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By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Narda Garfio has her college plans mapped out.
The high school senior from Grand Island wants to attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney on a pre-optometry path before transitioning to medical school.
“This is my first choice,” Garfio said of UNK.
She likes the size and location of Kearney – it’s close to home – as well as UNK’s close-knit campus and the one-on-one interactions students have with professors. UNK is a place where everyone knows each other, she noted.
Before she can fill out the enrollment form, though, there are two people who must sign off on her plan – mom and dad.
That’s why they were on campus for Conozca UNK, a program the UNK Admissions Office recently launched specifically for Spanish-speaking families.
Cesar Duran, a diversity and community outreach counselor for UNK Admissions, said the goal is to get parents on campus so they can learn more about UNK, college life and the enrollment process.
“This is a great opportunity for parents to come to campus and see their children here,” Duran said.
The day includes presentations from the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Student Support Services and First Year Program, conversations with current UNK students and faculty members, a campus tour and informational sessions on financial aid and academic programs. Of course, the entire program is delivered in Spanish.
For Garfio, who will be the first member of her family to attend college, the event gave her parents an opportunity to check out UNK for the first time and look into scholarship and financial aid options.
“I’m hoping they’ll support me on my decision,” the Grand Island Senior High School student said with a smile.
Her father David compared the visit to test-driving a vehicle.
“This is like buying a career for her. We want to see what you guys offer, what you guys have,” he said. “It’s money that will be invested in her. We just want her to be comfortable.”
Dusty Newton, director of undergraduate recruitment and admissions, said this type of program is important for UNK, where first-generation college students make up nearly 50 percent of the student body.
“Many of those students are from families where Spanish is the first language,” Newton said. “It is critical for us to communicate the many opportunities available here at UNK to these families.”
Currently, Hispanic students represent about 10 percent of UNK’s student body, a number that’s expected to increase as the state’s Hispanic population continues to grow.
Duran, a UNK graduate whose family is originally from Mexico, said events like Conozca UNK help families recognize the importance of higher education while providing the resources they may need to pursue that opportunity.
“We need to be able to serve those future generations,” he said.
David Garfio can already see the bright future in front of his daughter.
“With the tools that you guys provide, maybe she can have a better life and a better economic situation,” he said. “It’s going to make us proud – very, very proud.”
SCHEDULE A VISIT
Conozca UNK visits are available Nov. 30, Feb. 22, March 29 and April 26. To register for the free program, visit unk.edu/admissions/campus-visit.php or contact Duran at 308-865-8023 or firstname.lastname@example.org.