First-generation-in-college student achieves family’s dream with Polk State degree

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Graduating Polk State College student Anna Martinez will finish 2020 with a newborn baby and an Associate in Science in Business Administration as the first in her family of 10 to achieve a college degree.

Martinez’s parents immigrated from Mexico to the United States years before she was born.

When they started their family here, they traveled for much of Anna’s youth in a small trailer across Florida, Indiana, and Pennsylvania picking crops to support themselves.

Born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, because that is where her parents were picking crops at the time, Martinez reflects on her humble upbringing, supportive family, and journey to accomplishing her dreams of a college education.

“I told my dad, who worked in fields all of his life, that I will get my degree no matter how long it takes me to graduate, I will,” Martinez said. “I’m doing it for him.”

Her parents instilled in her a diligent work ethic and the importance of education because they wanted their children to have easier lives than they had, she explained.

Martinez recently took her two daughters to the camp she lived in as a child in Pennsylvania.

“I told my dad, who worked in fields all of his life, that I will get my degree no matter how long it takes me to graduate, I will. I’m doing it for him.”

“I showed them the apple groves where me and my siblings played, the lakes we fished and swam in, and the mobile home we used to live in,” she explained.

Martinez wants her daughters to understand how hard their family has worked — sometimes everyone in the fields together picking crops for long hours.

“No matter where you come from, anything can be possible when you set your mind to accomplishing your goals,” she added. “I knew as a young lady I wanted to have better things such as a home and car. To accomplish this, I knew I needed to further my education.”

Motivated by her family’s hard work and the opportunity to achieve higher education, Martinez enrolled at Polk State on January 9, 2012. She remembers that date because she started college and her new job on the same day.

She works hard as a mom of now three daughters, a wife, and a client advocate for abused women at the Peace River Center along with being a part-time student. At Polk State, 74 percent of students attend part time and many balance the responsibilities of jobs and raising families with pursuing their education.

“The flexibility of classes through Polk State, since the beginning, have really helped me get back into school,” she said. “I was able to take morning, afternoon, evening, and online classes.”

She enjoyed the ability to take classes at her own pace, often one or two classes per semester.

“It is tough when you have a family and work a full-time job to have to get to work, school, and back home at a certain time,” she said. “Online classes helped with saving time, and gas!”

Polk State’s Associate in Science in Business Administration Program is designed to prepare students for employment in business occupations with emphasis on specializations in entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, management, insurance, and marketing. The healthcare administration specialization familiarizes students with the U. S. healthcare delivery system and helps students develop supervisory and interpersonal skills required in the field.

Since Martinez is already working at Peace River and enjoys the work, she explained, “I am looking forward to [furthering my career in] healthcare management; I would like to be a manager of a healthcare facility.”

She is not sure where she will pursue her managerial position yet. For now, she is concentrating on her new baby, Hailey; her daughters, Lynda and Natalie; and graduating in the coming weeks. She expressed thanks to her family as well as Polk State’s faculty and staff for support along her educational journey.

“Everyone at Polk State has been great to me from the advisors, deans, and even the math teachers who helped me understand math, because I used to be scared of it,” Martinez said. “One semester, I was having a particularly hard semester because of things going on in my life, and Professor Anna Butler was my math teacher. I wanted to quit, but she encouraged me and helped me like math.”

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to go to school,” added Martinez, who plans to continue her education at Polk State in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management Program.

“I am going to have a picture taken with me, my degree, and my dad in one of those fields he worked so hard in so that we could have opportunities like this.”

Until then, Martinez and her family will be celebrating her graduation, as she serves as a role model for her daughters.

“Throughout my time as a student, they have come up to me while I was struggling with a class and told me, ‘You got this mom!’” she said.

She is grateful for her parents and entire family who have supported her along her journey.

Once she has her Polk State degree in hand, “I am going to have a picture taken with me, my degree, and my dad in one of those fields he worked so hard in so that we could have opportunities like this.”

Polk State will recognize Martinez and the College’s fall 2020 graduates during a virtual graduation celebration on December 10 at 6:30 p.m. on and Polk State’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.