Guadalupe Martinez is educating and facilitating
By Eric Williams
It was only seven short years ago that Guadalupe Martinez was living near the U.S.-Mexican border, in Imperial Valley, Calif. raising her two young children with her husband Sergio, while they hoped to, one day, provide a better future for themselves and their children.
When Sergio left the Mexicali region in search of better things, he eventually made his way to Marshall, Missouri and landed an interview with the Excel [now Cargill Meat Solutions]. When Sergio was hired, it was the beginning of a journey that has left the Martinez family fulfilling their respective dreams.
“I was living in California and there were many people there, but not much work or opportunities. My husband Sergio was looking for better opportunities for our family,” she said. “He landed with Excel and that’s how we ended up in Marshall, Missouri.”
Martinez explained that her husband initially came to Marshall alone to see what the city was like and how suitable it was as a place for raising children. She also said her husband’s plans were to head elsewhere to find other employment if things didn’t work out here.
“He said he was going to be here one month and if the town was good for raising children and living there, he would send for me and the children. He said, ‘If it’s not good, I’m going to Alaska to look for more work.’ I was concerned at the time, but I was so glad that everything worked out and that he stayed here. I waited until the school year finished and then we came here.”
Eventually, Martinez began fulfilling some of her own dreams and has now been a tireless worker for the Marshall Public School District since 2000. First in her role as an school district interpreter and since August 2004, as a parent educator for the local Parents as Teachers [PAT] organization.
“I was studying accounting and English when I lived in Mexicali,” she said. “I finished four levels out of a six-level program but didn’t complete it because I got married. I didn’t practice my English during this time and then I moved to Marshall and then I saw that I forgot many things and I needed to refresh my English.”
Martinez took an ESL [English as Second Language] class and did so well that the instructor moved her into the advanced class in a short period of time. The next thing she knew she was being asked to do some interpreting for the school district and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I started working with the district as an interpreter. They sent me to a program to do interpreting on in-home visits,” she explained. “One time, I was talking with one of the parent educators about my experiences at the University in Calexico and she said, ‘Oh, you were in school?’ She asked me if I wanted to try and be a parent educator and I said, ‘Let me talk it over with my husband.’ He thought it was a great idea and I took the training in Kansas City and now I’m here.”
Martinez knows the reality for Hispanics residing in the United States is that they will have to adapt to the surroundings and customs of the land in which they now live and she tries mightily to assist them any way she can.
“I remember when I was living on U.S./Mexican border, living in both cultures. That experience helped me to live in two worlds,” she explained, smiling. “Now I can explain to this [Hispanic] community … we must ‘do this’ because these are the rules we need to follow in this country. This is different than the Hispanic community, but we are here.
“I feel like I am helping people to adapt here. I also to encourage these families to use the privilege of speaking two languages. It is nutrition for the brain to speak two languages.”
Martinez, whose daughter, Lupita, is now 18 and son, Ruben, is 13, said her work with Parents as Teachers is one of the most satisfying things she has ever done and is a virtual dream come true.
“I love what I’m doing in the community for all the people, not just Hispanics. I feel great. I love to help the Hispanic children grow and also the parents too.”
Jackie Marshall, coordinator for the Parents as Teachers program in Marshall, said Martinez is an integral part of their organization and serves the community selflessly.
“She serves well over the regular amount of families and does her best to give them every support that they need,” Marshall said. She always goes above and beyond to help them [Hispanics] feel comfortable in the community. She always has a smile on her face and is so positive about everything that is handed her way. She makes up a great portion of our team. We couldn’t do it without her.”
As for Martinez herself. She simply says that she wants to continue serving her community and making a difference .
“I love this job,” she said, beaming. “I really work 24 hours a day because the parents call me on the weekends, at night and early in the morning to say that they have a problem and they need some help. All of this training I have received and the work I do makes me feel like a valuable resource to this community. I’m going to stay as long as I can.”