Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Hard work and never giving up paid off for Maria Pimentel

Hard work and never giving up paid off for Maria Pimentel

Maria Pimentel shares hers her journey from cancer diagnosis to graduation in a digital send-off to her peers in the Class of 2020.

Maria Pimentel (BBA ’20) is up for a challenge. She learned English after immigrating from Mexico, supported herself and her family while enrolled in community college, and defeated ovarian cancer.

Her hard work and attention then turned to getting the most from her time at Loyola – including by double majoring and serving as a resident assistant.

“I’m proud and grateful for my education, and I’m very sad to leave my friends, mentors, and coworkers at Loyola,” says Pimentel.

Reflections from the Class of 2020

To celebrate the Class of 2020, Pimentel and other Quinlan students created brief digital send-offs discussing Loyola, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their hopes for the future. Watch Pimentel’s message:

Watch messages from other graduating Quinlan students →

The journey to Loyola

Pimentel’s journey to graduation day was not easy, although she is grateful for her experiences along the way.

“When I came to this country in 2011, I didn’t know any English and it was very stressful. But I was able to learn the language in a year. If I could do that, I know that hard work does pay off.”

After high school, she attended Elgin Community College for three years while working full time to support herself and her family.

“I was always either working, at school, or commuting,” she says. “I wanted to be involved on campus and build a community, but between working full time and my classes, I didn’t have time.

“When I started my search for a university to continue my education, I was drawn to Loyola because I felt I belonged on campus. And Loyola’s Catholic identity fit my culture and my faith.”

Before starting at Loyola, Pimentel was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“I had to go through two major procedures, and my first semester at Loyola was nothing but doctor follow-ups,” says Pimentel. “But through these challenges I found my passion.”

An advocate for others

Pimentel started at Loyola declared as an accounting major, but the fire wasn’t there. It wasn’t until she looked within that she found her calling.

“One of my mentors told me I was a born leader and that I could use that in business,” says Pimentel. “Because of my medical history and my experience coming to the United States, I wanted to become an advocate for the community and for others in need. I decided to double major in human resource management and management in order to help me reach those goals.

“I believe my purpose is to work with honesty, a strong work ethic, to remember where I came from, and to share my story. I wouldn’t be here today without the help of people I met along my journey, and I want to be that person for others.”

Big and small Loyola memories

Pimentel is grateful for many things at Loyola, including the opportunity to participate in the Quinlan Ramble to Los Angeles during spring break of her senior year.

“It was the highlight of my time at Loyola,” says Pimentel. “It was busy and fun, and I was surprised at the network of Loyola alumni around the country. I had the chance to bond with the other students on the trip, and we still keep in touch and support each other.”

But it’s not only the experiences that Pimentel will be grateful for. After graduation, she knows that she will miss the daily routine and her on-campus community.

“I’m going to miss everything – waking up for early morning classes, studying in the Information Commons all night, and my daily routine,” says Pimentel. “And I’ll miss seeing my friends, resident assistant coworkers, and my professors. I’m grateful to know I can still count on them.”

Looking to the future

After graduation, Pimentel is planning on staying in Chicago and continuing to grow her network while searching for a career in human resource management. While things seem uncertain now, she is hopeful that her strength and resilience will help her through.

In her video address to her peers, Pimentel challenges the Class of 2020 to be keep working toward their dreams.

"Never give up. It is okay to get lost along the way, to change the dirction of your path, and to lose your faith sometimes. What counts is the times you get up and keep fighting."

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