Kaitlyn Martinez’s family story exemplifies that of many Latino families in the United States. Her grandparents picked cotton from sun up to sun down in the cotton fields of Texas and New Mexico. Her father became a locomotive engineer and her mother worked in factories before moving into information technology.
Martinez, a third-generation Latina, is taking college classes while she is still in high school and hopes to pursue a career in medicine.
Martinez used her family’s story as the backdrop for a video she recorded to try and earn the 2020 LULAC Legacy Scholarship competition.
The LULAC Legacy Scholarship competition was started in 2019 by the Temple College LULAC chapter, LULAC Council #49971 in Temple, and the Temple College Humanities Series. Students who want a chance at earning a scholarship must give a presentation about some aspect of Latino heritage or culture. The competition is open to all students attending Temple College.
For her presentation, Martinez talked about the contributions her family and Latinos as a whole have made to the United States in four areas: agriculture, the military, healthcare and industry.
In addition to working in the cotton fields, Martinez said her grandfather was one of 148,000 Latinos who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. She noted that this was at a time when the Army was still segregated and soldiers could be punished if they spoke Spanish.
Today, Latinos are the fastest-growing group within the U.S. military, and make up about 16 percent of active-duty servicemen.
Martinez has several relatives who have worked in the healthcare field, and she noted that they are among the 2.2 million Hispanic healthcare workers in the United States – one third of whom are immigrants.
Martinez hopes to enter the healthcare field herself. She is getting a head start by participating in the Texas Bioscience Institute Middle College program run by Temple College. After graduating from Troy High School next spring, she hopes to attend The University of Texas at Austin and study biomedical sciences. Her goal is to become a pediatrician.
“I love to help people and I know that I want to build my life around helping others,” Martinez said.
Temple College President Dr. Christy Ponce was so impressed with the presentation Martinez gave that she decided to match the $500 LULAC originally planned to give for its 2020 scholarship.
“Kaitlyn’s presentation was professional, articulate and really represented the contributions of Latino families,” President Ponce said.
D Kirkland, a speech professor who oversees the Temple College Humanities Series, also was impressed by the presentation Martinez gave.
“You got an ‘A’,” she told Martinez.
The LULAC scholarship is not the first one Martinez has won to support her studies at Temple College. She also was selected to receive the Temple Health and Bioscience Scholarship, which is given through the Temple College Foundation.
In her essay for that scholarship, Martinez also talked about the influence her family has had on her.
“If I had to pinpoint where my drive to help others started, it would lead me to my parents,” she wrote. “They may not be the softest or the most patient people, but they got up each day and loved me in the best way they knew how − through hard work.”
Martinez said she hopes someday she too will be a role model for the younger members of her family and her community.