Coming to college was very overwhelming for me. As a first-generation student I was stressed trying to figure everything out. I wasn’t sure what to expect. In high school I was awarded the Emerging Leaders Scholarship, which got me involved in Emerging Leaders at Nebraska, a program that provides a backbone of support on campus for first-generation students. I was grateful for the scholarship, but I didn’t realize at the time that Emerging Leaders was about to become a bridge between me and the many resources and organizations at Nebraska that helped me feel involved and included.
A week before college started, I got to meet with other Emerging Leader Scholarship recipients. We built relationships before classes even started. From day one, Emerging Leaders opened their doors to me like they were saying, “okay, you're a recipient, so this is your built-in social network that you have now.” It eased the nervousness I had coming to college. After experiencing that first introduction, seeing all those other people, the mentors giving their all to us, I was sure that Nebraska was where I wanted to be.
As a first-year student in the program, I went to lectures on Fridays and speakers would come talk about opportunities and share their own college experiences. And then once a week, we met as smaller 15-student groups with two mentors, who had gone through the program their first year, and now are the ones facilitating, leading, answering questions and teaching a guided curriculum.
The curriculum isn’t based in math, English, writing, or any stuff like that. It's based off of real-life experiences, like what can you expect on campus, or what you can get involved with outside of Emerging Leaders. They told us about resources on campus such as the writing center, the math center, even the rec center for wellbeing and they offer anything you could need, along with academic support. It can be something as small as helping you find your class or something as big as writing a resume or having them sit down and explain to you the do's and the don'ts of college that you might not know.
Resources for Success
Our mentors told us to branch out try new things around campus. One of my mentors mentioned the rec center as a great place to go. I would've never even known to go in there! I tried yoga for the first time. There’s also a program called Resilient Women that I tried out and really love. It’s pretty much women empowerment, and there are programs on different topics that I felt like I could relate to and something that helped me gain opinions and values and beliefs that I didn't know I had before.
I felt so comforted by my mentors my first year, I became a mentor myself. I want to guide students so that they know that they have potential. At first, being a mentor made me nervous. In the beginning when I was teaching mentees, I remember stuttering. Having all those new students staring at me, the pressure was on. I’ve learned to not overthink it.
The students don’t want someone perfect; they need to see someone that is figuring it out just like they are. It’s crazy to think that another student thinks of me as a leader when I’m a student too, but I know I’m making a difference. It’s like a trickle-down effect. Mentors helped me become who I am, and now I can help students that are where I was when I came to college.
Stretching Your Strengths
Nothing worth having is going to be easy to get. There’s always going to be obstacles. There's always going to be something in the way. I would definitely say don't get discouraged by the obstacles placed in front of you because there's always a way out of it. If you don't have people to guide you, you're going to be in a spot that you'll never move out of. Put yourself out there and keep your head up.
My first year coming to this campus, I was like a puzzle in a million pieces. I had the foundation and all of the pieces. I just didn't know how to put them together for myself. I knew I had strengths, I just didn’t know how to bring them out or to put them together to make them all shine at one time. As I've become a mentor, I'm learning how to do that so that I'm able to use them all at once and help others in that way. I'm still working toward being a better student, and being a better mentor, but I would say the experiences that I've had on campus have led me toward my own self growth that I didn't even know I was capable of.