by: Emily DeWaard
Despite a “whirlwind” first two years in college, Jenny, a P4K student since 5th grade, is on the path to graduate in 2020, feeling excited and passionate about her future.
By her sophomore year, Jenny’s grades were starting to falter. Her classes were challenging, but most of all life at home was stressful. Her dad left and she watched her mother juggle medical bills, her health, and their family. Jenny was also helping care for her grandpa who needed transportation to treatments for bone marrow cancer. On top of it all, Jenny lived out of boxes at times because they moved houses.
“With my home problems and having to take a ton of hard classes when I was pre-med, it felt like trying to hold water in my hands, but it kept falling through,” Jenny said.
A graduate of Central High School, Jenny enrolled at UNO in 2016 planning to be a doctor because much of her family is in medicine. Jenny bounced around specialties from surgery to family physician and nursing, but she was struggling to find the right fit.
“P4K has been constantly encouraging me and telling me it’s going to be OK and that they’re always still there to help.”
She’d started off college with a scholarship from P4K, but when her grades fell, she lost the scholarship for a semester. Despite not meeting the requirements anymore, Jenny said she knew P4K wasn’t giving up on her as she continued to receive support and help navigating her way out of academic probation.
While she worked hard earning money to pay for school out-of-pocket, Jenny also worked to bring her grades back up. In need of an easy A and another credit hour, Jenny tossed a social work class onto her schedule, but she gained so much more than a grade boost.
“Social work is so important, and I can help in so many ways with it,” Jenny said. “I always knew I wanted to help people as a kid, so that’s why I went through the medical phase because that seemed like the obvious path. But I realized I want more interaction with the people I help and to get to know them.”
Inclusive Communities, an Omaha nonprofit, has also been very impactful on Jenny discovering her passion for social work.
“They do three camps a year where we go stay for a few days to help students learn about social issues and work through issues,” Jenny said. “It’s so cool to see the transition they go through during that camp and it’s a big part of why I want to be a social worker.”
Jenny is grateful to Inclusive Communities, her social work professor, her mother, and her program coordinator at P4K for the help and support she’s received throughout school and personal hardships.
Since that tough semester and leaving pre-med to major in social work, Jenny got all As last semester and was on the Dean’s List for the first time. She’s also back on the P4K scholarship and is set to graduate college in fall 2020.
“I think I really needed to hit rock bottom to realize what I wanted to do,” Jenny said. “It sucks, but I really needed it. It taught me that I didn’t want to be in the medical field. Just because I needed that extra credit hour, I ended up finding my passion. If I didn’t hit rock bottom, I wouldn’t have known.”
Jenny is excited to finally know what she wants to do and complete her bachelor’s degree so she can jump right into pursuing a master’s degree.
“Having this passion is keeping me going and now I even want to take summer classes and stay busy. I really want it, so it’s worth it,” Jenny said.
Jenny’s experience taught her to manage her time well. She plans her days carefully and stays on campus all day to finish schoolwork. Studying with her sister, a fellow UNO student, has also helped hold her accountable. And, P4K has helped support and assist Jenny when she needed it.
“P4K has been constantly encouraging me and telling me it’s going to be OK and that they’re always still there to help,” Jenny said. “I haven’t had a lot of stability in my life and P4K gave me that. Also, Deanne [at P4K] is super supportive all the time and she always has the answers to my problem. Creating a connection and bond with a mentor is a big thing because of all the help and support it constantly gives you.”