First-Gen Loper: Kearney Bound made college possible for Noah Journey

Noah Journey, Kearney
Business Education Major

What was the toughest thing you had to overcome to attend college?
Financial struggles were always the biggest obstacle for me in the pursuit of a college degree. My parents both worked endless hours every week to support my brother and me. I had a job paired with year-round athletics and, of course, schoolwork. My family and parents knew I had the ability to go to college, therefore there was always pressure to put myself in a better position than where my parents were at in their own lives.

When did you first discover attending college was a possibility for you?
When I was a freshman in high school, I was selected as one of the recipients of the Kearney Bound Scholarship. I also received many other scholarships to different universities, but none of them were quite like UNK. Josh Pierce and the Kearney Bound program made my college experience here possible.

What is your advice for a first-generation student thinking about going to college?
Don’t worry about outside factors. The only thing that can hold you back is yourself. You have the ability to accomplish something that nobody in your family has been able to do. Take the next step in your life and apply to college.

What sets first-generation students apart from others?
Many first-generation students have key traits that help push them. As a first-generation student you have the will to succeed and a passion for what you’re doing at all times. You have motivation that there’s nothing that can stop you from achieving your greatest goals.

Who were your biggest supporters in attending college?
I had a group of teachers, friends and family who have pushed me to succeed. I had teachers and coaches in high school who were always available to give advice. That statement aligns with my parents, as well. Now that I’m at UNK, I’ve had endless support from faculty and staff alike. From my advisers and professors to the people I work with every day in the history department, I have a network of endless support.

What do you enjoy most about UNK?
As a first-generation student you are viewed the same as everyone else. That’s something I love about UNK. It doesn’t matter your financial, social or academic situation, you matter here. Every student has the same opportunities, and much of that is provided by the faculty and staff who work at this great university.

First-Gen Lopers Celebration

Nearly 2,100 first-generation students attend UNK, representing roughly one-third of the student population. At the undergraduate level, just over 4 in 10 students are the first in their family to be on track to graduate from a four-year college.

The university is recognizing these students and celebrating their accomplishments through a new event that will bring the campus community together to show their solidarity and tell stories of first-generation student success – a UNK strength.

The first-ever First-Gen Lopers Celebration is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday in the Nebraskan Student Union food court. First-Gen Lopers will receive special T-shirts, with free ice cream, a photo booth and information on campus resources that support first-generation students and help them succeed.

UNK faculty and staff who were first-generation college students will also be recognized during the event. All are welcome.

The UNK event coincides with the National First-Generation College Celebration and the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which has helped millions of first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students obtain degrees.

By the numbers:
First-generation students who are first-time freshmen at UNK in fall 2019
73%: Average one-year retention rate for first-time freshmen at UNK who are first-generation students
46%: Average six-year graduation rate for first-time, first-generation UNK students

Why it matters:
“Shifting populations entering higher education, continual increases in first-generation college student enrollment, debate surrounding rising tuition and costs, and genuine desires for a rise in graduation rates and a better prepared workforce have positioned the experiences of first-generation college students as a renewed focus across postsecondary education.” – Center for First-Generation Student Success