KEARNEY – You’ve probably never heard of the Upsilon Eta Upsilon Honor Society for Black Excellence.

One year ago, it didn’t exist on any college or university campus.

That changed last fall, when a group of University of Nebraska at Kearney students came together to create the organization.

Part of the Office for Intercultural Engagement and Leadership, the Upsilon Eta Upsilon Honor Society for Black Excellence was formed with two goals in mind – representation and recognition. Its mission is to promote Black student success through scholarship, leadership and service while establishing a supportive community for members.

“A lot of the Black students here are known for their athletic abilities, but we wanted to highlight their excellence in the classroom, as well, so we created this organization to shine a light on the academic success of all Black students here at UNK,” said sophomore Avery Laing, who serves as president of the new honor society.

An Omaha native studying middle level education with a social science concentration, Laing wants the organization to inspire and motivate current and future members, setting them up for success at UNK and beyond.

“When you look at our society as a whole, it’s harder for Black students to achieve the same things as students who are not people of color,” she said. “We want our students to leave college in the best position possible, and academics is the best place to start. It’s really important that our members understand the value of excelling in the classroom so they can excel outside of it after graduation.”

Although it’s less than a year old, the honor society already has 32 members who will be officially inducted during a ceremony scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room. The entire campus community is invited to attend.

“Being a Black student at a primarily white institution, you kind of feel alone when it comes to relationships with faculty,” Laing said. “By inviting faculty and staff to this event, our members can see the people who are there to support their academic success.”

Since Upsilon Eta Upsilon highlights scholarship and academic achievement, there are certain requirements members must meet. Applicants have to be undergraduate students beyond their freshman year taking at least 12 credit hours per semester. They also must have a GPA of 3.0 or better and be in “good academic and moral standing.”

Instead of scheduling regular meetings, the group decided to host a few large events each year to connect with other students and promote Black culture on campus. Those activities are open to anyone.

“To be involved with Upsilon Eta Upsilon, you just have to show up. These are events you can come to, have fun, make a connection, and you’ll be waiting to come back because we’re going to have fun stuff to do,” said Abraham Hoskins, a junior from Omaha who serves as vice president.

An exercise science major with minors in supply chain management and data analytics, he really enjoys planning activities for his fellow Lopers.

“It brings a smile to my face,” said Hoskins, a track and field athlete who also participates in the Black Student Association, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Last fall, Upsilon Eta Upsilon hosted its first event, “The 90s Playlist,” a celebration highlighting hip-hop and rap artists and their contributions to American culture. Nearly 200 people attended the event, which featured music, food, prizes and a photo booth and collected donations for the Loper Pantry on campus.

Upsilon Eta Upsilon also co-sponsored the Black History Month activities at UNK, and the group is already thinking about future events, such as a cookout serving soul food.

These events are important for a couple reasons, according to Hoskins and Laing. First, they’re an opportunity for Black students to get together, build relationships and develop a sense of community. Laing, an Intercultural Service Scholar who’s part of the Black Student Association (BSA) and Future Educators of Color, says these organizations create a “feeling of home” for members.

They also allow Black students to share their culture and history with Lopers from different backgrounds.

“A lot of UNK students come from places where there isn’t a lot of Black representation,” Laing said. “Hopefully, this organization can give them a good sense of what Black culture really looks like.”

Both Laing and Hoskins expect to see the Upsilon Eta Upsilon Honor Society for Black Excellence continue to grow at UNK and potentially expand to other campuses across the state and country.

“I hope it’s a point of pride for members,” Hoskins said, “because it’s not just something anybody can do. Yes, you can come to our campus, you can join BSA, you can join ASU (African Student Union), you can be Black. But being part of Upsilon Eta Upsilon is prestigious. And it’s something to look back on and be proud of.”