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Class of 2024: Karina Martinez-Contreras

Karina Martinez-Contreras learned a lot from the patients she worked with during a physical therapy internship, and she’ll carry those lessons with her into her professional career. A Kinesiology major, Karina found support from Assistant Professor Jessica Ford in planning her degree path and aiming high.

A student stands with her arms crossed outside.

Karina Martinez-Contreras is a Kinesiology major from Brentwood, Maryland.

When I took my first step on the Hill, I was: A very timid and shy person, but ever since I started here at McDaniel, I have been able to remake myself into the person I am today. And I am glad to say that I am now someone who isn’t afraid of public speaking, is outgoing, and always willing to try new things.

The me who will ring the Old Main bell on Commencement Day is: Grateful, proud, and accomplished. I am grateful to God for allowing me to finish this journey that I started four years ago. I am also proud of all the hard work and effort I put in to achieve this dream goal of graduating college. I feel accomplished because despite the bumps and the obstacles I have had on the road to get here, I overcame all those with hard work and determination. I can wholeheartedly say that I have fought hard to see Commencement Day, and now that it’s here I have no words to describe the joy I feel inside.

Real-world experiences: During my practicum class, I had an internship at a physical therapy clinic where I learned a lot about adaptability and compassion. I got to experience and hear people’s stories, and with that, I was also given the opportunity to see what hard work, determination, and discipline can do for you firsthand. The way some of these patients recovered during their treatment astonished me, and I grew more interested in the health/medical world.

My aha moment: I learned that it is important to see the positive in every negative even when you think that there isn’t one. Not everything will go as planned and that is something we must learn to accept, as hard as it sounds, but if you look at the positive side to everything, you’ll learn to see that everything happens for a reason and with that you also gain a valuable learning experience that helps you to better yourself in the long run.

Footprints I’m leaving on the Hill: I leave my footprints behind in Gill Center, where I had most of my classes and where I learned about the importance of exercise and was able to implement that knowledge in my own life at the gym.

Faculty or staff member who most influenced who I have become: Dr. Jessica Ford has been a big influence in my journey here because she was there when I needed guidance. When I thought that I had wasted my time and my plan was no longer doable, Dr. Ford stayed late to help me figure it all out and gave me calm in my moment of worry. I really appreciated the time she took to help me out and how she has been pushing me ever since to surpass even my own limitations.

Best class ever: The best class ever was Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries with Mr. Gregg Nibbelink. This class was my favorite because even though it was tough, it provided not only lectures but hands-on experiences for real-world emergencies. For example, we as the students were able to practice how to do a head-to-toe palpation in case of an emergency and also learned to identify ankle anatomy, among other things.

Tell us a little about your activities, including sports, during your years at McDaniel: During my years at McDaniel, I was a Student Accessibility and Support Services tutor for mathematical fundamentals and was recommended as a tutor by Senior Lecturer Michele Gribben. I was also a resident assistant (RA) for sophomores, juniors, and seniors during my junior year and then later on was an RA for first-year housing my senior year. I was also a summer RA where I got to work closely with Ann Mathias and Michael Robbins.

Took me totally by surprise: How well I was able to overcome obstacles and adapt to the situation at hand. Sometimes things wouldn’t go my way and I couldn’t do anything about it except overcome it and adapt in order to keep pushing forward. It’s amazing how everything plays out when you don’t just stick to one thing!

My favorite spot on campus: My favorite spot on campus was Roj Student Center because the majority of the time I spent on campus was spent in a corner in that place typing papers, meeting with residents, and talking to friends.

A pair of twin sisters sits at a table in front of a window.

Most mind-boggling idea I learned at McDaniel: Something that blew me away at McDaniel was how small the campus was and how you could walk across campus in like five minutes. I had visited other campuses before, and they were always so big. It was really mind-boggling how this campus was so small and yet so great.

My capstone title: “Physical Therapy vs. Chiropractors.”

What it’s about in plain talk: My capstone is about comparing the recovery rates for lower back pain between two different treatment types. The treatments being compared were physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. The goal of my capstone was to see which one of these treatments resulted in better recovery rates for people with lower back pain.

What’s next: My plan is to take a gap year and work to save money to then apply to the cardiac sonography program at Johns Hopkins. During my year off I plan to go back to El Salvador for a bit to relax.

How will you stay connected to McDaniel? I will stay connected to McDaniel through the Kinesiology department by keeping in touch with Dr. Steve McCole and Dr. Ford. I will also stay connected through the Financial Aid department, where I was able to learn a lot about what goes on behind the scenes with financial aid and where I was able to meet amazing people. I will also stay connected through the Residence Life office, where I also gained opportunities to step out of my comfort zone.

If you received financial aid, what did that mean for you and your family? Receiving financial aid meant that it would make it a little easier to be able to attend college. Knowing that my parents had to make sacrifices to put two kids — me and my twin sister who also chose McDaniel — through college at the same time made it difficult to take the opportunity to attend. So, through hard work, my sister and I were able to receive academic scholarships, which added on to the state aid that we received due to our financial situation at home. All in all, financial aid was a game-changer for attending college, and so by receiving it, this meant that my family could have some extra help when it came to paying tuition.

Are you the first in your immediate family to attend college? What has the experience meant to you? Yes, my twin sister, Katherine Martinez-Contreras, and I are the first in our family to attend college and this experience has meant the world to me. I always knew it was going to be hard but the obstacles that stood in my way were not enough to make me quit. My family was one of the many reasons I kept going because I knew that by being the first to attend and graduate college, I would not only be honoring myself but I would also be honoring them. The sacrifices they made were many, so by graduating I am not only showing appreciation but am also showing them gratitude.

About Karina

Name: Karina Martinez-Contreras

Major: Kinesiology

Class of 2024

"My family was one of the many reasons I kept going because I knew that by being the first to attend and graduate college, I would not only be honoring myself, but I would also be honoring them."