Grand Island Senior High students who plan to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln were able to learn more about careers and explore Chicago during a recent trip.

A total of 15 GISH students were among the 78 students of all grade levels from GISH, Omaha North Magnet High School, Omaha South Magnet High School and Winnebago High School who participated in a trip to Chicago through the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy May 27-31.

According to the NCPA website, the academy prepares first-generation and low-income students from Omaha North Magnet, Omaha South Magnet, Winnebago and Grand Island Senior High Schools to achieve personal and academic excellence.

This is achieved, NCPA says, through “academic counseling and support, leadership building and personal development throughout high school and college, as well as financial assistance to attend UNL and/or Metropolitan Community College.”

NCPA Director Moises Padilla said this is the seventh year the academy has hosted an annual trip for students, Throughout the years, the academy has taken students to destinations such as Detroit, Denver and Kansas City, Mo. He said NCPA chose Chicago as this year’s destination due to UNL’s connections to alumni there.

“Every year, we do this and we select scholars to attend this event,” Padilla said. “The reason we do that is because it is a way to validate them for all the hard work they have done throughout the year. Not everybody gets to go, though. Each city selects scholars and they are selected based upon their commitment to the program, how well they have done academically and how well they show the character NCPA promotes.”

Padilla said the annual trip has a number of goals.

“The first goal was to expose the students to different companies and potential employers, just so they know what is out there,” he said. “They had business visits with some consulting firms and they also met with university alumni who live in Chicago. We had a panel of alumni who came and talked about their passions and how they found their way. The other part was them getting to know the city and exploring different cultures.”

During their trip to Chicago, Padilla said, students toured sites such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Cloud Gate (The Bean), Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History. On the way to Chicago, the group made a pit stop to visit the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

“We wanted to make sure we exposed the students to different college campuses,” he said. “It was on the way there and was a good opportunity for the students to see what it is like there. We bring them to UNL so often, and many of our students want to come to UNL, but we think it is important for students to also see other campuses so they are aware of what is out there.”

Viana Palma, a recent GISH graduate who plans to attend UNL in the fall, said the NCPA students explored businesses while in Chicago, including Accenture, an accounting firm.

“We went to Accenture, got to tour their building, see how they work with their clients and how it is worldwide,” Palma said. “A lot of that included updated technology and an open business space. That was really cool because here in Grand Island, that is hard to grasp.”

She said they were also able to tour the Big 10 Experience Museum, where they attended an alumni dinner and listened to a UNL alumni panel.

Padilla said the panelists included an auditor, a civil rights attorney, a project manager and the former editor of the Chicago Tribune.

“The panel shared what their journey was on picking their majors and things from there,” Palma said. “I will be moving to campus soon, so just being able to see some alumni and get their points of view and opinions on things when they were in college gave me a settling feeling; if they could do it, I can do it, too.”

In addition to the sightseeing, business tours and the alumni panel, Padilla said the trip was also beneficial to students because they were able to interact with students from other high schools.

“The students love this,” he said. “We have them running all over the place during the day, but at the end of the day, we get back to the hotel and they swim in the pool, work out in the hotel gym until it was time for lights out. I think the really neat part was the social time where they interacted with each other. Many of the scholars know the people from their school, but they get to meet people from Omaha and Winnebago.”

Palma said out of everything she did on the trip, the bus ride to and from Chicago, and the social aspect of it, was her favorite part.

“We were all joking, hanging out and were all together,” she said.

Padilla said NCPA plans to host a trip again next year. The trip destination has yet to be determined.

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