LINCOLN — A Nebraska teacher is going to the White House after his students put together a social media campaign to get him a chance to see President Barack Obama.
Bernie Ludvik, 65, of Crete was forced to miss the presidential inauguration in January because of a car accident.
Following the accident, students at Crete High School started the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Ludvik, who taught civics at the high school for 25 years before becoming a substitute teacher, received a call Thursday inviting him to the White House for the annual National Teacher of the Year ceremony April 23.
He is taking his daughter Mikel Zamora as a guest.
“It was beyond amazing,” he said. “I still don't 100 percent believe it.”
Ludvik will be a member of the audience, White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said.
In a two-car accident on Nov. 26 in Crete, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple broken bones, including a broken leg. The injuries made it impossible for Ludvik to travel to Washington for the inauguration. He was in and out of the hospital until March.
After the accident, his friend Jim Crouse took him meals and drove him to doctor appointments.
The students, under the guidance of Crete High English teacher Katie Wright, used Facebook and Twitter and sent letters to Nebraska lawmakers and news outlets.
The social media campaign took off. The Facebook page has more than 2,500 “like” hits, and the Twitter hashtag #Ludvikcampaign was tweeted by former Husker I-back Rex Burkhead and Creighton basketball player Doug McDermott.
The students' efforts caught Sen. Mike Johanns' attention.
Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, drafted his own letter. It was sent to the White House on March 12, said a spokeswoman, Natalie Krings.
“Some (teachers) so inspire students as to touch their lives forever,” Johanns said in the letter. “Every indication is that Mr. Ludvik has done just that at Crete High School.”
The letter went a long way in catching the White House's attention, Ludvik said.
Crete students also have raised almost $2,000 to help with Ludvik's medical expenses by organizing a dodgeball tournament and selling more than 200 T-shirts with his likeness on them.
“There are over 500 students at Crete High School, and I wish I could take each of them with me,” Ludvik said. He is working half-days as a substitute while recovering from his injuries.
The actions of the people of Crete have been a big comfort, giving him a reminder of the value of small-town life, Ludvik said. For now, he's just grateful to the White House and to the students.
“I'm sure the White House gets thousands of requests,” he said. “How often does this realistically happen? Them doing this is wonderful. I will never forget it.”