With confetti, Herbie high-fives and personal salutations from Chancellor Ronnie Green, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln held a small celebration at Memorial Stadium Aug. 23, congratulating the grand prize winners of the Voluntary Vaccine Registry giveaway.
Five students received a check in the amount of one year’s tuition ($9,872) and one faculty/staff member won a trip for two with the chancellor and his wife, Jane, to the August 2022 Husker football game in Dublin, Ireland.
The student winners are Alex Chytil, a junior majoring in forensic science; Sidney Vincent, a sophomore majoring in accounting; Dan Nguyen, a junior political science major; Griselda Aragon, a senior animal science major; and Samuel Flint, a graduate student in computer science.
The faculty/staff winner is Jenna Huttenmaier, an academic adviser in Computer Science and Engineering.
Huttenmaier — who is now preparing to renew her passport — said it was surreal receiving the phone call about winning the trip.
“I’m really excited,” Huttenmaier said. “I got a phone call, and I’ve never gotten a phone call from the Chancellor’s Office before. At first, I thought I was in trouble, but no.”
Vincent, who grew up in Sargent, Nebraska, got a call just as she was getting ready to go shopping with her mom.
“That was a great surprise,” Vincent said. “(My parents) are very excited to know I won’t have to spend as much money on college.”
For Chytil, an Omaha native, the prize will ease the financial burden this year in the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, after starting at Metro Community College. Chytil found out after missing a phone call while at work, but the Financial Aid Office followed up with a voicemail and an email, expressing urgency, so Chytil finally called back.
“She told me that I won, and oh my gosh, I can’t believe it,” Chytil said. “I’m so excited. I can afford my apartment easier and I can spend that money on college.”
All the winners expressed hope that life will feel a little more normal this year on campus, and encouraged anyone not vaccinated yet to do so to help protect themselves and the community.
“I didn’t want to be shut in in quarantine for another year, because that was a rough year, 2020,” Nguyen, of Lincoln, said. “I got vaccinated because I wanted to go out and live life again. It’s for the benefit of the community.”
Chytil overcame a fear of needles to get vaccinated, but knew it was the right thing to do.
“I got vaccinated because both of my parents are in the medical field, and the thought of me contracting COVID, and possibly bringing it home to them and all of their patients terrified me,” Chytil said. “I was really nervous, but it didn’t hurt.”
The Voluntary COVID-19 Vaccine Registry was announced June 23 and giveaways of smaller prizes — eight each week — began July 13. The grand prize drawings cap the first round of prizes. Details on a second round will be announced. Huskers are strongly encouraged to register their vaccinations through the registry to help protect the campus community and to be eligible for future prizes.
Students, faculty and staff seeking the vaccine can attend on-campus clinics from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 25-26 in the Nebraska and Nebraska East unions. Both will offer the Pfizer vaccine, which was granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 23. Additionally, vaccinations are available at the University Health Center.
There is no cost to be vaccinated.