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Being a first-generation student comes with many challenges, especially when finding support. One first-generation student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has found her support through the UNL chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

MANRRS is a national society that promotes ethnic minorities in agricultural sciences and related fields, according to the MANRRS website.

May Diaz, a fourth year plant biology major, is a first-generation student at UNL and when she first came to college, she said all she knew was she had to go to class and get good grades. She didn’t know how to get an internship or that there were scholarships available for school.

Megan Rothenberger, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources student development coordinator, recommended Diaz get involved with MANRRS, Diaz said. 

At the first meeting Diaz attended, she began talking to the person next to her about her interests and how she was still deciding her major. They handed her their card and told her to contact them if she needed anything, Diaz said.

“From there I realized how much potential this club has,” Diaz said. “People like me are kinda underrepresented. There's some people like me that are first generation, their parents never went to college, and it's just nice to have someone there that can help you.”

Diaz is now the treasurer for UNL’s chapter of MANRRS. Angelique Fuentes, a junior animal science major and vice president of the chapter, was also introduced to MANRRS by Rothenberger. 

“MANRRS is a national, student-led organization focused on helping minority students gain personal and professional skills while connecting to careers in [agriculture], natural resources and related sciences,” Fuentes said.

MANRRS gives students an opportunity to enhance their skills outside of the classroom, Diaz said. She said it is also a place where students can feel included.

“It's just nice to have people from different backgrounds come together and help each other out,” Diaz said. 

The chapter was officially recognized by the National MANRRS Organization in Aug. 2021, Brytany Gama, the president of UNL MANRRS, said in an email. The organization existed on UNL’s campus in the past, but Gama said it fizzled out due to lack of exposure. 

Gama and Fuentes, with the guidance of Rothenberger and the late Nicole Frerichs, began discussing reinstating the chapter after noticing a lack of diversity programs, Fuentes said. They decided to restart the chapter from scratch and now have monthly meetings.

“There's always a lot of people who don't feel like they fit in,” Fuentes said. “As long as you're kind of interested in agriculture, you're good to come to our meetings.” 

Fuentes said the goals for the meeting are to eventually go on tours, have guest speakers, and host a study night for members. Fuentes said they’re growing slowly and are currently reaching out to students to get them involved.

“If more people joined MANRRS then maybe they wouldn’t be as confused as I was when I first came in,” Diaz said.

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