Ada Martinez-Medina

Hope because of help

Ada Martinez-Medina has a message she wants to share with her fellow JCCC students: don’t give up, because there are people at JCCC who want to help you.

Martinez-Medina should know. She’s had more than a few good reasons to give up going to school. She lacked a high-school diploma, but it wasn’t because she didn’t want one. As the oldest of nine children of a single mother who didn’t speak English, she missed school – too much to keep up.

But when her own son was one month old, she began the Johnson County Adult Education program. “I never wanted my children to say to me, ‘Mommy, why are you making me go to school if you never finished?’”

She earned her GED in May 2011. “I walked that stage, here at Johnson County Community College, and felt that feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “Then I thought, if I made it this far, how much farther can I go?”

She signed up for online and evening classes at JCCC, and then got married Sept. 1, 2011, before starting classes Sept. 2.

“It’s all about priorities,” she said, and at that moment, a honeymoon wasn’t one of them.

“My husband has been very supportive,” she said, laughing. “He knew this was important to me.”

Martinez-Medina works full time at Garmin in their customer service division, using her bilingual skills to help international clients. Then she goes home to cook, to study, to care for her two children and to perhaps find time to spend with her husband.

She doesn’t have a whole lot of time for sleep.

“When it’s 3 a.m. and I’m still doing my homework, I tell myself that there will be time to sleep later, once I have my degree,” she said.

“Yes, I have a husband, a full-time job, and I go to school, and I use a lot of concealer,” she joked. “But I’m doing it.”

Why does she push herself so hard? Her brown eyes lose some of their sparkle, and her bubbly voice drops an octave.

“I don’t ever want my children to have go through what I had to,” she said. “I want them to have a better life than I did, and I honestly believe that education is the key.”

Kit Frankenfield, adjunct professor, English, was Martinez-Medina’s Composition I instructor. “Ada is an incredible student. What strikes me the most is her positive personality, her ability to draw others to her and her warm, beautiful smile,” Frankenfield said. “No matter what kind of day she had, she was always giving to other students in our class and to me – through her positive, helpful attitude.”

Frankenfield assigns a battery of assessments to her students in order to discover their personality traits and strengths. They then journal about the self-discovery process.

“I believe this self-discovery piece to be some of the most important learning that students experience in my Composition classes. Ada was an exemplary student –always positive about anything we did in class, encouraging others to ‘give things a try,’ and compassionate,” Frankenfield said.

Martinez-Medina took an informal version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment and found out she was an extravert. That was no surprise. “I’m always the first person in a group to speak, always the first person to say to someone, ‘Hey, come over here and join us,’” she said.

From the Clifton Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment, she found out she had the ability to communicate well and empathize with others. That, too, turned out to be no surprise for a customer-service rep who brings extra servings of her lunch. (It’s usually homemade Spanish/Puerto Rican food, since Martinez-Medina loves to cook, and she has to bring more because she’ll know the smell will drive her coworkers crazy if she doesn’t share.)

She said she was so thankful to Frankenfield, not only for her wonderful class but also for the chance to take those assessments offered to all students in the Career Development Center.

“I loved that class, and I loved those tests,” she said. “I knew I wanted to progress in life, but I didn’t know how. Now I know. I have a plan.”