David Festner knows a thing or two about balance, determination and life on the edge. For the past 24 years, he’s sharpened his skills – and his blades – as a competitive figure skater.
Now in his first semester at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, David has always had competitive skating in his life, helping him master his passion and grit in a sport that is simultaneously technical and artistic. His family runs the Blade & Edge Figure Skating Club in Omaha, and he’s competed and coached with the organization, seeking perfection both on and off the ice for his skaters and himself.
Perhaps this helped spark his interests in athletics and creativity, as he now hopes to become a sports broadcast journalist through the UNO College of Communications, Fine Arts and Media. The similarities of his new program and figure skating are hard to ignore – both require precision and technical mastery, but both also call for creativity, drive and passion.
David gets to pursue mastery of this new area as a 2019 UNO Fund scholarship recipient – one of seven promising students who received assistance thanks to the gifts of hundreds of generous alumni and supporters to the UNO Fund.
After graduating from Millard West High School in 2010, David attended Metropolitan Community College to pursue a degree in computer programming, but it wasn’t exactly the best fit for him.
“I originally was going to be an IT specialist,” he said. “I wanted to work with computers, figure out what was wrong with them and everything, but then I sort of realized I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer all the time. So I switched to study audio/video communications. I had never really messed with a camera before, and I thought it would be interesting to learn. I ended up falling in love with it because I was having so much fun.”
David started tinkering with photography on the side and learning various editing software programs. He realized he could combine this interest with his love of sports, but he also knew he would need the expertise a bachelor’s degree would bring if he wanted a chance in the field.
Fortunately for him, UNO offers one of the best programs in the region for this field, and existing partnerships with MCC make the process of transferring credits to achieve a four-year degree a smooth transition. David said staff at UNO helped significantly and made the decision to come to UNO simple.
“I looked at other colleges, but I was afraid my credits wouldn’t transfer,” he said, adding that UNO’s ability to assist community college transfer students gives it an edge over other schools.
In addition, David said another factor made his decision to pursue his four-year degree easy – a scholarship offer from the UNO Fund.
“I was excited,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to come here, and when I found out that I got offered the scholarship over the summer, it made that decision a lot easier.”
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 and make gifts – last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 – to give directly back to students. Thanks to UNO Fund donors, UNO was able to offer David a renewable scholarship to cover much of his tuition through his expected graduation in 2021.
“I just want to say thank you very much,” David said, speaking to UNO Fund donors. “You’re helping the students that need it the most avoid loans and debts and those things that make school harder for us.”
Now, David is focused on earning his journalism and media communications degree. His first semester includes courses on media writing, introduction to journalism and communications, criminal justice and creative writing for the arts. He hopes completing his degree will help him land a job in local journalism, with an eye toward national broadcast networks as his ultimate dream. Thanks to the UNO Fund, David’s found a whole new rink in which to sharpen his skills, find his balance and showcase his determination to succeed.
“I’m still getting myself situated here at UNO, but it’s definitely a huge change,” he said. “Everything I’m learning is completely new to me. It’s a little challenging, learning AP style and all that, but it’s teaching me how to be a better writer. Before I came to this program at UNO, I was thinking, this program is either going to help me or it’s going to break me. So far, it’s helping me out.”