University of New Mexico student Maria Mendez will graduate this May. Even after losing her father to suicide, she pushed to finish college.

Mendez came to UNM from Pomona, Calif. She attended CEP orientation and got in contact with an advisor who was able to help her work out a plan to pay for college. She was able to split her time between UNM and CNM.

During Mendez’ freshman year, her father passed away and it became harder for her to pay to attend UNM. She withdrew for a year until she received the McNair Scholarship.

Originally coming to UNM for its medical program, Mendez is double majoring in Biology and Psychology.

Mendez said that being a Lobo made her more of a go-getter. “It helped me look for opportunities,” Mendez said, “People are very willing to help and are very encouraging.”

Mendez said that her biggest motivators are both of her parents in different ways. She was close to her father who helped her prep for college. Her mother pushed her to continue even after the loss of her dad.

Mendez said that she will be the first in her family to graduate, “My parents were always very big on going to school and having a job [my siblings and I] loved.” Mendez said that her parents always told her that school was the way to achieve that.

After graduation, Mendez will be attending graduate school at DePaul to earn a master’s in counseling. She is excited to explore, but ultimately she hopes to come back to New Mexico. Mendez hopes to become a professor one day.

Mendez said her biggest piece of advice for those who are feeling discouraged about graduating is to just keep going. “Time’s going to pass you by anyway,” she said, “Even if you struggle you’ll get there.”