Wife, mother, grateful scholarship recipient says thank you

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Emily Sulzle’s days are crazy.

The young Lincoln woman is a full-time student at UNO, a senior with a 4.0 GPA. She’s also a wife and a mom of four kids who are full of energy and ranging in age from 8 to 3: Aurora, Olivia, Sam and Eli.

She schedules her days with precision.

“I write down an hourly schedule at the beginning of each semester as a time management technique, and my husband said, ‘You scheduled just six hours for sleeping?’ I said, ‘Yeah, doesn’t that sound like a lot?'”

She laughs.

“He just looked at me like I’m nuts.”

After her 30-minute “coffee coma” each morning – the only time she allows for just herself – she gets the kids breakfast, drives the girls to school, drives herself and the boys to the Fallbrook YMCA in northwest Lincoln where she teaches yoga and Pilates. She leaves Sam and Eli in the Y’s babysitting program while she teaches. When they return home, she sees Sam off on the bus for preschool and puts Eli down for a nap. Then she studies or cleans a bit before picking the kids up from school, helping with homework, making dinner.

She makes almost every meal from scratch because Eli has life-threatening food allergies.

After dinner, she takes the kids to piano lessons or ballet.

Her husband, Josh, also is a full-time student. He’s studying at Southeast Community College to be a drug and alcohol counselor. (He’s also a scholarship recipient.) They study after the kids go to bed. If Emily has a school project or test to prepare for, Josh understands when she has to shut herself in the bedroom to focus.

Emily takes all of her courses at UNO online. She plans to graduate in May with a degree in nonprofit management. She chose the degree because she wants to be in a field where she can help people.

That’s because, she says, so many people have helped her and her husband over the years.

“We know just from struggling as a working-class family, paycheck to paycheck, that it’s hard for people to make ends meet. We’ve been there. And we also know that by completing our education, we are going to be in a position to help people the same way. And we’ve chosen degrees that will help impact people.”

One thing Emily always makes time for in her busy schedule is to write thank-you notes to people who’ve helped her.

Like the note to the YMCA for the dance scholarships for her kids. They’re all taking ballet.

Like the note to the woman, a farmer, who let Emily interview her for her technical writing class.

And like the beautiful note she wrote a few months back to the donor whose scholarship helps her study at UNO. The scholarship, provided by Mary Bernier of Omaha through the UNO Women’s Club, is for nontraditional students like Emily.

Dear Mary, thank you so much for your investment in me…

Her note included photos of her family. She wrote about how the scholarship was not just helping her make a brighter future for herself, but how it was making a brighter future for her children, too.

Her note was so beautiful that people here at the foundation talked about it, and showed it around. (Mary, the donor, actually works at the University of Nebraska Foundation as a fundraiser for UNO.)

Because of Emily’s schedule, she couldn’t go to the scholarship luncheon and meet Mary, who is president of the UNO Women’s Club. It was in Omaha. Emily needed to pick the kids up from school. But she really wanted to thank Mary in person.

They arranged to have lunch. Emily grew nervous. She’d been a stay-at-home mom and a yoga instructor so long, she says, that she felt unprepared for a business-type luncheon.

But her fear melted as soon as she met Mary. They had so much in common. Mary herself had been a nontraditional student, a mom who’d gone back to college – and Mary knew all about juggling family and school and all of the crazy days.

“When I met her, it was like meeting a mentor or a friend,” Emily says. “And I know that if I ever need to call her for advice, I can.”

Student support is one of the top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska, now in its final year. If you also would like to help hardworking students like Emily, please consider giving online or contact the foundation at 800-432-3216.

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