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Martinez among 178 Minnesota West students to graduate Friday

Genesis Martinez is shown last week on the Worthington campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — For the past three years, education has been a top priority for Genesis Martinez.

Martinez has dedicated days, evenings, weekends and summers to her education since returning to Worthington from Nicaragua in spring 2015. The 21-year-old will breathe a sigh of relief Friday, as she realizes her hard work and dedication paying off as she walks in step with Pomp and Circumstance during Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s 7 p.m. commencement ceremony in the Minnesota West Center for Health and Wellness in Worthington. One-hundred and seventy-eight students will graduate from the Worthington campus Friday, and 624 students are graduating campus-wide across the college’s southwest Minnesota locations. That’s an increase from 2017, which produced 586 graduates campuswide.

“It feels awesome,” Martinez said about earning her business management degree from Minnesota West.

Having technically earned her associate’s degree in December, Martinez already has her diploma hanging on her living room wall as a constant reminder of her achievement. She’s excited to finally be able to walk down the aisle and celebrate, though, as she looks back on a long education journey she embarked on beginning in March 2015.

Martinez, who was born in Worthington but moved around a lot throughout her childhood, had just returned from living in Nicaragua for several years. She came back and lived with her uncle and his family to take advantage of what she called better educational opportunities.

Had Martinez never moved to Nicaragua, she would have been slated to graduate that spring. Behind in at least a year’s worth in class credits, Martinez enrolled in classes at the Area Learning Center in Worthington to try and get back on track.

“I took night and summer classes,” Martinez recalled about the extra class load she took following a typical seven-hour school day.

Martinez was able to graduate from Worthington High School in 2016. Not only could she call herself a high school graduate, but she had gotten a jump start on her college education by completing Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) class.

“I actually found a flier on the floor at the high school (advertising the CNA course),” she said. “That’s how I got into nursing.”

A person who prefers organization, structure and sticking to a schedule, Martinez learned that nursing was not the right fit for her personality type. She sought advice from her father, who encouraged her to pursue a business degree due to the wide range of career opportunities it would produce.

“With business you can do a lot of things, and I like to have options,” she said.

Having recently graduated, Genesis is eager to find an internship or entry-level job in a business profession setting.

However, she enjoys her current job as an interpreter for Arch Language Network, a role she’s filled alongside attending class full-time at Minnesota West.  

“I get to see something different every day,” Martinez said excitedly about the interpretation job, which takes her into area medical clinics and hospitals that contract with Arch Language Network.

Even though nursing wasn’t the right fit, Martinez said the CNA class and experience is proving to be beneficial — especially from a medical terminology standpoint.

Having grown up in the United States, Martinez considers English her native language, but learned Spanish in her household. It was not until she moved to Nicaragua that she advanced her comprehension of and ability to express herself in Spanish.

Martinez now uses those dual-language skills for anything from a routine doctor’s checkup to a live childbirth to surgery.

“One time all I had to say was ‘push,’” Martinez remembered, laughing.

While Martinez admits the job is exciting, it also comes with challenges — especially if the individual she’s interpreting for doesn’t want her there.

“Everyone has the right to an interpreter, and if they don’t speak English they must have an interpreter there,” Martinez said about interpretation services that cannot be provided by a family member. “We’re trained to say everything.”

As someone with a love for learning, Martinez likes that she’s able to learn something new every day, as she also interprets during classes, such as on diabetes or nutrition.

While earning her associate’s degree was a major feat, Martinez isn’t stopping there. She’s already well on her way to earning a bachelor’s degree in business by taking more college courses at Minnesota West and online through Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

After all, it’s that “American Dream” mentality that has fueled the young motivated woman’s efforts thus far.

“I lived in a third-world country, so I appreciated everything here,” Martinez said of her educational drive. “I saw that not everyone was taking advantage of what is offered here.”

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