He's a native of Ohio; a Kentucky State University graduate; a helper of students in Illinois, Florida and North Carolina; a server in a restaurant; an actor; an advocate for ethnic minority students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln … Those are just a few things that define Kevin Reese, a program coordinator for the UNL Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services (OASIS).
One thing that becomes very evident when visiting with Reese is his desire to help other young men and women of color by personally funding college scholarships.
“I was given a great opportunity through financial support for my education,” notes Reese. “So each year, I save money from my salary and my side hustles to provide scholarships for students of color.”
Reese personally funds the Vision of Excellence Scholarship Program, and each year he promotes the program through his fraternity and Facebook. “Last year, I received 17 applications and took a couple of Saturdays to personally read every application,” he says.
It’s his way of giving back.
Reese came to Lincoln in 2016 to work in UNL’s OASIS program. Around 2,500 students at UNL are under the program's guidance. Ethnic minority students, most of whom are the first in their family to attend a university, participate in a Student Success Course and receive counseling and personal guidance to help them succeed at UNL.
“Kids come to the UNL campus, and they can be overwhelmed with the challenges of fitting in,” says Reese. “The OASIS program, housed at the UNL Multicultural Center, is a safe place where they can come to study, to relax, to work through the challenges they’re facing.”
Reese knows what it’s like to be in the minority and face the challenges of moving to a new place … trying to fit in. He’s also a great example of how to do it.
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“I participated in the Leadership Lincoln Advocates program in 2017-18, and that helped me to plug into Lincoln, to connect to the people here, to hone my skills so I could give back,” Reese says.
The Advocates program is designed to orient, prepare and encourage those with, or who have an interest in, minority and under-represented voices to plug into our community. Each year, participants attend monthly day-long seminars covering a variety of topics from budgeting to understanding the nonprofit agencies and public commissions in Lincoln.
Another way Reese gives back is by helping participants in the Leadership Lincoln programs better understand those they encounter who may be from a different background.
“I tell them to put on the lens of the people of color they meet, to look at things through the eyes of people with a different ethnic background,” he says.
Reese offers a fast-paced presentation that involves the participants in role play, in reflection, in seeing life through a more accepting and understanding lens. He’s worked with participants in Youth Leadership Lincoln as well as with those enrolled in the adult cohorts.
Kevin Reese just doesn’t sit still. From the very first day when he moved to Lincoln, he’s plugged into our community.
“I just don’t understand when people say there’s nothing to do here,” he says.
Reese has added to his list of descriptors since moving to Lincoln. He’s learned to stand up and make use of the power and gifts he has. Among his involvement in Lincoln, he now serves on the board of Leadership Lincoln. He says that it’s the people here that make Lincoln “tick,” and he’s definitely become one of them. Kevin Reese is now an official “Lincoln ticker.”