As Rosalma Martinez stood on a sidewalk in front of Crabaugh Hall awaiting her graduation from Arkansas Tech University on Friday, May 7, her thoughts were with the two people who chased the American dream and made it attainable for her.
“Without them, it wouldn’t be possible,” said Martinez. “My grandparents are immigrants from Mexico. This past year, my grandpa had dialysis and a kidney transplant, so after all that we didn’t think he would be here for my graduation. It’s a milestone. It’s for my grandparents. It’s important to all of us because I am the first one in my family to graduate from college. It’s surreal. I never thought this day would come. It still doesn’t feel real that I’m here right now.”
Martinez received a Bachelor of Science degree in information technology. ATU conferred approximately 1,750 credentials during a series of commencement ceremonies Thursday through Saturday at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field and Tucker Coliseum.
A native of De Queen, Martinez first enrolled at Arkansas Tech in 2015. She completed her degree in spring 2020, but her opportunity to walk in a commencement ceremony was delayed 12 months by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I have gained a lot of empathy for others,” said Martinez when asked how the pandemic changed her. “It has really shown how much we have to come together and work together in order to have a thriving community.”
The pandemic was the focus of ATU President Dr. Robin E. Bowen’s commencement remarks, which included a moment of silence in memory of Charisma Khilling. An ATU senior from Booneville, Khilling died March 21, 2021, from COVID-19 complications.
“Through all the pain and sorrow of the past 14 months, here we are,” said Bowen. “Each of us in attendance today has been spared from the scourge of COVID-19. I believe we have a responsibility…for Charisma and the 3 million others no longer with us on this planet…to each do our small part to make the post-pandemic world a kinder, gentler place. A place where we choose love over hate, unity over division and peace over strife.
“As graduates of the Class of 2021, you represent the determination that got us through the pandemic and the belief that we can emerge from this dark time stronger than before,” continued Bowen. “Take the skills and talents you have honed at Arkansas Tech and do great things for yourself and your family. You are prepared to help fuel the post-pandemic economic recovery of our state and our nation. But while you are pursuing your personal aspirations, please always, always remember the most important lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic: we are all in this together.”
Martinez has gained employment as a technical support analyst for Dillard’s. Her long-term career aspiration is to become a web developer.
As she goes forth to pursue that and other goals made possible by those who came before her, perhaps the greatest lesson Martinez took from her ATU experience was to value and appreciate every day.
“I’ll remember simple things like going to Baswell Techionery,” said Martinez. “I feel like I took it for granted and didn’t realize how quickly it would go. I tried to appreciate every moment I had here at Tech.”