By SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY – Jimena Guerrero didn’t think college would be an option for her. But attending the Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference at the University of Nebraska at Kearney during high school inspired her to dream big and pursue a college degree.
“It was a really eye opening experience to see that this was obtainable, that I could set a goal to go to college. NCUC made that possible,” said Guerrero, a junior special education major from Wood River.
“It’s awesome just to be able to make my dream come true but also my parent’s dream, and to set an example for my extended family, my cousins. It wasn’t just about me and my family, it was about the whole Hispanic community that I’m a part of.”
About 300 high school students from 20 schools attended the 15th annual UNK Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference Friday at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney.
The event focuses on promoting higher education for the diverse, multicultural high school students in Nebraska.
“We’re really promoting any opportunities for students to do something after high school,” said Monica Mueller, assistant director of Multicultural Affairs. “This conference isn’t just about UNK. We invite Central Community College, cosmetology schools and different branches of the Armed Forces so students can see that there are lots of opportunities after high school.”
The conference featured a college fair with UNK colleges and programs, community college opportunities, military and vocational colleges.
The goal of the conference is to inspire high school students and to inform them that the obstacles they may face can be overcome and that they have the potential to become college graduates.
“I attended the Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference all four years of high school, and being a first generation student I never pictured myself going to college. I didn’t think that was possible for me, but coming to the conference I realized how important it was,” said Guerrero, now co-chair of the Unity Conference planning committee.
This year’s conference featured speakers, workshops with alumni, campus tours and a dance.
“It’s important for students to see that even if they come from a diverse background, a different ethnicity, that college is obtainable. We want to give them those resources starting off their freshman year of high school,” Guerrero said.
Sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the conference is led by UNK students and serves as a leadership opportunity.
“I attended NCUC in high school, and I’ve always looked forward to being a part of the conference as a college student,” said Jennifer Garcia, a freshman pre-physician assistant major from Shelton, who is on the planning committee.
“The sessions cover so much, but it was more that they empowered me to go above and beyond. I felt empowered in high school, and I really looked forward to being able to empower others in college.”
Schools Attending Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference
Garden City (Kan.) High School
Garden City (Kan.) Community College