Transforming Lives Nominee Gabriela Martinez

Gabriela Martinez standing in library

Olympia, WA –  Each year, the Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) Awards Committee chooses five awardees from a pool of nominations from the state’s community and technical colleges. The awardees receive $500 from ACT and share their stories during the Transforming Lives Awards dinner held during the ACT Winter Conference held on January 21, 2019 in Olympia, WA. In addition to the awardees, all student nominees are recognized during the ceremony.

Yakima Valley College is pleased to announce the nomination of student Gabriela Martinez and is proud to recognize her for her outstanding accomplishments and continued success.

Gabriela Martinez was born in Phoenix, Arizona and moved with her family to Mexico when she was an infant. Her father later returned to the United States to work and provide for his family. Martinez was raised primarily by her mother and lived with her six siblings, four older and two younger. She attended school until she reached the 7th grade when family problems forced her to drop out. Regardless of her situation, she always held out hope that she would be able to continue her education.

After her 18th birthday, Martinez decided to return to the United States. She relocated to Yakima and began living with her cousin. She learned about Yakima Valley College’s English Language Acquisition (formerly English as a Second Language) program. “The need and the desire I always had to learn English compelled me to come to YVC,” Martinez explains.

She began taking ELA and ABE courses. With the help of these classes, and support for her instructors, her English improved. In 2017 she began YVC’s Nursing Assistant program. Today, she works as a nurse’s aide.

Her new job has given her the opportunity to meet new people. At the encouragement of one of her clients she decided to continue her education and earn a GED. This milestone was a huge accomplishment and allowed her to enroll in college and apply for financial assistance.

“The experience I had as a student with the ESL and ABE teachers attending YVC was wonderful, pleasant and helpful for my education and to be better as a human-being, because I became more patient and passionate in all what I do,” she said. “All of these events I’ve been through at YVC have transformed my life. Now I am starting as a full-time college student taking math, English, and Chicano studies. I’m pretty sure with hard work and good teachers I will accomplish my next goal, which is to earn a degree in psychology.”

While just five students are selected to receive awards, every year ACTC committee members find compelling stories of determination and success throughout Washington’s community and technical college system.

All of the nominees’ stories are shared in their own words in the booklets and made available at the Transforming Lives dinner during the ACT conference. The books are shared throughout the year with state and federal legislators and higher education stakeholders to showcase how education helps overcome barriers and change lives. More information about Transforming Lives.

To schedule an interview contact: 509.574.6870.

Press Release Contacts:
Jay Frank / 509.574.6870 /
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 /