‘You’re not alone’: UNK sophomore Brittany Chavez paves path for other first-gen students
KEARNEY, Neb. (Press Release) - Brittany Chavez has a message for first-generation college students.
You’re not alone.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney sophomore is constantly encouraging those around her to persist and never give up.
“If I can do it, I feel like I can inspire others to attend college as well,” she said. “I can serve as an example that everyone can make it through college.”
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Chavez grew up in Imperial and graduated from Chase County High School. Although her parents never had the opportunity to attend college, they always stressed the importance of higher education.
“That’s something my parents always told me, earn as much education as you can so you can do good things in life,” Chavez said. “My parents made a lot of sacrifices coming to this country to provide a better life for me and my brother, so now I want to give back to them. I want to show them that all of this is for them.”
She also wants to be a role model for other first-generation and Hispanic students, paving a path to success that they can follow.
“Brittany is passionate about creating a community where other first-generation students can reach their full potential,” said Ashley Olivas, a senior adviser in TRIO Student Support Services at UNK. “Representation is important, and her participation in and contributions to the campus community show young Latinas that they can achieve their educational goals.”
Chavez is studying business administration with a minor in marketing and management, and she’s involved in numerous programs and organizations on campus, including the Sigma Lambda Gamma multicultural sorority, TRIO Student Support Services and Thompson Scholars Learning Community.
She calls UNK a “home away from home” for first-gen students, a place where they’ll find friendship, support and guidance while pursuing their academic and career goals.
“Everyone here on campus is so supportive and everyone is willing to help,” said Chavez, who chose UNK largely because of this welcoming environment.
“UNK has a really good business program, as well, so it seemed like a perfect fit,” she added.
Chavez has benefited from the mentoring, advising and relationship-building available through TRIO and Thompson Scholars. Now, she’s a student leader for these programs.
“Her passion for making a difference and willingness to participate and collaborate are key components that she brings to campus,” Olivas said. “She works to elevate and empower others and helps people become reacquainted with their ‘why’ for being in college. These actions and characteristics are incredibly valued in our program because we believe in establishing a community and support system for our students.”
In addition to her involvement in those programs, Chavez serves as president of First-Gen Lopers, another campus resource that provides a social network and support system for first-generation students. Formed in 2021, the organization allows students to create connections and learn about college life in a comfortable environment.
“We are committed to helping students succeed in college,” Chavez said. “Being first-generation, there are a lot of challenges that students may face. A lot of students may not know what college is really like and they may be struggling with some things, but we’re here to help them.”
First-Gen Lopers meets at 6 p.m. every other Thursday in the lounge inside the Memorial Student Affairs Building. The next meeting is Nov. 16. The group also hosts study sessions, monthly lunches with faculty and staff and other events and helps organize the annual First-Gen Day celebration on campus.
As president, Chavez brings enthusiasm and energy to the organization, according to Aaron Estes, the First-Gen Lopers adviser and director of the UNK Academic Success Offices.
“Brittany is a connector and is always looking for ways to bring people in,” he said. “All of our conversations about the direction of the organization are centered on what we can do for others. When all of the spots on our First-Gen Lopers leadership team were filled but we had more students interested in being involved, she created new positions so they could get engaged and feel like valued members of the team.”
Her impact extends well beyond campus. Chavez has talked with a teacher at her former high school about the possibility of bringing Chase County students to a future First-Gen Lopers event.
“Brittany is not only a role model for other first-generation students at UNK, but she’s also a role model for prospective first-generation students,” Estes said.
No matter who she’s talking to, the message stays the same.
“Even though we may face challenges, there’s always going to be rewards,” Chavez said. “Just keep on going and know that you’re not alone.”
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