Six Names With Countless Possibilities

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Meet the students YOU are helping achieve their degrees.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for University of Nebraska at Omaha students who are striving for their degrees. Thanks to the help of generous supporters like you, eight students have been able to continue their studies this year with a scholarship from the UNO Fund. Through the collective power of gifts from you and alumni like you, we have been able to provide access to exceptional education to students who need it the most.

While there are many scholarships at UNO, the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships is the only one that sees hundreds of alumni and community members come together and make gifts – last year as low as $5 and as high as $5,000 – to give directly back to students.

We’d like you to meet some of 2020-21’s UNO Fund scholarship recipients:

Karina Ruiz was just starting to feel confident when the pandemic hit. Having moved to a new country, learned a new language, started her business degree at UNO and secured her own place, the pandemic again threw life into uncertainty. She said receiving the UNO Fund scholarship “was like being able to breathe again.” “It really inspires me to want to give back, too, once I graduate and have the means, because I’ve been there,” she said. “I continue to feel more freedom financially because of what you did, because of you deciding to give. Thank you… you changed my life.”

Anna Wesch, already raising three children and working at the same time, decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree and fulfill her longtime dream of becoming an early childhood educator. The UNO Fund scholarship gave her inspiration to keep going, even when her studies got tough. “It’s just so unexpected,” she said. “I’m so very grateful. It definitely helps to make things a little easier and makes it a little more like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ To know that there’s people that believe I can do it too and make me successful, that’s just really cool.”

Beth Hoyt moved from McCook, Nebraska, to pursue communications studies at UNO. With three in her family attending college, she wanted to make sure her degree was affordable for herself and her parents. She chose UNO partly because it has one of the lowest tuition rates in the region, and the UNO Fund scholarship is helping her to graduate on time. “I’m so grateful I won’t be in debt for a long time afterward,” she said. “Th¬at was a terrifying prospect. But just to have that peace of mind is so incredible and so rare, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”

Anna Buchannan has experienced a year full of changes — a move from Metropolitan Community College to UNO, a switch in majors, a new job and, of course, adjusting to the new virtual life of a college student in 2020-21. Fortunately for Anna, UNO alumni and donors have made all of the changes — and hitting her goal of graduating on time — just a little bit easier to manage, providing a scholarship to complete her studies. “It was a super big relief,” Anna said, “because it took out a lot of stress of me having to take a loan. I’ve gotten this far in my college career without having to take out a loan. It was amazing. I was so happy!”

Leah Stednitz had been putting her professional skills as a respiratory therapist to use by volunteering with elderly citizens when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and when that work was put on pause, she decided to become a full-time student and enrolled at UNO. She’s pursuing a multidisciplinary studies degree with emphases in health care administration, gerontology and respiratory care. “I would love to take this degree and run a long-term care facility here in the Omaha metro,” she said. “I want to take my knowledge and passion to truly honor and celebrate our senior citizens. I feel that I can bring the younger tech-savvy groove of society and apply it to our long-term care facilities to help them stay socialized and connected with the outside world.”

Sara Pedersen aspires to be both an author and a librarian. She’s pursuing an online education in library sciences from her hometown of Norfolk. Already a contest-winning writer for her mystery and horror tales, Sara’s own story got a surprising twist last fall when she received a UNO Fund scholarship. “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.”

Thanks to UNO Fund donors, UNO was able to offer renewable scholarships to these students to cover much of their tuition through graduation. The more people who give, the more scholarships we can award to students who need and deserve them. Make your gift of $25, $50 or $100 to the UNO Fund today.

For more UNO Fund scholarship recipient profiles, read about the 2019 recipients here.

UNO Fund

You can help bring more students like these to UNO. The more people who give, the more scholarships we can award to students who need and deserve them. Make your gift of $25, $50 or $100 to the UNO Fund today.

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