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KEARNEY – The Kearney Bound program changed Bryan Escobar’s life.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney senior grew up in Lexington, where his parents worked at the Tyson meatpacking plant. They made enough money to get by, but paying for a university education would have been a stretch.

“They were always pushing for me to get a higher education,” said Escobar, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Central America more than two decades ago.

“They kind of pressured us to look for scholarships, to apply for scholarships and to do good in school,” he said.

Escobar, whose father passed away during his senior year of high school, found his opportunity through the Kearney Bound program.

The initiative started in 2006 opens the door for more first-generation college students to attend UNK by providing scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition, books, fees and room and board for up to five years.

Kearney Bound Scholars, who are selected through a competitive process during their freshman year of high school, receive academic advising, tutoring, mentoring and other educational opportunities to help them prepare for college. That support continues during their time at UNK.

“If it weren’t for Kearney Bound, I don’t think I’d be attending college right now,” Escobar said of the program that accepts students from Lexington, North Platte, Kearney Public and Kearney Catholic high schools who are Pell Grant-eligible and maintain certain academic standards.

Escobar, who discovered an interest in technology and computers prior to graduating from Lexington High School in 2014, is majoring in information networking and telecommunications at UNK.

“It comes naturally to me,” he said, adding that he enjoys the problem-solving aspect of the field.

That should come in handy next month when the 22-year-old begins his internship with Turnkey Computer Systems, a Texas-based company that provides management and accounting systems for the cattle feeding industry. Turnkey applications and systems track more than 10 million head of cattle each year in 18 states and Canada, according to the company’s website.

Escobar will work from the Kearney office as a field support technician, heading to feedlots and cattle operations to assist with troubleshooting and other tasks.

“It’s kind of like IT on the road,” he said.

The internship turns into a full-time position when he graduates from UNK this summer.

Escobar, a member of the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity, gives credit to UNK and the relationships he built with professors and fellow Lopers for his growth over the past four years.

“I’ve taken so much away from this community and I hope I can share some of my experiences,” he said.