PHOTO GALLERY: Celebrating 1st-Gen Lopers

The University of Nebraska at Kearney celebrated the nearly 2,100 current Lopers who are the first in their families to attend college and recognized their accomplishments Friday during a campuswide event in the Nebraskan Student Union.

The first-ever First-Gen Lopers Celebration, which also recognized first-generation faculty and staff, featured free ice cream and special UNK first-gen T-shirts, a photo booth with Louie the Loper and comments from three first-generation college students/graduates – College of Business and Technology Dean Tim Jares, Kelly Bartling, vice chancellor of the Division of Enrollment Management and Marketing, and UNK senior Josh Garcia of Shelby.

First-generation students are a strength at UNK, representing one-third of the total student population and just over 4 in 10 students at the undergraduate level. These students are supported by Thompson Scholars, Kearney Bound, TRIO, the Learning Commons, First Year and other programs on campus, as well as peer, faculty and staff mentors.

This collaborative effort makes UNK a place for first-generation success.

Friday’s event coincides with the National First-Generation College Celebration launched in 2017 and the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The goal is to increase understanding of the systemic barriers in higher education and the supports that will encourage first-generation college students to continue thriving.

“We now have a committee of proud first-generation faculty, staff and students to focus on improving UNK opportunities, support and success,” Bartling said.

Next year’s First-Gen Lopers Celebration will be bigger and better, with the addition of a new award for first-generation student success.