UNK celebrating first-generation success at Monday program

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is celebrating its first-generation students with a program 3 p.m. Monday in the Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room.

UNK’s First Gen Day began in 2019 as a way to recognize and support students who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year college degree. Part of a national movement, the event brings the campus community together to showcase the success of first-generation faculty, staff and students and highlight the opportunities they have at UNK.

Monday’s program includes T-shirt and prize giveaways and a photo booth, as well as a panel discussion promoting educational experiences for first-gen students. The panel will provide information on UNK’s Study Abroad, National Student Exchange, Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning programs.

The recipients of UNK’s inaugural Trailblazer and Friend of First Gen awards will also be recognized. The Trailblazer Award honors an outstanding first-generation student and the Friend of First Gen Award is presented to a faculty or staff member who goes above and beyond to support first-generation students.

Because of health protocols, in-person attendance in the student union’s largest room is limited to 50 people and face masks are required. The celebration can be viewed via livestream at unk.edu/social.

UNK’s First Gen Day coincides with the National First-Generation College Celebration and the Nov. 8 anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which created a range of initiatives to help low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students obtain college degrees.

“At our first recognition of first-generation student success last year, we brought together students, a dean, administrators and numerous faculty and staff and generated conversation throughout the community about what it means to be a first-generation college-goer,” said Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Marketing Kelly Bartling, who is first-gen.

“The pride that comes with being a trailblazer, and networking with others with unique or similar success stories, is something to behold. Here at UNK, we want to show students that if we can be successful, so can they. Showing our support and encouragement is what this day is about.”

First-generation students are a strength at UNK, representing roughly one-third of the total student population and just over 4 in 10 students at the undergraduate level. These students are supported by a number of campus programs, including Thompson Scholars, Kearney Bound, TRIO, Loper 2 Loper Mentoring, the Learning Commons, First Year, Academic Advising and Career Development and the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion.

Learn more at unk.edu/firstgen.

Experiencing new opportunities at UNK

Being a first-generation student, I went into college not knowing what to expect. I was nervous to move away from the family farm and experience a whole new lifestyle that I wasn’t used to. UNK makes the college experience very easy. The staff all work toward one goal and that is to see you succeed. There is free on-campus tutoring, student health and counseling services and some of the best professors.

Going to college is important to me because it has allowed me to experience new opportunities that I would have never experienced. I have been able to grow my knowledge and skills in areas that I have been interested in my whole life.

Owen Bridges, Minden, UNK Class of 2021