KEARNEY – Daniel Ocampo wants to make his parents proud.
That’s why he’s attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where the freshman from Omaha is studying 7-12 English education.
His father Domingo and mother Miriam never had the opportunity to attend college, but they taught him an important lesson about education.
“Success is determined by the impact you make on future generations,” Ocampo said. “For me, coming to college shows my parents they’ve done that.”
A graduate of Burke High School, Ocampo was also inspired by the teachers in his life. They supported him during tough times and helped him apply for the scholarships that made college a possibility.
“We’re not the richest family, and I probably wouldn’t have come to college if it weren’t for scholarships,” Ocampo said.
He received tuition assistance through a scholarship from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and his room and board are covered for four years by a Maestros del Futuro: Bilingual Educators Scholarship awarded through UNK’s Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion.
“That was kind of the selling point for me coming to Kearney,” Ocampo said of the UNK scholarship available to bilingual students who are committed to pursuing a teaching career. “It took a lot of financial pressure off me.”
Millions awarded annually
UNK awarded nearly $11 million in scholarships and grants to more than 2,300 students in 2017-18, excluding scholarships directly tied to athletic programs. When external sources such as the University of Nebraska Foundation and state and federal aid are added, the dollar amount for scholarships and grants supporting UNK students grows to more than $26 million.
Nearly 80% of UNK freshmen receive financial assistance through scholarships or grants, with the average annual award totaling $9,154 in 2017-18.
Mary Sommers, director of financial aid, said this support allows students to attend UNK while borrowing less money and working fewer hours. By focusing on academics first, Lopers are more likely to graduate on time and be involved on campus through student organizations and other extracurricular activities that enrich their college experience.
For Ocampo, attending UNK opened the door to a variety of opportunities. He’s president of a student organization and part of a close-knit campus community that’s introduced him to many new friends.
“If I wasn’t living on campus, I don’t think I would have that experience. And I don’t think I would have met the people I’ve met,” said Ocampo, who’s “always busy” with UNK events and activities.
Through the College of Education, he’s already visited high schools in Grand Island, Holdrege and Gibbon to learn from educators there, building what he calls “a strong foundation for success.”
“They truly care about me being able to succeed not only in college, but outside of college, as well,” Ocampo said of his professors in the College of Education.
Logan Prater, a communication disorders major from Colorado Springs, Colorado, also had financial factors to consider when she made the decision to attend UNK.
She receives the Advantage Scholarship, which allows UNK undergraduate students from Colorado and Kansas to pay in-state tuition rates. For Colorado residents, the total tuition savings is more than $28,000 over four years, based on a course load of 15 credit hours per semester.
“If I didn’t have that scholarship, I probably would have stayed in Colorado,” said Prater, one of nearly 120 Advantage Scholarship recipients currently attending UNK.
Prater, who receives additional financial assistance through UNK and the U.S. Department of Education, said that security has allowed her to focus on academics while remaining active on campus and enjoying college life.
“That’s extremely important, especially when I’m so busy with everything I’m doing,” she said. “It’s nice knowing I don’t have to work 40 hours a week because I have that scholarship.”
The UNK senior serves as a resident assistant, success coach, campus visit assistant and New Student Enrollment leader, and she’s a member of the women’s track and field team and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
“Coming to UNK gave me the independence and social aspect I really wanted in college,” said Prater, who plans to be a speech therapist.
She’ll attend graduate school at UNK after earning her bachelor’s degree in May.