Lexington’s Daniel Jaimes earns UNK degree despite difficult path

Daniel Jaimes moved to Lexington from Mexico at age 5. A first-generation student at UNK, he earned his bachelor’s degree despite a difficult path and currently is working on his master’s degree.
Daniel Jaimes moved to Lexington from Mexico at age 5. A first-generation student at UNK, he earned his bachelor’s degree despite a difficult path and currently is working on his master’s degree.

Born: Jiquilpan, Michoacán, Mexico
Hometown: Lexington, since age 5; Lexington High School, 2008 graduate.
Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Education, 2014
Graduate Studies: Currently in master’s program to get English as a Second Language endorsement
Military: Nebraska Army National Guard; Honorable discharge in 2013
College activities: Office of Multicultural Affairs, Sigma Lambda Beta
Future goals: Teach abroad

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – As a fourth-grader, it became Daniel Jaimes’ dream to attend college. He knew that determination, even as an elementary school student, was necessary to achieving his goal.

“I remember my family was coming back from a family vacation in Mexico and I asked my mom to help me with long division math. The look she gave me when she realized she couldn’t help me, because she had never gotten that far in school, was when it hit me that I was on my own,” said Jaimes, now a first-generation college student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Jaimes’ parents stopped attending school at second and third grade. He was told that earning a college degree was necessary to ‘make it’ in the United States. He tried to be more involved in extracurricular activities in high school to make his college application more appealing and to be considered for scholarships.

But Jaimes said getting his parents’ approval to participate was no easy feat, and he recalls arguing with them frequently.

Alpha Phi Red Dress Poker-6
Daniel Jaimes plays in the Alpha Phi Red Dress Poker Tournament, which raises money for women’s heart health.

“My parents never pushed me in school. … There was a conflict of culture there, because to them it seemed my involvement in extracurricular activities wasn’t important. There were other things I could be doing,” he said.

The ‘other things’ Jaimes’ parents thought he should do included working. In Mexican culture, males are expected to work at a very young age to provide for their families, Jaimes said.

Daniel’s parents finally agreed to let him participate in extracurricular activities when he was a sophomore at Lexington High School. He took up football, cross-country, wrestling, speech, one act plays and soccer.

While his parents did not push him through school, Jaimes says he had one motivator: his younger brother, Miguel Jaimes, currently a sophomore psychology major at UNK.

“I knew that I couldn’t be telling my younger brother he needed to go to college if I wasn’t working on going to college myself,” Jaimes said. I knew he was always looking, whether directly or indirectly, at all my choices and actions, that they would either make me more or less credible.”

Jaimes said it became apparent to him at a young age that joining the military would be necessary to finance his college education. With permission from his parents, he joined the Nebraska Army National Guard at age 17.

“The main reason I joined was for educational purposes,” he said. “But I also wanted to give back to the state and country that gave me so much.”

During his freshman year at UNK, Jaimes received word that he was set to deploy to Iraq the following summer.

In preparation for deployment, he missed a lot of class. He was later informed that he would not be deployed after all, and Jaimes got to finish what he started.

“That’s when I really started taking college really seriously,” Jaimes said. “It was my third year and I shouldn’t have even been in school then, I should have been in Iraq. The Lord gave me another chance, and I told myself I needed to take college seriously, buckle down and graduate.”

Jaimes said he pursued a teaching degree at UNK after discovering he was passionate about helping young people as a volunteer coach in high school. He enjoyed providing them the opportunity he never had at their age.

Jaimes is now in a master’s program at UNK, working toward receiving an English as a Second Language endorsement so he can potentially teach abroad. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Education in 2014

“I never got the chance to study abroad because my major took up so much time,” Jaimes said. “I would travel on my own, but it was never enough.”

Jaimes is aiming to complete his master’s degree in May 2017.

Teaching abroad is his ultimate goal, but Jaimes first has his sights on other opportunities to get experience. He mentioned working on a college campus with students or returning to the Youth Rehabilitation Training Center in Kearney, where he completed his student teaching.

“Something that I am passionate about is being able to help others,” Jaimes said. “We often get so lost in the demands of our everyday life that we forget that everyone else is living their own story, with their own challenges and hardships. Although they may be different from our own, everyone will almost always appreciate a bit of help.


Writer: Alyssa Sobotka, Student Reporter, 402.340.8288, sobotkaae@lopers.unk.edu
Source: Daniel Jaimes, jaimesd2@lopers.unk.edu