Villa serves as a role model on and off the field

Cece Villa smiles through a soccer net while wearing a red Nebraska cap and black tank top; photo by Kristen Labadie | University Communication and Marketing

Villa serves as a role model on and off the field

11 Jun 2024     By Katie Black, University Communication and Marketing

Editor’s Note — This Q&A is part of a weekly conversation series on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature Huskers who are making impacts on campus and look to maintain that momentum in future careers.

As a Husker soccer student-athlete, Cece Villa — a senior nutrition, exercise, and health science major from Altoona, Iowa—is serving as a role model and advocating for others.

What originally drew you to your major? Is there anything you hope to do within that industry or in athletics in the future?

Originally I was drawn to the nutrition, exercise, and health science major because of the ambiguity of it. I wasn’t forced to choose a pre-health or pre-physical therapy track. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I was pretty sure I wanted to work with student-athletes in a health environment. This has recently developed and changed as I have leaned into my passion for advocacy and those who are underserved and underprivileged.

In the future, I hope to work in a diversity, equity and inclusion role in an athletic department. I want to help student-athletes develop into better people out of sports in order to help them succeed in sports. I have always loved volunteering and helping those around me but I truly discovered my passion for advocacy through the Husker Life Skills department as I took on different leadership roles in the athletic department.

I served as the Social Justice Officer for our Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) for a year and that really pushed me to grow and learn how the athletic department could grow and how we were falling short of advocating for our student-athletes. The other way I have leaned into that passion is by leading as the president of our Athlete Ally chapter and restarting the Big Ten initiative, Queer Student Advisory Committee (QSAC). I want to be able to give back in the future and use my passion for student-athletes and people to create more inclusive environments in sports. Sports should be a safe space and outlet for all and I am willing to work in order to make that happen in whatever role I am in and wherever I end up.

Can you talk more about what your chosen family means to you and how they have supported you?

Chosen family has been my backbone through my whole journey. I have always been very fortunate to have such amazing people in my life that love me through everything and support me in every aspect they can. Through my journey, I struggled with a lot of internalized homonegativity and finding an intersectionality between religion and sexuality. I leaned on my chosen family so much during high school as I was struggling with all of these things internally. As I have come to college and grown more confident in who I am, my chosen family is still just as important. I have a small group of people in my life but they are so important to me and show me love all the time. I truly know they have my back if anything happens. I still struggle with homonegativity within myself even though I am much more confident in myself and my sexuality now. I still lean on those individuals whenever I am struggling with doubt or my mind isn’t as positive as it could be.

You’re involved with a variety of organizations on campus, from Dance Marathon to groups in Husker Athletics like SAAC. How do your involvements on campus allow you to make an impact?

Me being involved and wanting to join groups really started because of my siblings. I have two older siblings who were both involved in high school and college and I really wanted to follow in their footsteps. Freshman year I just joined groups to meet people and see what I liked and now heading into my senior year I am a part of fewer groups, but they are all ones I am passionate about helping the people in. I want to help people and give them opportunities they might not have had before. Dance Marathon is a prime example of that. My brother was diagnosed with cancer when I was seven years old and Dance Marathon from other universities helped support my family and allowed me to go to a free summer camp for years. I want to be able to give that back to those families and kids who could be experiencing similar things to me and my family. Same with SAAC, there are so many opportunities to give back through the athletic department here at UNL and volunteer in the Lincoln community. I try to get out and coach or just talk to kids in the community as much as I can, because they really do look up to Husker Athletes. I want to encourage them to study and do what they can to help others to help them grow up to be good people and students.

Being a student-athlete at Nebraska provides a big platform. Can you talk about what it’s like to be a role model for others?

I have never been a part of a community like the Nebraska community’s support towards student-athletes. The fans are such big advocates and believe in UNL athletics as a whole it is so cool to feel so supported all the time. I love being able to take advantage of the opportunities through the Life Skills department in the Athletics Department in order to give back to the community. We do so many outreach opportunities by going to schools and talking to kids or volunteering at after-school events and playing games. I have been able to participate in many different activities and events and it is always so fun to meet the kids and give back to the Lincoln community that treats me so well. Being able to take pictures and just talk to the kids about their dreams and what they like and give them attention and time fills my heart with joy. I looked up to my siblings so much and it is so awesome that I have the opportunity to be that role model for these kids. I am able to influence their future and give them someone to look up to. That is the cool and unique privilege of being a student-athlete at UNL.

Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?

I have so many small goals, but my big goal is to create positive change. I want to work somewhere and create positive change for those athletes. Create a more inclusive environment, a more fulfilling environment, and a more productive environment for them to be able to be themselves and perform to their fullest potential. I have been a part of a period of time in our athletic department where there has been a lot of change and I want this change to continue after I graduate for the better. It is so exciting to see the athletic department at Nebraska become more welcoming and inclusive towards all athletes and work towards helping them out of competition so they can perform to their fullest in competition.

What or who inspires you?

My two older siblings are my biggest role models and inspirations. I looked up to them so much growing up and following in their footsteps through high school and college. I am the only one who was an athlete, but I still did everything I could to do my best academically and in extracurriculars in order to receive the same awards and be involved in the same things as them. My sister and I have become a lot closer as we have gotten older too and she has inspired me to lean into my passions and work for what I love. To educate myself as much as I can and to spread that education to those who really need it. She is such a strong individual in every way and that has pushed me to want to be strong and take care of myself. It is so nice to have her in my corner and always pushing me to be a better human.

What is your advice to other students looking to make an impact on campus?

If you are passionate about it, get involved. If you don’t know your passions yet, join a bunch of groups, make friends, and learn. Have an open mind and learn about as much as you can, you might just stumble upon something you love and are passionate about making a change or an impact in. That is how I found my passion. I got involved and found out that I wanted to work in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

College of Education and Human Sciences
Nutrition and Health Sciences

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