Scholarship call causes recipient to scream and scream again

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One Wood River Rural High student worked her way to give back to her parents.

The $62,000 phone call came two years ago.

The man who called Wood River Rural High School that day asked to speak to senior Abbie Davis. But Abbie wasn’t there. She was having fun in another town taking tests on music and history at an academic competition.

So a teacher called her.

As soon as you get back, the teacher said, go straight to the counselor’s office.

When Abbie walked into the office, the counselor told her to call Gary Davis at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Abbie grew excited.

Oh, man. If this is what I think it is …

It was.

After hanging up, she screamed.

She screamed again when she called her parents, Kevin and Karen, to tell them the news – that she’d won the Omaha World-Herald/Kearney Hub Scholarship, one of the most prestigious academic scholarships at UNK.

“I screamed when I got home and hugged my mom,” Abbie said at lunch one recent day in Kearney, recalling that day. “I ran around the house for a while.”

Her parents farm. They grow corn and soybeans on their land near Wood River. They instilled a work ethic in her and her two older brothers, she says. The kids helped them with many farm chores, such as moving irrigation pipe in the summers. Abbie worked alongside her mom in the large garden.

Winning the scholarship, Abbie says, allowed her to give something back to her parents.

“It covers everything,” Abbie says. “It’s incredible. It’s just such a blessing.”

The Omaha World-Herald/Kearney Hub scholarship goes to two or three Honors Program students each year. The scholarship covers all tuition through the Board of Regents Scholarship and all room and board and book costs through other funding sources. (For Abbie, private support also came from the B.M. Stevenson Fund for high-achieving UNK students.)

The Omaha World-Herald/Kearney Hub scholars are selected from among 30 statewide finalists. The four-year scholarship is valued at more than $62,000.

About half of UNK students receive need-based grant aid. About half are children of people who didn’t go to college. In Nebraska, more than a third of all high school seniors do not go to college, citing cost as the determining factor.

That’s why raising money for scholarships is one of UNK’s priorities in the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, says UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen.

“Our students are hardworking,” he says. “Most of them come from modest means. Many must balance college with work and now a greater burden is being placed on them than ever before. For the first time in a long time, we have students questioning: ‘Can I go to college? Can I make this happen?'”

Returning students often are overlooked when it comes to scholarships, he says – students who have an emergency come up such a hailstorm that took out the family crop or a family divorce or an illness.

For many, he says, it’s about survival.

“For a donor, the ability to look at the impact of his or her scholarship on a student’s life is very fulfilling.”

About 20 percent of UNK students receive merit-based aid, like Abbie, who was valedictorian of her class of ’09 at Wood River. She’s is now a sophomore at UNK, majoring in business administration. She plans to stay in Nebraska.

She’s one of 56 students who have won the Omaha World-Herald/ Kearney Hub Scholarship since the program began in 1985.

Because of the Omaha World-Herald scholarship, she says, she doesn’t have to have a job on the side. She can focus on her studies and all fun things to do at UNK.

She’s played trombone in the band. She’s played water polo in the winter.

She’s met many motivated students like herself through the Student Senate (that’s how she met her boyfriend) as well as through the Honors Program.

She lives with Honors Program students in Men’s Hall, the Honors Program dorm. She loves the atmosphere.

“They just renovated it. It’s really neat because it’s kind of an art-deco style, which they tried to keep when renovating it. It’s just gorgeous inside. And the nice thing is, I know where I’m going to live for the next two years because I have housing paid for.”

She’s on the Honors Program Advisory Board. They had a dance the other night that was fun.

Last year, she took the Chancellor’s Leadership Class for honors students. The class gave students the opportunity to visit with the chancellor.

“He would tell us about the big issues on campus, and we got to give our input on the issues,” she said. “He also talked to us about his leadership style.”

She was pretty set on going to UNK before getting the scholarship, she says, but it “absolutely sealed the deal.”

She loves the atmosphere at UNK.

“UNK is just outstanding. It’s the perfect size. It’s so friendly. The people will just go out of their way to help you. I think it gets underrepresented in the university system.”

The professors, she says, really focus on you.

The scholarship, she says, gave her much more than just four years of money and fun.

It gave her a desire to give back.

“It makes you want to go out and do something significant with your life. It makes you feel like giving back to help other people.

“I just want to use my blessings to give back someday.”

Support for students through scholarships is a top campaign priority for UNK. If you’d like to help UNK students like Abbie this way, contact Lucas Dart at 308-698-5272.

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