Story by Ariana Ganson ’20, Photo by Aker Ajak ’20

Almost everyone pictures themselves in a future they are proud of. It’s easy to imagine yourself in a position if the person holding it mirrors your image, but for others it may be hard to find someone that resembles them in their dream job. The UNL Black Diversity Leadership Symposium set out to conquer this issue by holding a seminar to help young black individuals see themselves in their ideal future.

On Nov. 6, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln held a Black Diversity Leadership Symposium for black students from Omaha and Lincoln. Their goal was to help students explore and build on their strengths and succeed in their future.

The symposium also showed the seniors what college looks like, and helped to break down the requirements needed to get into their college of choice. Several Marian girls attended the symposium accompanied by Assistant Principal Kris Hennings and Registrar Mary Steiner.

Only black seniors were allowed on the trip. The students who attended had a meeting with their counselor discussing the symposium and received a permission slip for their parents and teachers to sign. 

The day started with a registration and check-in, followed by sessions and panels that ranged from student success advice to community engagement. Sessions were also dedicated to individual student’s future academic paths. This helped students learn more about their individual fields of interest and if UNL fits their plans.

Senior Agoum Monydhel described a panel she enjoyed. “They discussed pre-law and the different opportunities you have at UNL if you study law, which is interesting,” Monydhel said.

Senior Nyayian Biel enjoyed the overall setup. “I enjoyed choosing where I got to go because we weren’t forced inside one big room and had to stay there the whole time,” Biel said. “We got to walk around and experience UNL.”

There were several amazing panels, but the day also gave insight to campus life. Senior Brianna Eilderts said she enjoyed learning about the students and teachers experience. “It was good to see what college was really like and see the good and bad things about it and to hear people’s opinions on it,” Eilderts said.

Senior Malaika Opiyo said she also enjoyed experiencing campus life, describing her favorite part of the day. “I really enjoyed seeing the food court and learning about Greek life and the sororities,” Opiyo said.

The teachers and faculty at the symposium also contributed to the girls’ day.

“It was nice to be surrounded by people who wanted to uplift me in the right direction, and I was surrounded by leaders that looked like me,” senior Achay Kual said.

The symposium gave the students long-term lessons they can carry throughout their whole life.

“The main thing I took away was that because we’re different we shouldn’t see ourselves as inferior,” Monydhel said. “But in my mind, because we’re different, we’re unique, not inferior. We’re all unique so we should use that to promote, not demote.”

“I learned to not back down from what you want. A doctor there talked about how you should never let someone else’s opinion of you sway your dreams, and you should go for everything you want because it might just come to you,” Biel said.

Opiyo also explained the importance of the day: “It was important for me to go so I could see just how diverse a campus like UNL could be.”

The UNL Black Diversity Leadership Symposium helped show students what they are capable of and how their future is in their hands. Students learned more about the importance of diversity in and out of the classroom, as well as in their future and everyday lives.

The symposium helped to show if someone looks around and doesn’t see someone who represents them, they should try not to feel discouraged, but instead inspired to make a difference.

“With leadership and diversity you can’t be discouraged if a ton of people don’t look like you,” Kual said. “You can be a part of the change to build a community that looks like you and does stand for what you believe in. It can start with one and not with many.”