Being able to walk across the stage is one opportunity Spring 2020 Texas Tech graduates will miss this May. But for one student, there is more to graduation than the ceremony.
May commencement ceremonies being cancelled because of the risk of COVID-19 was a harsh reality for Tech student Keira Eynon, who has overcome multiple challenges throughout her life to graduate this spring.
After receiving the news about graduation, Eynon, a senior human sciences major from Longview, said she sent an email to Tech President Lawrence Schovanec regarding her life journey leading up to graduation and how much walking at graduation would have meant to her.
Schovanec shared Eynon's message, along with an update on graduation ceremonies, in a video sent to the Tech community Friday. The video touched on a past event that has impacted Eynon's life in multiple ways.
Eynon, her father Thomas, her younger brother Aiden and her younger sister Ashlyn were in a car wreck on May 31, 2014, a week after she finished her freshman year of high school, she said. Eynon's father died at the scene of the wreck, and she and her two younger siblings were put in a coma.
Eynon's brother was taken off of life support two days after the wreck, as he was pronounced brain dead, she said. Doctors told Eynon it was a miracle she and her younger sister survived.
Suffering from a moderate brain injury that resulted from the wreck and dealing with the loss of family members has made life challenging, Eynon said. Whether it be working with Tech Student Disability Services to get the learning accommodations she needed or working to keep grades up to graduate cum laude, she said she had to work hard to get to where she is today.
"Everything kind of in my life leading up to this point I've been doing for my dad and for God to glorify his name," she said. "Whenever I saw that email that [Spring 2020 graduation ceremonies] were officially cancelled, I felt crushed."
Eynon, who attended Tech in Fall 2017 and will graduate a year early, sent the email to Schovanec, as she wanted her voice to be heard on the matter, she said.
"Obviously, I wanted the graduation ceremony to continue just because, throughout my life, I just feel a lot of things have been out of my control," she said. "So, I had worked so hard to graduate early and even complete college, nevertheless, because I was told wasn't even supposed to be able to come to college with my brain injury."
Eynon, who has served in positions in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, the Pre-Occupational Therapy Club and the club volleyball team at Tech, just hoped something good came out of sending the email, she said.
"When I had sent the email, I didn't really expect anything," she said. "I needed to do something, and so that was something I had control over was sending an email, and I wanted to make sure that it was heartfelt and sincere."
The response Eynon received meant the world to her, and she was overwhelmed with joy, she said.
Schovanec responded to the email and called her, Eynon said. He shared plans regarding hosting a virtual commencement ceremony, having Spring 2020 graduates possibly walk in August and honoring graduates at a football game.
"I thought it was a very thoughtful thing because I know it's really hard to have to make such a monumental decision," she said regarding the university's decision to cancel May commencement ceremonies. "It was nice to get an alternative."
Schovanec also asked Eynon to share her story in Friday's video, as he thought her life was inspiring, she said.
In addition to getting support from Schovanec, Eynon said she was getting responses from other members of Tech's administration.
Regardless, Eynon said getting a response meant a lot, as she has overcome a variety of challenges.
Along with losing family members in the car wreck, Eynon said she has suffered from the effects of a moderate brain injury she received.
"I've always been a straight A student. I've been very diligent throughout my whole life," she said. "But whenever this brain injury occurred it affected not only my cognition but my memory, skills, everything," she said.
Because of the car wreck, which resulted in the brain injury and caused Eynon to break multiple bones, she said she had to learn how her body works. With the help of Tech Student Disability Services and certain resources at the Recreational Center, Eynon said she worked to overcome her brain injury and learned more about how her body works.
"I guess the overwhelming feeling I have just felt is a sense of whenever things get hard, that's when you have to work harder," she said, "and that's something my dad always instilled in me."
Throughout her life after the car wreck, Eynon said the main feelings she has felt are perseverance and hope. She said everyone has a purpose and should never give up.
"Because I did actually die in that car wreck too, and God brought me back to life," she said. "I'm not going to waste this life. I'm going to keep pushing."