My Loper Life

Click on images below to learn about some amazing people who are making a difference at UNK. Do you have a story to tell? E-mail meanskr@unk.edu for details. All statements made by individuals photographed belong to the individual and do not necessarily represent the beliefs and opinions of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. 

Aaron Estes

Aaron Estes // UNK Staff // Associate Director of Academic and Career Services

Aaron Estes // UNK Staff // Associate Director of Academic and Career Services

My dad, Kent Estes, who was a professor at KSC/UNK for 30 years, passed away in 2005 after a long battle with leukemia. At the time, I don’t think I really grasped how sick my dad was because he was able to maintain such a positive attitude. No matter what his circumstances were, he was always looking for ways to help others.

This past fall, on my dad's birthday, I hosted a “Be the Match” bone marrow donor drive on campus, and was overwhelmed by the generosity of our students, faculty and staff. Now, I’ve been nominated to participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man/Woman of the Year fundraising contest.

I see it as an amazing opportunity to continue to honor the memory of my dad, while supporting an organization that is leading the fight against blood cancer.

Participating in this campaign is my chance to carry on his fight, in hopes that other families will experience successful treatments and get even more time with their loved ones.

Ty Danielson

Ty Danielson // Junior // Health and P.E. K-12

Ty Danielson // Junior // Health and P.E. K-12

‘’My freshman year of college, one day I woke up to the news that my best friend, JJ, had committed suicide. Nobody truly knows why, and that is probably the hardest thing to accept. I was in depression for quite some time, and even had thoughts of taking my own life. Something people should know: IT GETS BETTER. When you’re depressed, you don't truly see the joy and blessings around you. Your mind tricks you into thinking you're never going to get past it, but YOU DO. The biggest impact it made on me is that I see life in a different way. I can relate to people who truly are depressed and struggle with negative things happening in their life. Depression is real. Yet our society often overlooks it."

For students interested in learning more about suicide prevention or dealing with depression, please visit UNK Student Health & Counseling located inside MSAB.

Klint Conroy

Klint Conroy // Senior // Psychology

Klint Conroy // Senior // Psychology

“I got involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association through my fraternity and ended up as a camp counselor for the summer camp. Being an MDA camp counselor is a very uplifting experience. It’s great to see these children stay in high spirits, even though they have various forms of Muscular Dystrophy and other disabilities.

These kids inspire me to always stay positive no matter what I may be going through. Being a camp counselor is stressful and hard work during the week, but seeing the kids smile and laugh is what makes me want to keep coming back each year. It’s one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. I hope others can feel inspired to volunteer at this camp, and put themselves out there. Get out of your comfort zones, you may be surprised by what you find.” 

Ellie McDonnell

Ellie McDonnell // Sophomore // Exercise Science

Ellie McDonnell // Sophomore // Exercise Science

"My teammates and I went to visit a third-grade classroom in Omaha to talk to the kids about what it’s like to be in college. At their school they have a No Excuses program, which means that there are no excuses not to go to college. About 90 percent of the kids that go to the school are on free lunch, so they come from low-income families. After our visit, I felt inspired to write to one of the kids and we became pen pals. It’s amazing how they show the kids that no matter what your situation is in life, college is always an option. The boy I am writing to wants to go to college and play football. I hope to encourage him with my story of being a student athlete and the first person in my family to earn a college degree. Getting that degree can offer so many opportunities to get a good job in the future.”  

Stefani Perez-Zamarripa

Stefani Perez-Zamarripa // Senior // Political Science and Spanish Translation

Stefani Perez-Zamarripa // Senior // Political Science and Spanish Translation

“It's important for minorities to vote because our voice is also important. Being Hispanic, I know many people who think that in the end whoever is elected to represent the country will forget about Latinos but something that we struggle with is understanding and realizing that our voice is just as important as anyone else's. "Nuestra voz es nuestro poder." Our voice is our power.

Es importante que los que pertenecen a minorías raciales voten porque nuestra voz también es importante.  Ser Hispana, conozco a mucha gente que piensan que al final, cualquier persona es elegida para representar el país se olvidara de los Latinos.  Pero algo que a nostros nos cuesta entender es que nuestra voz es tan importante como la voz de otros.  Nuestra voz es nuestro poder.”
Abraham Alvarez

Abraham Alvarez // Junior // Industrial Distribution and Marketing

Abraham Alvarez // Junior // Industrial Distribution and Marketing

"I want to help people and kids out there who have had a rough life. I once considered giving motivational speeches and sharing my story to those kids in order to give them the motivation to keep moving. When I was growing up I use to have epilepsy, this made things really challenging especially learning, and playing sports. However, after undergoing treatment I was cured and things seemed to go better. A lot of people assumed that I would never go to college or amount to anything, but after all the hard work and dedication, it paid off. My advice to kids is to live life to the fullest, chase your dreams and never give up.”
Sarah Shuck

Sarah Shuck // Senior // Interior Design

Sarah Shuck // Senior // Interior Design

"It is hard to go to school and a raise a child. It's even harder when you are in a major that needs you to be on campus constantly. When we moved here Norah was only one. I couldn't bring her to campus without her disrupting class or other students. I'm lucky I have such a great support system. I hope to be an example to not give up. I firmly believe I am being a better mom by sticking college out. I want to teach her that she can be anything no matter what.”
Kori Hixson

Kori Hixson // Senior // Communication Disorders

Kori Hixson // Senior // Communication Disorders

“I am applying for graduate school in order to pursue my dream career as a speech-language pathologist. For the time being, I plan to work in a school district as a paraprofessional with students who have special needs. My previous experiences working with children who have disabilities makes me very excited for this opportunity. It is also a great way for me to better acclimate to an educational setting, as I envision myself working as a speech-language pathologist in a school system once I have completed my degree. I will begin graduate school in the Fall of 2017 – fingers crossed – and look forward to what the future has in store for me in this career path I am so incredibly passionate about. As I reflect on my time at UNK, I discovered the greatest lessons we can learn are the ones that come from experiences we never expected to encounter.”
Ryo Suzuki

Ryo Suzuki // Senior // Business Administration/Management

Ryo Suzuki // Senior // Business Administration/Management

"When I said that I would go to a college in the U.S, my friends thought I was joking because my English wasn't that good honestly. I studied English more than five hours every day in my senior year of high school.

When I got here at UNK, few international students had leadership positions and there were many barriers that international students had to overcome to be involved. The last three years we worked so hard to establish a stronger international community at UNK and it’s been rewarding to now see international students have leadership positions.

My friends always say I am passionate about what I do, and I love what I do. They describe me extrovert, positive, and funny. My family say I am adventurist, and always take risks."

Alam Alvarez

Alam Alvarez // Sophomore // Business Administration

Alam Alvarez // Sophomore // Business Administration

During my middle school years I was angry that I was growing up without a father figure. I wasn’t too caring towards others - not smiling, greeting, or starting conversations with too many people. I’m grateful that I rebounded during my high school years by understanding that I still had loved ones all around me and a change of attitude could make a world of difference.

Susan Honeyman

Susan Honeyman // Author // UNK Professor of English

Susan Honeyman // Author // UNK Professor of English

What advice would you give to your 10 year old self?

"To keep reading. At that age I was labeled a “remedial” reader but none of the speed-reading tutorials I was given as a remedy helped. My reading problems continued from elementary school through high school, but very gradually improved with much work. Now I love reading."

Tell us something you’re passionate about in your life.

"Child rights. My publications usually advocate for the recognition of children’s rights, though in varied ways. The book I’m currently working on is about children with invisible disabilities. Many young people live with impairments or chronic illnesses that are invisible to others, which aren’t taken as seriously as so-called visible disabilities. They require a lot of explanations in order to get proper accommodations. With intense migraine and chronic pain, for example, it’s difficult for adults to really understand how much kids are affected. This forces kids to publicly “tell all” about very personal details of their health maintenance, at a time when kids really just want to fit in.

For my book, I interviewed people who experienced invisible disability as children. Many people I interviewed spoke of threats of expulsion and police being sent to the home because of so many school absences. The school environment can seem pretty hostile when the general public is uneducated about how certain impairments require “flex time” and other accommodations.

Unfortunately, many kids in situations like this wind up having to change schools frequently to find adequate accommodation. Switching schools helps, but not everyone has the mobility to do that. Fortunately, some have great advocates in their parents. When my own experience with migraine became too disruptive to my schooling I was lucky enough to instead be enrolled in an alternative school with more flexibility. Within a year I was able to attend school regularly and even take part in afterschool activities." 

Ryuta Sakai

Ryuta Sakai // Junior // Athletic Training

Ryuta Sakai // Junior // Athletic Training

“I love coffee. I drink a couple cups of coffee every day. Also, I sometimes drink an energy drink in addition to coffee. I may be addicted to caffeine."

Rika Asai

Rika Asai // Senior // Travel and Tourism

Rika Asai // Senior // Travel and Tourism

“Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve wanted to work in the tourism industry in Hawaii. Because the Travel and Tourism program at UNK requires me to complete an internship, I decided to go for it. I went to Hawaii this summer to interview at a Japanese wedding company, and found out a couple of months later that I got the internship. That was one of my dreams, and I am happy to say that I have achieved my dream!”

Rebecca Meyer

Rebecca Meyer // Senior // Social Work

Rebecca Meyer // Senior // Social Work

“I am adopted. I was adopted from the foster care system when I was 13 years old. Currently, I am working with an amazing organization called Compass and I am speaking at different churches and advocating for people to think about adopting, fostering, or even just volunteering to help foster children. I am trying to share my story because there are about 250 children in the foster care system waiting to be adopted and there are over 2,500 churches. I believe every child could have a good family.

That’s the reason why I am a social work major - because now, I want to be the one to help others. Specifically, I want to work with foster children, adoption, and child abuse. I care about helping orphans and those who need help, attention, and empowerment.”

Rachel Nozicka

Rachel Nozicka // Senior // Double Major, English, Philosophy

Rachel Nozicka // Senior // Double Major, English, Philosophy

One of the most memorable experiences I have had at UNK was having the opportunity to study poetry under Dr. Don Welch. His love for poetry and his incredible ability to teach and help young poets as they craft their poems has inspired me to want to work with young poets myself.

Lexy Delvaux

Lexy Delvaux // Junior // Early Childhood and Elementary Education

Lexy Delvaux // Junior // Early Childhood and Elementary Education

“I believe that being kind to others is one of the most important things that a person can do. One of the reasons I chose to come to UNK was because of its friendly atmosphere. I strive to maintain this reputation of the university by doing what I can to show people on campus kindness every day. I love to give people compliments, and I try to smile at the people that I pass by on my way to class. I also think it is important to hold doors open for others. I try to do these little things for others because I know what a positive impact they have on me!”

JP Lempke

JP Lempke // Senior // Music Composition and Piano Performance

JP Lempke // Senior // Music Composition and Piano Performance

Many of us are guilty of claiming that we’re too busy to add another task to our schedule. Time only flows in one direction, and so often it is dawdled away. The “busiest” individuals only claim so because so much of their days are wasted to recreation, only pushing important tasks to the last minute, thus never having time when asked to do something. The least “busy” people, though, often have full schedules, but make the time to help others anyway. I feel like I make an efficient use of almost every day of the semester, and people turn to me as a leader they can count on.

Emily Olsufka

Emily Olsufka // Senior // Marketing Major

Emily Olsufka // Senior // Marketing Major

"Three years ago I started working at a makeup counter with Lancôme. My mom and sister are both hairstyles, who also do makeup and just being around that my whole life sparked my interest with wanting to do makeup. Then people got interested in my work and started asking me to do their makeup, so with that I began freelancing. Over the summer months, I do weddings every week and it has spread just by word-of-mouth. It’s something I love to do and it’s my passion in life."

Danielle DeTurk

Danielle DeTurk // Senior // Social Work Major, Criminal Justice Minor

Danielle DeTurk // Senior // Social Work Major, Criminal Justice Minor

"My biggest success recently has been bringing the human trafficking survivor to UNK. This was definitely the biggest thing I took on in my undergraduate career, it was a lot of work and super stressful, but when the time came everything was perfect and all my months of work had paid off."

Dana Slaymaker

Dana Slaymaker // Senior // Philosophy

Dana Slaymaker // Senior // Philosophy

“I did a community service projects through an education class my sophomore year. I was assigned to meet with an elderly woman at a nursing home in Kearney for fifteen hours throughout the semester. Slowly, we truly became friends. She shared her life story with me, and I shared mine with her. She inspired me, made me laugh, and made me cry. She didn’t have any family around and I don’t have any family in Kearney, so we felt like each other’s family at times. By the end of that semester, we exceeded the fifteen assigned hours and I visited her periodically for the entire next year. I truly believe she was placed in my life so that I could help her to feel loved while she was in a difficult place. In turn, she inadvertently showed me the beauty and dignity that exists in every human soul.”

Carolina Ramos

Carolina Ramos // Senior // K-12 Art Education

Carolina Ramos // Senior // K-12 Art Education

Tell us something about yourself that is unique...

"I have a twin sister and we were born on leap day! So this coming February, I'm going to be six, and I plan to act that age for about four years." :)

What's one life lesson you've learned at college?

"Life isn't about getting by and surviving. It's about thriving."

Andrea Guzman

Andrea Guzman // Junior // Early Childhood and Family Advocacy

Andrea Guzman // Junior // Early Childhood and Family Advocacy

I helped initiate a peace movement when I was in high school. We disliked unnecessary violence so we talked with other high schools to vow to spread peace and not violence. We talked at schools, council meetings, and with the news. We had meetings and luncheons with the mayor of Omaha and regular meetings with local officers who helped us build goals. Within six months we were given a report that stated the area where we were conducting most of our hard work had dramatically decreased in gun violence. This is another thing that helps me with my doubt because it’s a reminder that I do have the ability to change things and better the community around me

Amanda Slater

Amanda Slater // Sophomore // Language Arts 7-12 Education Major

Amanda Slater // Sophomore // Language Arts 7-12 Education Major

“Throughout my high school years, I was an extreme introvert – keeping to myself during class, spending the majority of my weekends at home, and focusing all of my attention on academics. When I tell this to those people whom I have met in college, they stare at me in disbelief. Now, I feel as though I am the complete opposite – able to hold lengthy conversations with complete strangers and always willing to take on challenges that present themselves.”

Allison Witcofski

Allison Witcofski // Sophomore // English/Pre-Law

Allison Witcofski // Sophomore // English/Pre-Law

What activities are you involved with on campus?

"UNK Honors Program: I have met lifelong friends through that program, so I will always be grateful for being a part of this community on campus.

UNK Phi Eta Sigma: I was nominated for this group based on my academics and involvement on campus. I am really flattered to be recognized for it. Also, one of my favorite professors is the chairman of it, so that helped influence me as well.

UNK Residence Life: I applied to be a Resident Assistant to meet new people and help students have a successful year at college. I just really enjoy making a difference, even if only by helping one person at a time.

UNK Yoga Community: I always wanted to try yoga, and my friend from home was in the club, so I just thought, eh, why not?

Newman Center Choir: I thought I might as well put my flute lessons to good use. Also I made some friends who were in the choir, so peer pressure was a factor.

College Republicans: My friend is the vice president of the club. She talked me into joining after I tagged along with her to a Ben Sasse rally where Mitt Romney spoke to us. That was so cool! I also joined to better understand U.S. politics.

These clubs have broadened my horizons. Who would have thought I would get to see Mitt Romney in person?! I never knew Laughter Yoga was a legit practice. I had no idea Daylight Donut midnight runs were a real thing. I have been blessed with amazing experiences and friendships that will last me a lifetime. Coming from a small town, I never dreamed I could have these opportunities. I am eternally grateful.”

Austin Edghill

Austin Edghill // Junior // Business Administration Major/ Marketing Emphasis, Music Minor

Austin Edghill // Junior // Business Administration Major/ Marketing Emphasis, Music Minor

“I am a person who has a full out passion for music and performing. I want to eventually market for a music company of some sort, and do sales as well, if possible.”

Cesar Mauricio Duran Palacios

Cesar Mauricio Duran Palacios // Senior // Organizational and Relational Communication

Cesar Mauricio Duran Palacios // Senior // Organizational and Relational Communication

"I am currently a Thompson Scholar Mentor, president of a new campus ministry called “Remanente,” and a bilingual service intern at Kearney eFree Church. I know that my purpose in life is to positively impact peoples’ lives. I’ve made many mistakes trying - and will make more in the future -but from all those mistakes I have been able to relate to many people.

The turning point in my life was the summer of 2013 when I attended Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA) and it's difficult to describe but God spoke to me and basically said it was time to turn my life around. I always knew I was to work in the ministry but always ran away from who I was suppose to be."

Juan Carlos Guzman

Juan Carlos Guzman // UNK Staff // Director of Office of Multicultural Affairs

Juan Carlos Guzman // UNK Staff // Director of Office of Multicultural Affairs

“My journey in achieving Higher Education was not an easy task. I came to this country when I was 14 years old. I graduated from Grand Island Senior High School in 1993, and was one of the three English as a Second Language students who graduated that year. I was a first generation and undocumented student who had the dream of succeeding, but did not have the academic credentials or the financial support. I can honestly say that the odds for me to succeed were against me. But I never gave up on my dreams. It took me 10 years to graduate with my bachelor’s degree from UNK and now that I am working in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, I have the honor of helping other students succeed.

I believe that in O.M.A. we challenge our students to see the bigger picture and to think broadly and deeply about who they are, and to recognize their gifts and talents as one of the most important ways in which they can address issues of social justice in our world."

Kara Mercure

Kara Mercure // Senior // International Studies and Pre-Med

Kara Mercure // Senior // International Studies and Pre-Med

Last year, in my Gender and War senior seminar course, we had to write a final paper. I chose to write about the role of women in the Nazi regime. In January, my advisor and professor emailed me about my paper asking to submit it to the Undergraduate Research Journal at UNK. I found out in March that my paper would be published. In July, when the copies of the Undergraduate Research Journals were published, I got to see my paper in a book! It was so unreal

German history has always fascinated me. For the ability of one man (Adolf Hitler) to manipulate so many people and cause so much destruction is tragic and astounding. Then, to find out how involved women were in the process was something unexpected.

Laura Hawk

Laura Hawk // Junior // Communications Disorders

Laura Hawk // Junior // Communications Disorders

“When I was young, I actually had a speech impediment. It took longer than we thought it would to fix. But now, many years later, I love to talk. Right now, I’m studying to be a speech pathologist. I truly believe that everyone deserves the confidence to be able to talk. If I can help kids find that confidence, then I am going to try my best. I believe that life is good and those kids deserve to have something to smile about."

Laurie Venteicher

Laurie Venteicher // Junior // Journalism Major and English Popular Culture Minor

Laurie Venteicher // Junior // Journalism Major and English Popular Culture Minor

"I think my biggest success story is having the courage to chase my dream of traveling. I grew up in a small, rural Nebraska town, so I knew if I wanted to go places and see the world, it would have to be because I made it happen. And I did. I studied abroad. It was an experience that I will never regret."

Lisa Klingelhoefer

Lisa Klingelhoefer // Graduate Student // Student Affairs

Lisa Klingelhoefer // Graduate Student // Student Affairs

“I studied in Olomouc, Czech Republic in 2012 and have been back to Europe every year since. Studying abroad was the best decision I made. I learned to take the time to get to know others and form relationships. Olomouc holds a special place in my heart not because it’s a charming town but because of the people I met while I was there. It's important to put down your iPhone and take the time to say hello to someone and live in the moment. E-mails, Instagram, and Facebook can wait."

"I credit studying abroad to me meeting my Spanish fiancé. If that’s not a success story, I don’t know what is.”

Luke Grossnicklaus

Luke Grossnicklaus // Sophomore // Business Education

Luke Grossnicklaus // Sophomore // Business Education

"When I was four years old I was diagnosed with a rare skin disease in my right leg. On June 8th, 2009 I had my right leg amputated in Minneapolis at Shriners Hospital for Children.

I came to UNK knowing that the University and its students would be very accepting of my disability. I also joined a fraternity so I could have a brotherhood that was always there for me when I needed them. I came to UNK to play golf and that is something I never would have dreamed of when I was first diagnosed. UNK has allowed me to go beyond my limitations with my disability to the point where I don’t think of myself as having one."

Sandi Tappan

Sandi Tappan // Java Notes // Staff

Sandi Tappan // Java Notes // Staff

I get to be a mom to about 700 UNK students I interact with. I try to make a difference by helping them any way I can. Just being a shoulder to cry on when you need it, or to help celebrate successes and tell you how proud I am when you do good, or simply say “good morning” with a smile.” “Since I started at UNK I watch the smartest kids graduate and run this world. They’re full of great ideas and I know with them in charge, this world is going to be just fine.

Tara Bjorklund

Tara Bjorklund // Senior // Biology Major, Spanish Minor

Tara Bjorklund // Senior // Biology Major, Spanish Minor

"I have a minor in Spanish and through the Spanish department, I studied abroad in Costa Rica over one summer. This experience pushed me into uncomfortable situations and forced me to use a language that was not native to me. By the end of the trip, I was upset about leaving. My Spanish skills showed dramatic improvement and my knowledge about a new culture had expanded."