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WGU Graduate Speaker, Blanca Martinez
WGU Graduate Speaker, Blanca Martinez
Western Governors University
<p>WGU Graduate Blanca Martinez spoke at WGU's Master's Commencement in Las Vegas, Nevada.</p> <p>Blanca Martinez earned her Master of Arts Teaching, Elementary Education degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Blanca Martinez: Wow, there’s a lot of you up there. [Chuckles] Okay. Good morning, everyone. While I don't know any of your personally, I know that you all have your own stories to tell about how you got to graduation day. And I just want to take a second to thank you for listening to mine. </p> <p>I don't know if you can tell, but I am naturally a really shy person. I knew that speaking in front of many of you was going to be a challenge for me. Yet I decided to go through with the application process anyway. I wanted to overcome this challenge, and I think that pretty much sums of the essence of me. I overcome challenges. </p> <p>The birth – the first big challenge I explicitly remember occurred when I was six years old. My parents moved my sister and I from Mexico to Las Vegas for better job and educational opportunities. This was a huge culture shock for us. I remember crying every day in my first grade classroom because I didn’t understand what everyone was saying. I tried to speak to the other kids, but nobody understood me. It was like they were speaking another language, but my young mind couldn’t comprehend that they actually were.</p> <p>My teachers made an effort to label everything around the room with a picture of the English and Spanish word for each item. They were so patient with me, and they took the time to really help me learn the language. As you can see, their efforts were successful, and within a few months, I remember receiving an award for learning to speak, read, and write English. They completely changed the path of my life, and I truly believe that without them, I wouldn’t be here today. </p> <p>Now let’s fast forward a few years to challenge number two. I had acclimated well to American culture. I finished elementary school, moved onto junior high, and somehow survived the chaos of high school. This is when all of my friends began applying for colleges and talking about moving away. For me, this was not a possibility. Now my second challenge was not about money, although that was certainly a struggle. </p> <p>My challenge was one that I had dealt with every single day behind closed doors because I knew that if people were to find out my secret, I would never be looked at the same way again. To this day, many of my mo-, friends do not know what I’m about to share with you today. </p> <p>I have finally mustered up the courage to admit to everyone here that for many years, I was an undocumented immigrant. Why don't you have your license? Why can't you go to Europe for our senior trip? Why are you suddenly changing your educa-, your… major from Education to English when you're so close to graduating? </p> <p>These were just some of the questions that can now be answered now that you know my secret. Because of this and for too long, I believed that my dream of becoming a teacher would have to be forgotten. As an update to that story, I stand in front of you today a proud U.S. citizen and a teacher. [Cheering and applause]</p> <p>Thank you. In 2009, I received my bachelor’s degree from Nevada State College. I remember my mom sitting in the audience, her eyes filled with tears of joy as I walked across the stage. It was such an incredible feat for us as a family, and I remember thinking that at one day, I hope to my make my mom this proud of me again. If I would have known that only three years later, I wouldn’t have her anymore, I would have enrolled in this program much sooner.</p> <p>Challenge number three was finding the motivation to enroll in a non-traditional teacher program after the grief that came with losing my mom. As you can see, I was able to do it, and even though she may not be physically here, I know right now, I am making her that proud again. [Cheering and applause]</p> <p>Now my story ha-, does have a happy ending. A year after her death, I stumbled across a program that reignited my hope of becoming a teacher. The alternative route to licensure program with the Clark County School District gave the me opportunity to be in the classroom sooner rather than later. I currently teach second grade, and because of the structure of our grade level, I am the teacher of 55 rambunctious students. </p> <p>We are considered a low-income school, where 100 percent of our students receive free breakfast, lunch, and supper. Many of our children come from broken homes and do not have good role models in their lives. Even as young as seven and eight years old, I have heard them make comments about not being sure they could graduate high school, because they want to go to work to help their parents make more money. </p> <p>Now I know that this speech is being tape recorded, so I’d like to take this opportunity to send a message directly to our students at Pittman Elementary. I am up here today, facing my fear of public speaking in front of thousands of people, and I became extremely vulnerable by sharing my secrets, not just for myself, but to be an example for you. I want to show you that you absolutely can and should graduate. Nobody in my family had gone to college before me, and we did not have a lot of money. But when I… when I was your age. But what I did have was a very supportive family and teachers who cared about me and taught me the value of education. And we care about you. We believe in you. We know you can do it, and we will be there every step of the way to cheer you on.</p> <p>Now to everyone here that is graduating today, I may not know you personally, but I know that you have surpassed your own set of challenges to achieve this goal, and I want to congratulate you. To all of the new and current teachers here, I want to close to – with a special message just for you.</p> <p>When you find yourself struggling to get to a child because of their challenging behaviors, or because they aren’t understanding a concept, or because they don't understand the language, I want to leave you with the following quote from the ever-wise Magic Johnson. "All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them. Be that somebody for them, just like somebody’s were for you." Congratulations, Class of 2018. [Cheering and applause] And go Knights!</p>
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