First-generation Latina student from Dodge City overcomes obstacles to earn college degree
Friday, Dec. 13, 2013
MANHATTAN -- Graduating from Kansas State University on Saturday, Dec. 14, will be a day of triumph for Pamela Maynez.
The Dodge City native, a first-generation college student, will graduate magna cum laude from the College of Arts and Sciences with bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biochemistry.
While at the university, Maynez has contributed to award-winning cancer research -- a blood test to identify breast cancer at an earlier stage than ever before. She's been president of a student organization and has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant. And now she's preparing for pharmacy school.
But overcoming a car accident that could have claimed her life is perhaps the biggest triumph of Maynez's undergraduate career.
On an early autumn day in 2012, Maynez was driving to Manhattan from Dodge City when she was involved in a car accident that left her trapped inside her totaled vehicle until rescuers arrived. She was airlifted to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.
She had to miss the rest of the fall 2012 semester to recover from the accident, pushing back her graduation from May 2013 to December 2013. Maynez's very active and rigorous schedule came to a halt as she retreated to her parents' home to heal from her injuries.
"There were times when I was depressed," she said. "But what kept me going was my mom. She told me to keep my head up and don't give up on what I started."
After a fractured hip, two-week stay at the hospital and nearly three months out of school, Maynez returned to the university in the spring 2013 semester.
"A young woman of incredible power" is how Maynez is described by Stefan Bossmann, professor of chemistry and her research mentor for the Developing Scholar Program, an undergraduate research program for underrepresented students at Kansas State University.
"It was quite clear from the beginning with Pamela that failure is not an option," Bossmann said.
Maynez has worked with Bossman for three years, assisting with his cancer research using nanotechnology. She won a Cancer Research Award from the university's Johnson Center for Cancer Research for three years in a row, and she published an article in the journal Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, "Nanoplatforms for highly sensitive fluorescence detection of cancer-related proteases."
As a top chemistry student, she was selected as an undergraduate teaching assistant for an organic chemistry lab.
Maynez calls her family the pillars to her success at the university. Her mother, Luz Ortiz, and father, Amador Maynez, immigrated to Kansas from Villa Matamoros, Chihuahua, Mexico and have worked labor jobs, mostly at a beef-packing plant in Dodge City, all of her life.
"They have made sacrifices for me to have the opportunities I have today," she said. "I saw their struggles and hardships and I wanted better. I needed to take advantage of every opportunity."
Maynez has done just that. She participated in the Bridges to the Future program, transferring from Dodge City Community College to the university to earn her bachelor's degrees. She has dealt with challenges, including often being one of the few multicultural students in her chemistry classes, learning to be independent and dealing with difficult classes.
Through these challenges, she continued to push herself academically, intellectually and culturally. She served as president of the university's chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, creating a $1,000 annual scholarship that's awarded to a Hispanic student at the university.
"I kept telling myself, 'I have to succeed,'" she said. "I have to make my parents proud. They came to America to give me a better future. I owe this to them."