UNK celebrates first generation students

KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Being a first generation student comes with a lot of pressure and some challenges and on Friday UNK took time to appreciate the students who are the first in their family to go to college.

UNK hosted their Be First event to show their appreciation to the many first generation students who attend the school. (KSNB)

People who are first generation students have diverse backgrounds and reasons they are going to school. Some have parents who immigrated to this country. Others came from big families who couldn't afford to send everyone to school.

“Being a first generation students I had no idea about college,” Joshua Garcia said. “My grandparents didn't know anything. Everything that I have gone through I almost had to do by myself.”

Garcia was raised by a single mother in the small town of Shelby, Nebraska. He is a bright student who always knew he wanted to do more after high school.

“Just growing up and knowing what my life was like and her siblings. College wasn't really something I would ever imagine was an opportunity for me to happen,” Garcia said. “When I got the announcement from my Susan Buffet scholarship I was just like oh this is actually going to happen, like I'm going to go to college.”

In the fall 2019 semester, roughly 30% of students are first generation at UNK. Keauna Jenkins is one of them. She comes from a military family who mainly focused on being in the Marines. Nut her family encouraged her to take the college route.

“My mom definitely gets emotional about it. Especially since I am going to be applying to grad school here and it's kind of like a touchy situation because I'm the first one to do it, first one to apply to grad school and go on to those future steps,” Jenkins said.

UNK has programs just for first generation students to help them get scholarships and be involved in school. So those who have no preconceived idea of the college experience can make it through smoothly. Each student has a little bit of advice for anyone considering being the first in their family to take the leap.

“You definitely have to take it one day at a time and just because you have one bad day or one bad test it definitely doesn't make you a bad student,” Jenkins said. “You have to look forward and push yourself.”

With this being the first year the university has recognized them, UNK said they plan to celebrate the first generation students every November 8.