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The Antelope

The Antelope

Small-town students can ‘make it’ by embracing their roots


I grew up in my dad’s childhood home. The turn to my family’s farm is marked by a faded barn, tucked away on the outskirts of Rockville, Nebraska (population: 143).

Traffic jams are caused by fans leaving baseball games and old farmers who refuse to veer their tractors over for others to pass. 

My alma mater sits on pasture lands, five miles from each of the three consolidated towns. My great-uncles and aunts graduated from that school, as did my dad and his sisters, as will my five younger siblings.

These are my roots, but instead of planting me down, they grow with me. 

Last month, my roots followed me to New York City for the Collegiate Media Association conference. 

I met professionals from the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, CBS and other big-name media companies. I visited the Statue of Liberty, the Museum of Modern Art, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Broadway. 

It was incredible, but at the same time, overwhelming. 

My roots were trampled in the busy, New York streets and doubts crept in like weeds. 

I thought, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong in the same room with these people. I can’t make it as a journalist.”

Then I went to a Madison Square Gardens basketball game at the Big East Tournament. My fellow Nebraskans from Creighton University were facing off against Providence College. 

In the early stages of the game, a Providence student hollered at a Creighton student, “Hey, turtleneck, how does it feel to come from nowhere?”

The sweater-clad Creighton student responded with, “I’m not from nowhere. I’m from Omaha.”

“Yeah, that’s nowhere,” repeated the opponent, just in case his punchline was drowned out by the thunderous crowd.  

The Blue Jay just smiled, shook the Providence student’s hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you. Good luck to your team.”

That night, Providence lost to a team from “nowhere” 85-58. 

When you’re a college student from Nebraska, no one sees you coming. It makes a better story when the underdog achieves their goals.

My Midwestern origins blessed me with a good work ethic, strong morals, a sense of humor and a unique perspective. 

Whether I “make it” in this world depends on my perspective of success. 

After New York, I met local news leaders at the Midwest Journalism Conference in Minneapolis.

It filled me with a desire to advocate for the “little guy” with writing. There are so many untold stories surrounding farmers, small business owners and my neighbors. 

The support from these broadcasters reminded me of a quote I heard at the Nebraska American Advertising Federation conference in Omaha.

“I think what you want to do is make things, and I don’t think there is any bigger project than making where you’re from relevant,” said Clint Runge, the CEO of Archrival. “…there are plains and fields here that have opportunities that you just cannot get in Austin, Texas — that you cannot get in New York. It exists in Nebraska.”

At UNK, it’s not uncommon to meet college students from towns of less than 5,000 people. Individuals with this background need to encourage one another and realize that anyone can make it.

Wherever I decide to plant my roots, I plan on using my small-town perspective to make an impact.

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    Todd StoverApr 21, 2022 at 6:07 pm

    Don’t let the liberal professors indoctrinate you respect your conservative values and where you come from. You’re as smart as they are push back with common sense against the liberal ideologies. You will respect yourself for it and where you come from will respect you!!!