Jessica Jimenez may only be
24 years old, but she’s already accomplished a lot, and it all started with the
Learn to Dream Scholarship at Southeast Community College.
“I knew I had to go to
college, and my parents would always tell me I was going to college,” Jimenez
said. “This was one less burden for them since they couldn’t afford it.”
Jimenez was a senior at North
Star High School in Lincoln when she first heard about the Learn to Dream Scholarship
at SCC. Students in Lincoln who meet the financial guidelines would be eligible
for the scholarship, which pays for up to 45 quarter credit hours. Since
Jimenez did not qualify for many other scholarships, this was a perfect fit for
She started in the fall as an
Academic Transfer student but soon transitioned to the Culinary/Hospitality program
and eventually earned an Associate of Applied Science degree. Jimenez worked a
few years at local restaurants and even trained to be a pastry chef at Venue.
However, the long hours eventually gave way to a weekday job at Nelnet, where
her older brother works.
“Now I work with actual
schools and help with payment plans and marketing,” she said about her new role
as a higher education account manager. She also transferred her credits to Peru
State College where she will work toward a bachelor’s degree in business
“I really like what I’m doing,
and I want to build on that, and I know a degree in my pocket will benefit me,”
Shelley Stoltenberg was
Jimenez’s success coach in the Learn to Dream program. She remembers her as a
very motivated young woman.
“She has a drive to succeed,”
Stoltenberg said. “Jessica is the sort of person who sets a goal and nothing
will get in her way to achieving her dreams.”
Jessica wasn’t the first
member of her family to take advantage of the Learn to Dream Scholarship. Her
brother Christian was the first generation in her family to attend college. He
received his Associate of Applied Science degree in business administration in
2013. He also works full-time at Nelnet as a project manager.
“My counselor convinced me to
apply for it,” he said. “Otherwise I was planning on paying for my tuition and
books, working full-time and going to school part-time. After I received the
scholarship, I shifted gears and was able to go to school full-time while
working part-time. It really helped me get a nice jump toward graduating.”
Younger sister Dulce Jimenez
is a senior at North Star and recently applied for the LTD Scholarship.
“It’s so rewarding to see how
far some of our students have traveled in their life and career goals,”
Stoltenberg reflected. “It’s an honor to watch them grow and get to be a
witness to their achievements.”
The Jimenez family moved to
Nebraska 20 years ago from Mexico City because the smog there was too much for
Christian’s asthma. Her two younger siblings, Dulce and Angel, were born in
Nebraska. Jessica said the Learn to Dream Scholarship also is available for
students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I wasn’t eligible for other
scholarships because I was a DACA student,” she said. “People are afraid if
they apply they will get deported, but dreamers are eligible.”
Jessica is living at home
still and helping her parents financially. Since she didn’t have to pay for her
education at SCC, she is able to contribute more but hopes to one day live
“I can help my parents with
the mortgage, and it’s all because of the scholarship,” she said.
In the meantime, Jessica
encourages students who qualify to apply for the scholarship, since there is
nothing to lose except college debt.
“If money is a worry, start
here,” she said. “Definitely make it your goal to come to college.”