Here’s how to get involved:
UNK students can sign up to be Loper Leaders through March 16.
Applications can be found online at www.unk.edu/student_affairs/firstyear/ or the First Year Program Facebook page at www.facebook.com/UNKFirstYear.
For more information, contact Brette Ensz at 308-865-8291 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The transition from high school to college can be difficult, especially for freshmen who are unfamiliar with campus and the community.
That’s why the University of Nebraska at Kearney has a group of dedicated student volunteers ready to welcome newcomers before their first day of classes and show them the Loper way.
More than 100 returning students sign up to be Loper Leaders each year, with the bulk of their duties occurring during the annual Blue Gold Welcome Week in August that kicks off the new school year.
“We’re really their first impression of students at UNK,” said junior Molly Kohlbek, a chemistry and pre-pharmacy major from Springfield who has been a Loper Leader for two years. “Our job is to kind of instill that Loper spirit in them.”
Kohlbek still remembers her first day of classes at UNK. She was lost on campus before spotting a familiar face – a Loper Leader from her orientation sessions – to help her out.
“It’s good for freshmen to have those allies,” she said. “Plus, it’s just a lot of fun.”
Most Loper Leaders volunteer for about 10 to 15 hours during the opening weekend of Blue Gold Welcome Week. That’s when they connect with incoming freshmen, show them the ropes and answer any questions they have about UNK.
Loper Leaders provide assistance during welcome and orientation sessions, serve as tour guides and take part in activities such as the community showcase and Playfair, an evening of fun and games at Foster Field.
Ben Hill, a UNK senior from North Platte, called the experience a good icebreaker for new students.
“That’s when I first got introduced to UNK culture,” said Hill, a musical theater major who transferred here from Mid-Plains Community College.
Hill joined Loper Leaders during his second year at UNK and enjoyed it so much he stayed in the program another three years.
“I just like helping people,” he said.
Brette Ensz, assistant director of the First Year Program at UNK, said there aren’t many requirements to become a Loper Leader.
Interested students must be willing to volunteer their time during Blue Gold Welcome Week and have a passion for UNK they can pass along to others.
“They provide an experience to these incoming students that hopefully they received as freshmen,” said Ensz, adding that students who feel connected to the campus and community are more likely to stay here through graduation.
“These are the events that are really making an impact on them during their first step onto campus,” she said.
With more than 700 new students taking part in Blue Gold Welcome Week, Ensz said the First Year Program needs as many Loper Leaders as it can get.
Kohlbek, who is transferring to the University of Nebraska Medical Center after this semester, said she would sign up again in a heartbeat.
“I definitely remember my Loper Leaders and I’m still friends with them,” she said. “I think it’s such a great thing.”