By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
She is close to her family and never has lived away from home.
But Stephanie Onyeador anxiously is anticipating her graduation from Fort Hays State University next month.
"I've lived here all my life, but I would like to spread my wings," said Onyeador, who will graduate with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
"I will miss my family, but it will be nice to be on my own," she said of her plans to work on a master's degree at another university, possibly in another state.
Onyeador is the oldest of three siblings born and raised in Hays.
Moving from her hometown will mean having to explain to people the spelling and pronunciation of her last name. But she doesn't seem to mind.
"It's really pronounced 'on-YADE-er,' " she said, with emphasis on the second syllable. "But so many people pronounce it 'ON-ya-door' that we've gotten used to answering to it."
Having her last name misspelled is something she also has become accustomed to, Onyeador said.
"People misspell my first name, and I think it's a pretty common spelling," she said. "So it's no big deal."
After graduation, Onyeador will take a break from college, but only for a brief time.
She plans to work second semester at her job as assistant manager at Famous Footwear in Hays, then enter a master's program in student affairs, preferably at Oklahoma State University.
Her goal is to eventually work at a college in the area of campus programs or residential life.
"I tell people it's like being a college student the rest of my life," she said with a laugh. "I know it's an unusual, nerd thing to say, but I really like school."
Onyeador said working with campus programs is second nature.
After being heavily involved in activities at Hays High School, Onyeador got involved with University Activities Board the second semester of her freshman year and said, "I knew this was the organization for me."
Onyeador changed her major a few times through the years but said her attendance at national conventions on working with campus activities convinced her she was on the right track with her career choice.
"I just like being connected with people," said Onyeador, who added she thinks it's a misconception you can't meet people or get involved in a big way in college if you don't live on campus for at least part of your career.
"It's by choice whether you want to get involved or not," she said. "There are all kinds of things to get involved in, and I know people who live in the dorms who don't get involved and meet people. It's what you put into it, no matter where you live."
Onyeador, 22, said it was her choice to live at home during college "to save money," and in doing so, she also has been able to spend more time with her younger siblings -- 21-year-old Rex and 20-year-old Olivia, who also are Fort Hays students -- before heading off on her own.
"We're close-knit, and because we're close in age, we relate to a lot of things," she said. "But I'm looking forward to meeting new people, too."