In many ways, nursing student Mayra Vasquez is a quintessential Quad City native. She was born and raised in Davenport, has worked part-time at Hy-Vee for almost five years, and has an affinity for Whitey's ice cream (Her favorite flavors are chocolate chip or cookies and cream).
But Mayra's story is more than that. When she was six years old, her family was in a house fire while visiting her parents' birthplace of Mexico. All survived, but when the family returned to the United States they were treated extensively at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City and Shriners Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati. Much of Mayra's childhood was spent in a hospital, and it was that experience that inspired her to study nursing.
"I don't remember much from the University of Iowa because I was so young, but I do have memories of how caring and respectful the nurses were at Shriners," she said. "They always made sure we were comfortable and they were very respectful of our culture. I really liked that. That's when I started to realize that I'd like to be on the other side of that, that I'd like to help people the way I was being helped."
Mayra will receive her Bachelor's of Science in Nursing on May 11, 2019. Her academic career recently concluded with a preceptorship, where she completed 160 hours of shadowing and working during one semester. Mayra completed her preceptorship in the burn unit at the University of Iowa Hospital. She worked side-by-side with nurses who remembered her and her family from when she was treated there as a young patient.
Mayra is also the latest SAU student to be featured for QC Colleges, a partnership with six other local colleges and universities to promote the importance of higher education in the Quad Cities.
In addition to her bachelor's degree in Nursing and a minor in biology, Mayra will also receive a second minor in philosophy.
"Tanya Randall was the professor who inspired me to get a minor in philosophy. I didn't know much about it coming into it, but she helped me realize that it's so much more than just knowing what's right and what's wrong," she said.
A unique pairing, Mayra said that her philosophy studies will help her interact with patients in her professional career.
"As a nurse, every day you'll be encountering people who have different ways of thinking than you do. They might not believe in certain treatments that are needed, and I think it's important to have an understanding of why people think and feel the way they do," she said.
Mayra will be the second in her family to graduate from St. Ambrose. Her brother Alejandro received his degree in accounting in 2013. She said from a young age, pursuing higher education was instilled in her and has kept her motivated.
"My parents dealt with poverty in Mexico, so when we came here they were always telling me, 'You have to go to school, you have to go to college,' " she said. "Knowing that there are people who don't get the opportunity to go to college is a big motivator for me. It pushes me to think about things from other people's perspective because there's always someone that's worse off than I am. I may have suffered as a child, but I'm ok now."
Mayra was recently offered a position at Unity Point Trinity Hospital in Rock Island on the Neurology/Oncology floor.
In the meantime, she likes to spend her free time drawing. She said it's a way for her to relax and get lost with just a pencil and paper. She even took a drawing class at St. Ambrose and surprised herself with how much her ability improved.