They’re My Boys

Administrator retiring from Omaha Home for Boys remains close to those she’s guided

The following article was written by Reece Ristau and appeared in the Omaha World-Herald on August 5, 2016. Since the time of publication, Ruth Roose has retired from Omaha Home for Boys and is enjoying time with her family.

(Photo courtesy of Kent Sievers/The World-Herald) Long-time educator, Ruth Roose, works with 16-year-old Kenny at the Omaha Home for Boys’ school.
(Photo courtesy of Kent Sievers/The World-Herald) Long-time educator, Ruth Roose, works with 16-year-old Kenny at the Omaha Home for Boys’ school.

After nearly two decades working at the Omaha Home for Boys, Ruth Roose has held many former students’ babies and celebrated just as many weddings.

She also has written letters to former pupils in prison and grieved at the funerals of others.

Roose, education administrator at the Omaha Home for Boys, cares as much about the thousands of youths she has guided as she does her own children.

“I sometimes call myself ‘the other mother,’ ” she said, laughing.

In the hallways, Roose is the kind of mother who expects proper behtavior — no argument. Groups of students are always “gentlemen,” hats are prohibited inside the buildings, and students must greet people they don’t know, including visiting journalists, with eye contact, a handshake and a “Nice to meet you.”

On Aug. 12, Roose, 67, will retire from the school five days shy of an 18-year career.

The Omaha Home for Boys, near 52nd Street and Ames Avenue, is an educational service and support system for at-risk youths. The home, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020, provides a residential service that offers family-style living to 64 boys and young men who are behind in school credit, have truancy issues or have problems at home. Most stay four to six months before transferring back to their original schools and homes.

Roose said the young people who come to the Omaha Home for Boys have often never had an advocate, someone in their corner.

“It’s about knowing the whole kid,” she said. “It’s not just reading a piece of paper.”

And Roose has taken great care to get to know a lot of kids in her tenure.

Her daughter, who went to Benson High, dated someone at the home for a while. Five years ago, Roose flew to Dallas for his wedding.

Another is a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who will soon follow in her footsteps as a teacher.

There’s the nuclear engineer for the Navy. The arborist.

“Many more successes than sad stories,” she said.

Jeffrey Landholt has known Roose for a decade. He arrived at the Omaha Home for Boys in 2006, after a rocky start with his single adoptive mother. He said he’s thankful to Roose for helping him during a tough period in his life.

“She was the one I could always go to,” he said.

Landholt loved to read and spent a lot of time in the home’s library. That’s where Roose would be, always willing to teach, to talk through his problems, to listen.

“She was like a second mother,” he said.

Landholt, whose second son is due in December, will soon work full time for the National Guard. He sees Roose often, as he speaks at Omaha Home for Boys events.

Roose started at the home as a part-time tutor for two years. Before that she worked as a paraprofessional in Omaha Public Schools, teaching reading at Mountain View and Fontenelle Elementary Schools.

She grew up in Nebraska City and moved to Omaha after marrying. Roose has two adult children.

Similar to many of the young men she has guided, Roose didn’t follow a traditional educational path. She received her teaching degree from UNO when she was 40, taking summer night classes. She then got her master’s degree from Doane University in Crete, Nebraska.

One morning last week a staff member popped her head in Roose’s office with the news that Mike, a student one credit short of high school graduation, got a B-plus in economics. He’ll graduate Aug. 12, the day she retires.

“To see them graduate from so far behind … Mike had worked so hard,” she said.

“I wrote on his card he’s my retirement present.”

Once retired, Roose plans to travel in her camper. She’ll also spend time with her son and his family, who recently moved to Omaha from Portland, Oregon.

She knows she won’t be able to stay away from the school.

“I’m sure I’ll be up here,” Roose said. “The kids I have now, I’m going to be checking on them.”

In the hallway outside her office, one of Roose’s students, Chris, approached her.

“Don’t go,” Chris said. The news of her retirement had begun to spread around the school.

When he first came to the Omaha Home for Boys in December, Chris wouldn’t speak.

“You’ll be OK,” Roose said as the two hugged, violating a rule of the facility that no one cares to enforce.

For all the school’s rules, Roose isn’t afraid to break one now and again.

After all: “They’re my boys,” she said.

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