assisting them, said Pat Fosket of the
Lincoln Pride Network.
“The Rainbow Award came about
primarily because we had heard what
Jonathan had done,” Fosket said.
Last spring semester, Judge was
approached by some Wesleyan stu
dents who formed Plains Pride and
wanted recognition from the universi
ty. By gaining recognition, Plains
Pride would be able to petition the
university for funds and become a
more visible student group, Judge
said. As a student body representa
tive, he accepted their request and
lobbied his fellow senators on behalf
of Plains Pride.
Judge, who counted some friends
in Plains Pride, said he petitioned the
student senate because the group was
like any other student organization
and had the right to exist at Wesleyan.
“It wasn’t even an issue,” Judge
said of Plains Pride’s bid for recogni
tion. “It was about free-speech and
basic human rights.”
It was after the bid was made and
the decision to recognize Plains Pnde
was forthcoming that the death
threats and assaults began. Judge said
the incident came at a sensitive time
for the Methodist Church - which is
affiliated with Wesleyan University -
as it was dealing with the controversy
surrounding the Reverend Jimmy
Creech. Creech, the former
Methodist minister from Omaha, had
previously angered church officials
by performing a commitment cere
mony for two lesbians.
As the tension began to build, his
It was about free
speech and basic
Rainbow award winner
family, university faculty, staff and
fellow students began to rally behind
Judge and Plains Pride. He said the
backing came at a critical time and
was essential in bolstering his
“The support was phenomenal,”
Judge said. “Many students and fac
ulty on campus were very support
Even though he received signifi
cant support, Judge said there were
times he wondered about what he had
done. However, his personal convic
tions and a sense of right and wrong
carried him through the controversy.
To this day, Judge doesn’t have any
“I would do it again.” Judge said
of the episode and any similar situa
It is these qualities that make
Judge unique and special — especial
ly for such a young person, Fosket
said. These are attributes society
should see more of.
“Without the Jonathan Judges of
the world, we couldn’t do it,” Fosket
said. “We need more of it.”
Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters
gets assistance from UNL student
By Tom Foster
Alyssa Hansen, 10, lines up a shot
on the tricky 16th hole of the minia
ture golf course at Champions Fun
Center, 1555 Yolande.
Smiling, she makes the shot, runs
in a circle, and gives her friend a high
Her friend is Brenda Pick, a
University of Nebraska-Lincoln ele
mentary education major and volun
teer at Heartland Big Brothers Big
Sisters. Pick has been Hansen’s big
sister for a month, she said, and
things are going great.
Heartland Big Brothers Big
Sisters is an independent, non-profit
organization that matches adult vol
unteers with children from single
parent or limited-income families. In
Lincoln, 120 volunteers give their
time to little brothers and sisters, said
Program Director Lisa Borchardt.
But that still leaves at least 100
children waiting to be matched with
someone, she said.
“We can always use volunteers,”
she said, “and right now, we can espe
cially use males to give a boy the
opportunity to have a big brother.”
Borchardt said only 30 percent of
the present volunteers were men, and
70 percent were women. Eighty per
cent of the waiting list is boys, she
Volunteers for Big Brothers Big
Sisters are asked to make a long-term
commitment to the program,
Borchardt said. That way, relation
ships with the children have time to
develop. She said the longest-run
ning pair has been together for eight
Volunteers set aside two or three
hours a week for the program, she
Pick and Hansen have made good
use of that time. In the last month,
they celebrated Hansen’s birthday,
visited Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha,
painted their nails at Pick’s house,
went shopping and played miniature
golf. An Omaha Royals baseball
game is next, and Hansen’s dad plans
to come along.
Hansen said it was originally her
dad’s idea to join the program.
Borchardt said many children
come to the program via their par
ents, but the majority come from
As for the volunteers, many are
students from UNL and Nebraska
Wesleyan University, she said.
Others come from all over.
“It’s great,” Borchardt said. “One
of my volunteers is a retired gentle
man over the age of 70.”
Pick said she volunteered simply
because she likes children.
“I always wanted to make a differ
ence in a child’s life,” she said.
Becoming a big sister was not
easy, though. Pick said the process
involved an application, personal ref
erences and a lengthy interview.
“It was really a big honor to be
accepted,” Pick said.
Indeed, Borchardt said volunteers
were carefully screened to find good
matches for the children.
“We try to match the strengths of
a volunteer with the needs of child,”
she said. “We want to make sure it’s
easy for them to stay together.”
Finishing their round of golf, Pick
said she expected the relationship
with Hansen to last. Hansen smiles,
and the two head off in search of an
ice cream shop.
BRENDA PICK, a volunteer with Heartland Big Brothers, Big
Sisters, waits for little sister, Alyssa Hansen, who brings a cool
drink after a game of putt-putt golf Saturday at Champions Fun
Center, 1555 Yolande.
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