Master's graduate earns A in perseverance

Teacher Lauren Martinez traveled to GCU from Colorado with her family to celebrate her graduation at Commencement. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Photos by Ralph Freso and Elizabeth Tinajero

Lauren Martinez’s determination was put to the test when her father passed away from a heart attack last spring – and when she learned she and her husband were expecting their fourth child.

Add that to working as a full-time kindergarten teacher in Greeley, Colorado; coaching sports for her two older children, ages 7 and 5 (she's also mom to a 1-year-old); mentoring a student teacher; holding a leadership teaching position; and maintaining a board position in the parent group of her school.

But none of that failed to sway the Grand Canyon University online master's degree student.

Martinez is congratulated by Provost Dr. Randy Gibb. (Photo by Elizabeth Tinajero)

“I kept saying this remedy prayer and kept thinking of Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through God, who strengthens me,’" Martinez said. “Both my parents had their master’s degrees and were super proud to have me go back (to earn a master’s).

“When I returned to school, I made that commitment and was ready to finish. My husband, Chris, got his master’s. There’s never really a great or ideal time, especially working full time. ... I have to finish. I have to push on, because if I stop now, I couldn’t foresee me going back.”

Martinez, who is on maternity leave after the birth of her youngest child March 7, fulfilled her academic commitments. She celebrated her accomplishment – with the support of her family – at this morning's Commencement ceremony, one of six for online and cohort students at Global Credit Union Arena today through Friday.

She is among almost 29,000 graduates this spring crossing the Arena stage, nearly 23,600 of them online students, and of those graduates, Martinez is among the 13,405 who earned their master's or doctoral degrees.

“If you’re going to start something, you need to finish it and do your best,” said Martinez, who also is celebrating her birthday today. “I’m proud I’ve gotten all A’s in my classes. After my dad passed, I was more determined to graduate and do well. He’s going to be looking down from heaven, and I want to make him proud. So I’d like to keep pushing.”

GCU Development Officer Julia O’Reilly marvels at Martinez’s perseverance.

“I use her as an example for students quite often,” O’Reilly said. “She’s very successful, and she felt there was a lot of support (after her father’s passing) as well.”

When O'Reilly visited Martinez's elementary school, Martinez was curious and asked questions, but “wasn’t taking it seriously."

O’Reilly set up a cohort for Martinez’s school district in January 2023 that consisted of 10 full-time employees with various backgrounds and goals. There was additional scholarship money from the cohort program, and its structure appealed to Martinez as a mother of three who worked full time.

“If she can do it, who can’t?” Reilly said. “That’s incredible. She would have done it anyway; she was very determined.”

The biggest asset was GCU’s online program, which took on greater significance after her father's death.

“I’m thankful. I feel if I had (enrolled) on campus, I would not have been able to (complete my master’s). I was able to schedule all his funeral arrangements, as well as the contents for the funeral pamphlet.

“The hardest part was there was so much reading. I wanted to be intentional and thorough. I wanted to earn all A’s, so I did all the readings. They took hours and hours, and trying to balance the kids’ school and sports schedules was hard.”

She credited the fluid lines of communication between her and her instructors with enabling her to navigate through her academic requirements until her baby was born.

Martinez was excited to take her seat among the other graduates for Wednesday morning’s Spring Commencement ceremony. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

“They wanted to be kept in the loop and wanted everyone to be successful,” she said. “It was a great experience.”

Martinez said earning her master’s in communication with an emphasis in education opens more avenues.

“We’re praying on it to see what God’s will is,” she said. “The plan for now is to still continue to teach and be an advocate for others. I really am thankful and feel I can show God’s love through the classroom and try and be a light for others. That’s what we pray for.”

Martinez said she and her family try to "show God’s kindness through our hearts each week."

She said, “At dinner we ask, ‘Who were you kind to? How was your day? How did you show God’s kindness?’

“We’re trying to instill those values."

GCU News Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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