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Winding Road to Success

Prioritization and Perseverance Lead to Success

By Carol Best
Sept. 23, 2014

Ada Martinez-Medina did not take the typical road to college. The oldest of nine children, she often needed to help her widowed mother care for the younger siblings. She missed a lot of school caring for the others and though her mother had multiple jobs to make ends meet, the family often went without. Eventually Ada had missed too much school, so she dropped out after eighth grade.

She didn’t think much about getting her education in the ensuing years. It seemed impossible. She had to work and she had so much to overcome. But as an adult with two children Ada says the realization hit her that she didn’t want her children to live the same life she had.

“We were very poor growing up,” she remembers. “I didn’t want my children to have the insecurity of having to decide which bill to pay and which one to let lapse this paycheck.”

It took 15 months for Ada to complete the classes to earn her GED. The sense of accomplishment was incredible. And she began to think, “If I can do this, what else can I achieve?” Enrolling in college classes at Johnson County Community College, she found out she was an exceptional student, earning JCCC’s Outstanding Student in spring 2013.

A student, mother of two, wife and a Bilingual Support Specialist at Garmin International in Olathe, Ada has juggled all her commitments with the help and support of her husband, Habram. Whether it’s getting the children fed, bathed and in bed or having the lunches ready for the next day, Habram is happy to help when she has class. He even quizzes her to help her study.

“He’s learning along with me,” Ada says.

In 2013, having earned 24 credits at JCCC, she heard about MNU’s Accelerated Associate of Arts program. The slate of 5-6 week, online and face-to-face courses allow students to earn either an AA or additional credits toward a bachelor’s degree more quickly than traditional16-week semester courses. Ada learned she could enter MNU’s bachelor’s degree completion program much sooner if she transferred to MNU.

After earning 35 credits at MNU in just a little over a year, Ada begins the Applied Organizational Leadership program this month.

“Looking back, I can’t believe it sometimes,” she says. “I don’t know how it is that I am still going.”

Ask Ada’s professors and they’ll tell you. She’s still going because she is so driven.  Adjunct Instructor Tammy Ogren says Ada eagerly seeks learning.

“She is a student that goes beyond going through the motions of taking a course and checking it off the degree plan.” Ogren says. “She is eager to grow, change, and be better tomorrow than she was yesterday.”

When asked how she makes it all work, Ada says its prioritization.

“I still get the kids to school and pick them up. The dishes may pile up but those are little things versus what’s important. We have a big calendar. When I walk in the door I write down what I need to do. I reorganized my kitchen so it is more efficient. You just figure out things that make it easier.”

At Garmin Ada has found she utilizes her education in a variety of ways. Whether it’s dealing with people, conflict management, or working on a team with diverse generations and backgrounds, the classes she has taken have increased her confidence in her ability.

Garmin supports their employees’ education in a big way. Tuition reimbursement is based on one’s grades, with 100 percent paid for an A. Ada says she’s had the opportunity to share with Garmin’s CEO, Cliff Pemble, about her studies at MNU when she was awarded the Employee of the Month award in 2011. Pemble earned his undergraduate degree at the university

“It’s great when you find out the school you attend is the one your CEO graduated from,” she says. “He told me it’s a wonderful school.”

As Ada gets ready for classes to start classes this fall she’s both grateful for the help she receives at MNU and confident that she can make it.

“You have no idea how helpful every single professor is at MNU,” she says. “They make themselves available. In every class they give out their cell phone number and say, ‘if you get stuck and feel like you’re going to throw your hands up, call me.’ I know they really want me to succeed.”

Ada tells everyone she knows that MNU is where they should go to college, whether they are just starting out or ready to enroll in a master’s program. 

“The more education you have, the more you bring to the table,” Ada says.



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Carol Best, Public Relations Manager
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