By Randy York, The N-Sider
In a recent campus-wide event called Our Nebraska, Mike Riley was sharing his experiences working with diverse backgrounds in race, culture and religion when a noteworthy thought suddenly popped into his head.
“At Nebraska, we recruit and get guys from everywhere,” Nebraska’s third-year head football coach said. “I love that, and I think it’s just a great picture of college. I call us America’s Team. I know the Cowboys think they’re America’s team, but I think Nebraska is.
“I love our players, and I love our locker room,” Riley said. “We’re a melting pot here, and it’s not just on our football team. It’s in our athletic department, in all of our other teams and throughout our campus. This university embraces inclusion, and I think it’s the best way in the world to go to college and get educated.”
Volleyball Outside Hitter Tiani Reeves Shares Thoughts about Growing Up
Husker sophomore volleyball outside hitter Tiani Reeves (pictured above with event emcee Lawrence Chatters) was Nebraska’s other keynote speaker for the Our Nebraska event, which was one of five week-long celebrations of inclusion that seeks to encourage UNL students to learn about themselves and to become stronger leaders in society.
An African-American woman who grew up in a white family in Gothenburg, Neb., Reeves said she learned how everyone is willing and accepting if you are willing to be accepting of yourself.
“It’s been amazing,” Reeves said, pointing out how her parents taught and supported her. “The way I was raised became an opportunity for me to get on a platform to do what I’m comfortable doing. I can be more welcoming because I know how people who are different from me can still fit in like a glove and go hand-to-hand.”
Reeves said her parents taught her how to talk, listen, look people in the eye and how to be confident on a daily basis. Reeves’ empowering words connected with a large audience. They also showed how diversity and social justice education creates a welcoming environment for each person to feel accepted, valued and safe.
Chris Phipps, a Husker All-American in the long and triple jumps, gave a musical performance at the ‘Our Nebraska’ event.
Reeves’ Biggest Role Model: Birth Mother Who Gave Her Up for Adoption
Asked who was her biggest role model, Reeves teared up and apologized. “I get a little emotional talking about this,” she said. “My birth mother is my first role model. She was 16 years old when she had me, and she made THE most selfless decision of her life. She made the decision to give me up for adoption so I can have the amazing life that I live. It’s a reminder for me every day to be selfless and not look at somebody and judge them.”
Like Reeves, Katie Jewell, the associate director of academic programs for Nebraska Athletics, also grew up in Gothenburg and appreciated her candor.
“Listening to Tiani tell her story was impactful,” Jewell said. “She was very open and vulnerable in sharing her story. One piece that stuck out for me was hearing her experiences of the challenges to find her identity with both her Caucasian and African-American groups of friends when she came to college, but then realizing that the best thing is simply to be herself.
“Being yourself is advice that is commonly given,” Jewell said, “but hearing it in the context of Tiani’s story made it particularly powerful.”
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