A New Kind of Ceremony: Heartland Community Schools start a signing day tradition

A New Kind of Ceremony: Heartland Community Schools start a signing day tradition

By Tyler Dahlgren

NCSA Communications Specialist

National Signing Day is a nationwide frenzy, falling in early February each year and drawing the undivided attention of sports fans from coast to coast.

It’s a well-deserved and memorable occasion for athletes, who pen their names on a dotted line, taking the first step towards the future. It’s evolved into a holiday of sorts, covered dutifully by media outlets everywhere.

Just ask a Husker fan.

At Heartland Community Schools in Henderson, NE, academic excellence is being given its proper due in the form of an innovative “Academic Letter of Intent Day”. The first annual ceremony was held on May 3 and honored eight seniors, all scholarship recipients that would graduate from the school four days later.

Heartland Superintendent Brad Best said the school is always proud of its athletes that make a pledge to play at the next level, and the same goes for students that see the fruits of their labor pay off in the form of an academic scholarship.

“We are excited every year to celebrate signing day for our student athletes that will continue to participate at the collegiate level,” Best said. “We are equally excited for those students that exhibit academic excellence in the classroom.”

The only criteria for recognition is for the student to accept a scholarship from the college they will attend that is specifically awarded for academic achievement, Heartland detailed in a news release. School officials believe that the ceremony, which they plan on making a yearly event, may be the first of its kind in the state of Nebraska.

“Today was a day in which we invited the students’ parents and college representatives to commemorate the hard work of these students in the classroom,” Best said.

Four college representatives from four schools were in attendance, including Cacia Barnes of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kym Wallingford of Southeast Community College, Kara Baney of Concordia University and Dr. Norm Yoder from Hesston College. School officials from Heartland in attendance, in addition to Best, were Secondary Principal Tim Carr and Guidance Counselor Linda Koehler.

While not part of the criteria, all eight students recognized participated in extra-curricular activities at Heartland and will continue those experiences in college.

Language within the academic Letter of Intent speaks of the student’s commitment to continuing their focus on excellence in the classroom. Much like the pledge college-bound athletes make each year, signees of academic LOI’s are vowing to give their talents to the college they are attending.

“They are making a public statement that they will work diligently to maintain their established pattern of academic excellence beyond high school,” Best said.


Those students signing letters of intent, college they will attend, and planned program of study:

Ethan Hall

University of Nebraska - Omaha

​Architectural Engineering​

Leslie Braun

University of Nebraska - Kearney

​Business Administration

​Ellie Steingard

University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Austin Stuhr

Northwest Missouri State University


Addie Swartzendruber

Hesston College

Business Communications

Megan Kroeker

Concordia University

Music & Psychology

Brooke Weisheit

Southeast Community College

Academic Transfer Program

Shelby Hurlbut

Central Community College