MC Speakers Bureau First Generation to College Anita Martinez
The road to beautiful sunsets!
By Rebecca Bell
“When I saw my first Midland sunset, I knew this was going to be my home,” says Midland College (MC) Transition Specialist Anita Martinez. However, the road she took to the land of magnificent sunsets was a bit of a radical one for her traditional Hispanic family.
“Martinez’s father was a Mexican immigrant who taught himself to read and provided for his wife and eight children by working as a cement finisher. Her mother didn’t make it past the third grade. She explains, “Education wasn’t important to my grandparents, but my parents’ goal was to have all their children graduate from high school — and we did. It wasn’t easy. My parents spoke Spanish, and my siblings and I didn’t learn to speak English until we started first grade!”
“Martinez graduated from Hereford High School in Hereford, Texas, in 1974 and then enrolled in West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M University), where she graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor’s degree in education. “I was the first person in my family to graduate from college,” states Martinez. “I majored in education because I wanted to help young people realize that education is one of the most important privileges Americans have.”
“Martinez smiles when she recalls her family’s reaction to her higher education pursuits: “My parents really didn’t understand why I wanted to go to college. They thought that after high school graduation, I should have found a nice young man to marry and then we would start a family. This whole ‘college thing’ was a foreign concept to them. College wasn’t the place for Hispanics, especially Hispanic women. Of course, I wanted to get married eventually; but first, I was determined to get that degree!”
“She continues, “After college graduation when I announced that I had accepted a high school teaching job in Houston, my mother couldn’t believe that I was moving to a big city and would live in an apartment all by myself. She also thought that the fact that I was going to have to buy a car and register it in my own name—not a husband’s name—was pretty scandalous! I’m not sure how I convinced my parents that I would be alright; they finally did give me their blessing. It felt good to be an independent single woman, proving to myself and my family that I could make it in this world.”
“While Anita enjoyed her single life in Houston, it wasn’t long before love found its way to her doorstep in the form of Francisco Javier Martinez. The two were married and later moved to West Texas, first landing in San Angelo and then in 1989, they followed the beautiful fiery-red sunset to its resting place over Midland! The couple have four grown children—three sons and a daughter—all of whom are currently working on college degrees.
“As MC’s transition specialist, Martinez’s responsibilities include visiting with students wanting to go to college and assisting them with the sometimes intimidating college admissions process. “I know what it’s like to be going to a college campus for the first time and not having anyone ‘show you the ropes,’” says Martinez. “Sometimes I have to visit with the potential MC student and his/her parents because, as was the case of my own college experience, it’s difficult for some parents to realize the advantages higher education can bring. Also, I show families how financing a college education should not be a barrier. MC has lots of scholarships available to students, and I offer assistance with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to obtain a federal Pell grant.”
“Martinez emphatically states that college is the right choice for EVERYONE: “College is not only a great opportunity, but also a good time in life. Education expands horizons, both financially and culturally. When I visit with young women and they tell me that they want to get married and have children, I say, ‘that’s great! You can do that. However, I’m living proof that you can be college educated with a successful career and also be a loving wife and mother!’”