Gaby Martinez

Associate in Arts

Gaby Martinez was born in Phoenix, Ariz. and taken to Mexico as an infant. Growing up in Mexico Martinez’s home life was turbulent with many problems arising within her parents’ marriage and family. These problems affected her emotionally and psychologically and put her personal safety at risk.

At the age of 13, she was kicked out of her family’s home. Needing to get a job to support herself, Martinez dropped out of school and began working at a factory. She later worked at a clothing store and market. At the age of 15, she entered the foster care system, staying in an orphanage for six months. The next three years she bounced around a lot staying with family.

Despite the struggles she faced, Martinez never lost sight of wanting to improve her life.

“During all those years, I never lost the hope of pursuing my dreams and improving my quality of life,” she stated. “I not only waited until I was 18 years old when I could leave Mexico and return to the U.S, but I also focused on improving myself. I taught myself English by reading books and watching videos on YouTube.”

With her sights set on a better life, Martinez left Mexico at the age of 18. With the support of her cousin, she came to the Yakima Valley to pursue her dreams. Living with her cousin provided her with a stable place to stay, however she knew she would soon need a job, driver’s license and car.

After dropping off her suitcase with her cousin, her first stop was by Yakima Valley College’s campus.

“The first thing I did was to go to YVC and get informed about English classes. I was interested in YVC because it offers ESL and ABE programs at a low cost, which made it an affordable option for me.”

While she attended English classes in the mornings, she worked in the evenings in a fruit warehouse. As her English improved, she took the nursing assistant program at Living Care Retirement Community in Yakima. Working as a nursing assistant gave her the opportunity to find a more flexible schedule that worked better with her class schedule.

At YVC, she earned her GED and then transitioned into college-level credits working towards an associate in arts – direct transfer agreement (DTA) degree. She graduated in the spring 2020.

“What I enjoyed the most when earning my degree at YVC was that I had the opportunity to explore different subjects such as communication, psychology, chemistry, and anthropology. When I was growing up my education was very limited  and YVC allowed me to learn about different programs and helped me think about which program would help me meet my future career goals.”

Realizing that she wanted to pursue a degree in psychology and social services, Martinez transferred to Central Washington University (CWU) and is now pursuing a double major.

Now a junior at CWU, her opportunities continue to expand. She has had the opportunity to be a teacher assistant for two of her professors. She is also currently working as a researcher assistant in the 2020-2021 Washington State University Gerontechnology Fellowship in the Neuropsychology & Aging Lab. This research is part of a project that is developing technology for the community of dwelling older adults with the purpose to maintain them as independent as possible at home and improve their quality of life. She is also representing the CWU campus on the Western Psychological Association (WPA) Student Council for the 2020-2021 academic year.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to transfer to Eastern Washington University to pursue a master’s degree in social work. Her goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker and a college professor. Ultimately, she hopes to earn a Ph.D. in organizational psychology, social psychology, or social work and one day open her own home health care agency.

“The skills that I learned at YVC set me off to be where I am today. I am grateful to the YVC faculty members who were part of my education. YVC is a great place to start working on your goals,” she concluded.