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Children get college experience at UNL's Future Husker event

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It’s graduation day again in Memorial Stadium.

A sea of red tees and graduation caps stand near rows of family members on Friday afternoon. School has flown by for the 7- to 13-year-olds. Thursday was their first day.

Unlike their older classmates, the first to eighth graders aren’t on campus to earn their bachelor’s degrees. They’re graduates of Future Husker University, an experience built for the children and grandchildren of University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumni.

In the fifth year of the program, 150 prospective Huskers and alumni explored the university’s various colleges and programs, attending classes about canine behavior, broadcasting, forensics and more.

Classes began at 8 a.m. Friday, but families were able to spend Thursday night in a residence hall and go bowling on East Campus. Eating and sleeping in the dorms is meant to give children the full college experience.

Then, it was time for class. Students scattered to buildings across the campus bright and early to create activism posters or build teddy bear prosthetics.

Shelley Zaborowski, executive director of the Nebraska Alumni Association, said the program is meant to not only engage alumni but also plant seeds in budding students before they pick their university.

“Some (alumni) have four and five generations of Nebraska grads,” Zaborowski said. “There's definitely a strong sense of tradition with some of those families.”

With more than 200,000 living alumni, Zaborowski said the opportunities to get them involved are plentiful. And what better reason to bring graduates back to campus than to share their fond experiences with their children?

Many of UNL’s alumni are involved with the university and would love to see their family members attend, too. Decades after graduation, several still believe the old song: “There’s No Place Like Nebraska.”

“There's something just really special about being in Nebraska and graduating from the University of Nebraska,” Zaborowski said. “If you've traveled anywhere wearing a Nebraska T-shirt or a hat, no matter where you are in the world, you'll meet somebody who has that connection, and there’s sort of this instant bond.”

Patrice Ross is originally from Omaha, but today she and her family live in Nevada. It’s their second year making the long trip. Her 13-year-old daughters won’t be able to attend next year as they'll be too old for the program. But of course, she hopes they’ll come back to campus — perhaps even as students.

“As an alumni, I was very interested to show them my experience at the University of Nebraska,” Ross said. “It also gives them a great opportunity to kind of see what the college experience is like at a younger age.”

Ross studied business, but Friday her twins Miranda and Sophie double majored in dog psychology and engineering — also called the “building towers with spaghetti and marshmallows” degree.

Forty-eight years ago, Jane Schuchardt graduated from the College of Education and Human Sciences. Friday, she brought her great-niece to campus.

UNL is a special place to Schuchardt. It’s where she made some of her greatest memories, she said, and it’s where she met her husband. She went on to study at other universities, but this campus feels like home to her.

“This is our institution,” Schuchardt said. “This is our first love, and this is where we belong.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or jthompson@journalstar.com

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News intern

Jenna Thompson is a news intern who has previous writing and editing experience with her college paper and several literary journals. She is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln pursuing degrees in English and journalism.

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