First-Gen Loper: Keauna Jenkins not just a student, but role model for her son, dad

Keauna Jenkins, Ogallala
Psychology, minor in criminal justice/communication disorders

What was the toughest thing you had to overcome to attend college?
My toughest challenge was becoming pregnant. I had to go on bed rest for three months, which made it difficult for me to attend classes, but I never stopped doing my tests and still completed my assignments. I actually had my son the week of finals. I had my son one day, and the next day I took an exam for my online class. I proceeded with online courses the following semester so I could not only continue to be a student, but also focus on being a new mom.

When did you first discover that attending college was a possibility for you?
I come from a family of Marines, so the course of military was always talked about. When I realized that I would rather pursue a college degree, it was never a downfall to my family. It was actually very exciting to everyone because college was not really something my family pursued, so it really clicked for me that it was something I really wanted to do.

Best advice for a first-generation student thinking about going to college?
Don’t be afraid to try college. There is always going to be someone rooting for you, whether it’s your family or friends, even the faculty on campus, someone is always willing to support you.

What sets first generation students apart from others?
I think it’s the feeling of knowing that you are doing something completely different from the norm (when it comes to your family). Being a first-generation student makes you that much more exceptional. You are wholeheartedly pursuing something that you probably thought wasn’t even possible, and in the making you’re becoming a role model to others.

Who is your biggest supporter in attending college?
My biggest supporter is always my mom. She is literally my best friend and has my back in everything. My husband has also been there for me through all my struggles and successes while attending college. They are such great support systems because they push me even when I don’t want to be. They remind that the end result is going to be worth it because I am doing so much more for myself than just earning a college degree. I am being a role model for my son, and a role model for my dad, who after retiring from the Marines decided he wanted to go to school because I was going to school.

What do you enjoy most about UNK?
I enjoy the closeness. It’s like a small family. People that I either lived on the same floor with or hung out with the very first year I came to UNK are still close with me, and there are professors that have gone above and beyond for me. I really enjoy those close relationships and those support systems.