The University of Nebraska at Omaha Marion Marsh Brown Writers Lecture Series has featured some of the world’s most well-known authors, bringing names such as John Grisham, Cheryl Strayed, Lee Child and Nicholas Sparks, to Baxter Arena.
Sara Pedersen hopes to someday join that list.
“That would be an amazing accomplishment,” she said. “That’s when you know you’ve really made it, to be recognized in that way.”
Sara is an aspiring author herself. She crafts stories in the horror and mystery genres, taking her inspiration from Stephen King and R.L. Stine. Last summer she even won a tall tales writing contest hosted by her hometown library in Norfolk, Nebraska. It’s a thriller about a deadly young girl, and it ends with a hair-raising twist.
“I don’t want to spoil the ending for you,” Sara said.
Interestingly, Sara’s own story got a twist of its own recently when she was awarded one of eight UNO Fund scholarships for 2020.
While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and supporters come together to make gifts — last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 — to give directly back to students. The scholarship will provide financial assistance for Sara through her expected graduation in May 2022.
“I don’t usually win these kinds of things,” she said. “I am lucky sometimes, but not in the stuff that really matters. I have an older sister who is now an art teacher and went to college, and I have a younger brother who is currently in college in Wayne. So that is three children with debt. My parents both have good-paying jobs, but this award helps lighten the load. I am really grateful for these funds, and if you are one of the people who gave, thank you.”
Born and raised in Norfolk, Sara graduated from Pierce High School, then attended Central Community College for three years. She has always enjoyed literature and spends a considerable amount of time at her local library, where she finds joy in discovering new works as well as helping others find what they’re seeking. Sometimes she even makes recommendations.
For these reasons, she wants to become a librarian. She started studying library services at CCC but knew she would need a four-year degree to achieve her dream. In the winter of 2019, she took an online course from UNO (“just to see how it worked — I passed,” she deadpanned). Comfortable with the experience, she enrolled as a full-time student the next fall and is now working toward her library sciences degree.
Furthermore, Sara hopes to complete her degree entirely online. She still lives in Norfolk, and the fact that UNO has one of the best library sciences programs around, coupled with its expansive online course catalog, attracted her to the school.
“I’m trying to get all my electives out of the way, so I haven’t technically taken library classes yet, but I will,” she said. “I’ve taken some sociology classes — my minor is in sociology. For this semester, my classes are astronomy, technical communications, anthropology, sociology and a creative writing class for graphic novels.”
She’s also continuing her own creative writing and considering submitting her work to 13thh Floor Magazine, UNO’s student-run literary journal.
“Even if I am not accepted, it would be great experience, because if I don’t get used to handing in my stuff and getting rejected or approved, then how am I going to get into the life?” she said.
With a full course load and an eye on her career, Sara said there can be a lot to keep track of, but the UNO Fund scholarship has made it so she can focus on her studies and achieve her intended graduation date of May 2022.
She expressed her thanks to all of the supporters who gave amounts both large and small to the scholarship.
“Thank you for picking me,” she said. “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to show you that I’m worth the scholarship. I hope that with my academic career and with my later job as a librarian, that I will make you proud.”