Photo by Nebraska Communications

Nebraska PEO Program: Investment Beyond Graduation

By Ashley Stone

If the adage time flies when you’re having fun is true, then the past two years of Nebraska Athletics’ Post-Eligibility Opportunities (PEO) Program has gone by in the blink of an eye.

Setting the clichés aside, since the first participants used funds in spring 2016, it is clear to see PEO is fulfilling the need it was created to meet: provide Nebraska student-athletes unmatched educational experiences that increase their marketability, personal and professional development, and intellectual growth.

The above graphic shows the numeric impact PEO has had within the first two years of the program’s existence, noting that 80 Nebraska student-athletes have utilized $570,000 in scholarship aid for experiences in 5 continents, 11 countries, and 15 states. Of those participants, nearly 75% utilize funds for a domestic or international internship and boast a 98% full-time job placement rate at the conclusion of their internship.

In addition, 26% of participants are first-generation college graduates utilizing the program to further their own dreams, the dreams of those who have come before them, and the dreams they have for those who will come after them.

What the graphic does not show is the tangible, life-changing impact it has had on those 80 participants and participants still to come. Each participant has a unique story leading up to their PEO experience and selects an experience meaningful to their personal and professional development, whether taking part in an internship, study abroad experience, or graduate school coursework.

Reviewing experiences the past two years, numerous themes emerge throughout opportunities.

  1. Participants recognize the skills gained from being a Nebraska student-athlete not only helped them excel in their sport, but also helped them excel in their PEO experience.

“Through my PEO internship, I recognized the characteristics (from playing soccer) that transferred over to helping me be a successful businesswoman: taking initiative, going the extra mile, asking questions and not being afraid to fail.” – Jaylyn Odermann, United Way Communication, Community Development & Human Resources Intern, Omaha, Neb. (Soccer Alum)

  1. Participants see themselves for the first time as being more than a student-athlete.

“Leaving college with no work experience, I had no idea how to be successful in an office setting. PEO boosted my confidence and helped me acquire management and communication skills, showing me how to push myself in ways that playing a sport never could. PEO has been an amazing and exciting developmental experience . . . I am no longer just Emily the softball player.” – Emily Lockman, Accurate Line Locating Assistant Office Manager, Mira Loma, Calif. (Softball Alum)

  1. Participants increase marketability and gain full-time employment.

“PEO gave me freedom to pursue an internship I would not have otherwise been able to consider. This experience enhanced my communication skills, allowed me to learn by doing, and helped me gain additional employment opportunities with the American Junior Golf Association.” Ross Dickson, American Junior Golf Association Communications Intern, Braselton, Ga. (Golf Alum)

  1. Participants experience reduced or completely alleviated financial burdens.

“The $7,500 PEO scholarship allowed me to participate in an internship that aligned with my academic and career interests without worrying about how I was going to pay my bills. I gained experience in the career field I wanted to enter and secured a full-time position in family services working with area youth.” – Chongo Kondolo, AmeriCorps Youth on the Move Intern, Lincoln, Neb. (Football Alum)

  1. PEO is the perfect transitional stage between being a college athlete and entering the real world.

“Living in Peru and learning, eating, sleeping, and breathing the culture greatly impacted the way I view public health. The experience broadened my global knowledge, opened my eyes to the need for sustainable living, and intensified my passion for public health. PEO was the perfect transitional stage as I begin graduate school.” – Jennie Laeng, Community Wellness Study Abroad Program, Cusco, Peru (Gymnastics Alum)

  1. Participants experience life-changing opportunities.

“I worked with experimentation of patient-derived cell lineage and possible future treatments for cancer that have a chance of becoming revolutionary ways to approach therapeutic options. I worked with the best in the field of research and gained confidence and comfortability with sensitive and costly material.” – Ryan Irick, University of Kansas Medical Center Cancer Research Intern (Gymnastics Alum)

  1. Participants experience opportunities they thought were unrealistic or far-fetched.

“Studying in Spain was absolutely amazing. I learned about Spain’s culture and gained a greater understanding of other cultures. I saw different parts of the world and participated in experiences I might never have had the chance to do if it wasn’t for PEO: riding camels in Morocco and running with the bulls in Pamplona.” – Jacob Olson, Husker Race of Spain Study Abroad Program, Barcelona, Spain (Track & Field, Cross Country Alum)

  1. Participants embrace stepping outside their comfort zone.

“Spending four weeks in France, taught me the importance of being a life-long learner and increased my confidence learning new cultures, languages and lifestyles outside of my comfort zone. Studying abroad was a dream come true - without the support of PEO, I never would have pushed myself to do it.” – Nicole Schwery, Human Mobility: Artificial Limbs Rehabilitation & Sports Training, Lille, France (Swim & Dive Alum)

  1. Participants gained confidence in their ability to make a difference in their respective career field.

“PEO gave me the opportunity to do something few others get to do - coach at a Big Ten wrestling program. I gained knowledge on what it takes to be a college coach and areas I can improve, greater awareness of behind-the-scenes happenings and confidence in my abilities to excel in future college coaching opportunities.” Jake Sueflohn, Purdue Athletics Volunteer Wrestling Coach, West Lafayette, Ind. (Wrestling Alum)  

  1. Participants are continually grateful for the continued support of Nebraska Athletics and donors.

“PEO shows the continued investment Nebraska Athletics makes in our lives – an investment unlike others as it directly supports our educational/professional pursuits after graduation. I cannot thank Nebraska Athletics and donors enough for your contributions and this unmatched opportunity.” Craig Driver – University of Nebraska Medical Center, Doctor of Pharmacy Student, Omaha, Neb. (Track & Field Alum)

If the next two years produce similar results to the success garnered in the first two years of PEO, the future is bright, filled with student-athletes eager to make a difference in the world, and full of endless opportunities. 

Click here to view additional testimonials from PEO participants.

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