Kearney Teachers Tomorrow scholarship fuels aspirations for UNK, KHS education students

Nine UNK and Kearney High School students received the inaugural Kearney Teachers Tomorrow scholarships. They were recognized Friday during a signing ceremony at UNK's College of Education building.
Nine UNK and Kearney High School students received the inaugural Kearney Teachers Tomorrow scholarships. They were recognized Friday during a signing ceremony at UNK’s College of Education building.

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Rosa Lopez-Moore was at Windy Hills Elementary School, where she works as a special education paraprofessional, when her cellphone rang.

The message delivered during that call brought her to tears. She was selected for the new Kearney Teachers Tomorrow (KTOM) scholarship program.

“This scholarship will change my life,” said Lopez-Moore, a University of Nebraska at Kearney student studying elementary and special education with an English as a second language endorsement.

“I have worked two jobs my whole college career, and I have very, very late nights,” she continued. “This scholarship will allow me to focus a lot on school and being more active here at UNK, which makes me so happy.”

Lopez-Moore is one of nine students recognized Friday as members of the inaugural KTOM Scholars class. Seven are currently studying at UNK and two are graduating seniors at Kearney High School.

They’ll all be educators within the Kearney Public Schools system after earning their degrees from UNK.

Developed by the Kearney Education Collaborative, a joint leadership team of KPS and the UNK College of Education, Kearney Teachers Tomorrow was launched last month, creating a new pathway for students interested in teaching careers.

The innovative program provides $6,000 annually from KPS and $1,900 annually from UNK to help cover expenses while students are pursuing their teaching degrees. UNK is also waiving housing costs for on-campus residents, bringing the total value to more than $14,000 per year before other scholarships and aid.

The KTOM scholarship is renewable for four years and includes opportunities for students to work in various roles within KPS during their college years, contributing to their professional development and eligibility for retirement benefits through the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System.

Each scholar is guaranteed a teaching position at KPS after completing their degree.

KPS Superintendent Jason Mundorf called the program a “road map” for students who want to continue their education in Kearney and start their careers here.

“I really do think that’s a difference maker,” he said during Friday’s signing ceremony. “I think there’s a way that we can keep our best talent home.”

“We are so excited that the students today committed to that same vision and process and that they will be part of the Kearney Public Schools team in very near time,” he added.

At KPS, the demand for highly qualified and skilled teachers is high, especially in specific areas such as special education, math, science and world languages. The KTOM program will prioritize students with financial needs who are pursuing the district’s highest-demand teaching endorsements.

Like many of the scholarship recipients, KHS senior Adeline Moore was also emotional when she received the news during her school’s annual Honors Night. She plans to study elementary and special education at UNK.

“This is such an amazing opportunity, and I just cannot believe that I have been chosen to really make an impact for people with special needs,” Moore said. “I’m very excited to pour my heart back into the community that has helped me grow to where I am today.”

UNK sophomore Ayden Brophy, a biology education major from Aurora, echoed those comments.

“I would like to extend my sincere thanks for believing in me and investing in my future,” he said. “Being part of the KTOM Scholars is an amazing opportunity that I’m deeply grateful to receive. The ability to participate in this program will allow me to positively contribute and impact my community both here in Kearney and beyond.”

Officials from KPS and UNK highlighted the strong partnership between the institutions and their shared goal of nurturing homegrown talent to address local workforce needs.

“This would not be possible without the amazing collaboration and interactions that we have with Kearney Public Schools. They have been a great partner with us,” said Julie Shaffer, UNK senior vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“UNK was created as a normal school, so we are dedicated to the importance of education and teacher preparation,” she added. “And as we all know, teacher preparation is essential for a healthy state. So we really are excited to have this program starting and to have these young people come and dedicate their lives to teaching.”

A total of 75 students applied for the inaugural KTOM scholarships. Moving forward, two more scholarships will be awarded each year, with preference given to graduating KHS seniors.

“It will be exciting to see how this grows,” UNK Dean of Education Mark Reid said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is just the beginning – and what a great beginning.”

Kearney Teachers Tomorrow Scholarship Recipients

Kearney High School
Adeline Moore – Elementary and special education
Keegan Peterson – English education 

Current UNK Students
Emma Bonsall of Kearney – Modern languages education with a Spanish emphasis and English as a second language endorsement
Ayden Brophy of Aurora – Biology education
Josue Gomez Gutierrez of Lexington – Math education
Rosa Lopez-Moore of Kearney – Elementary and special education with an English as a second language endorsement
Bailey Nutter of Kearney – Early childhood and elementary education
Tracy Roskop of Arapahoe – Early childhood education with a K-6 special education endorsement
Abbie Scholl of Columbus – Math education