Pamela Maynez likes a challenge. Maynez graduated from the K-State College of Arts and Sciences Saturday morning with bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biochemistry.
She helped with basic cancer research at the university and also was an undergraduate teaching assistant in an organic chemistry lab during her time at the university.
Despite the daunting nature of her major and her rigorous academic schedule, Maynez’s faced her biggest obstacle when she was in a car crash last fall.
When the accident left her unable to finish the semester, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to recover. But with the help of her mother and the rest of her support system, Maynez — a first generation college student from a family of Mexican immigrants — returned to K-State in January and graduated magna cum laude.
“I felt like my life kind of stopped,” she said. “I didn’t know if I could regain my life.”
Maynez was one of more than 1,800 K-State students who graduated in ceremonies Friday and Saturday.
Speakers at the ceremonies included Woodrow Wilson Elementary School principal Deb Nauerth and Kansas transportation secretary Mike King.
Maynez said she felt lucky just to be attending the ceremony.
“It was hard, being in bed all day,” she said. “You start wondering why it happened.”
Maynez was returning to Manhattan from her home in Dodge City on Oct. 29, 2012, when she fell asleep at the wheel. She was airlifted to Wichita and hospitalized for 10 days. Her recovery even included a hip surgery.
Maynez said the pain at times was so excruciating she didn’t know if she could get through it.
“About two or three days after the accident, I couldn’t stop crying,” she said. “I was just in such bad pain.”
However, Maynez’s mother, Luz Ortiz, stayed by her daughter’s side and helped her through her recovery.
“I’m thankful that my mom was there,” Maynez said. “She got me through it.”
Maynez said her mother pushed her to keep her head up during what she said was a very tough time.
“Her words were uplifting,” Maynez said.
Maynez said it was difficult to return to her everyday life, but she did not want to stop because of her accident.
“After being home for two and half months in bed, having to come back and go to school and do homework was different,” she said. “But I think I adapted well.”
Maynez’s next step is pharmacy school.
She said she has been applying all over the country and is now playing the waiting game.
She said her first choice is the University of Kansas pharmacy school, which would allow her to stay reasonably close to home.
Despite the trouble it caused her, she said the accident taught her about how to face the challenges in her life.
“There are always hard times,” she said. “It’s just a part of the journey. You just have to be strong.”