Envision it and it will happen. That is the guiding force that drove one local family in achieving their dreams of finishing a college education.
Mario and Celina Martinez were among the graduates last week to earn a degree from Central Washington University.
But the road to achieving their dream was one filled with twists and turns that made the experience of obtaining a college degree even more rewarding.
Mrs. Martinez, 28, is formerly Celina Garza, a 1994 graduate of Mabton High School. And by all rights, the Lower Valley native wasn't even supposed to have her high school diploma. Celina is the first in her family, which also consists of five brothers, to earn a college degree.
Mario, 29, is from Seattle and is the first in his family of 11 brothers and sisters to receive a college degree.
Another notable part of the couple's success is that they went to college full-time while raising three children, Rosalina, 4; Marc, 3; and Berlyn, 9 months.
Celina received a Master's degree in family and consumer science education from Central this past weekend. She also earned a Bachelor's degree in the same field from Central in December 2002, and also holds a minor in psychology. Celina gained an Associate of Arts degree in 1997 from Yakima Valley Community College. Celina is scheduled to teach summer courses at Central in family and consumer science dealing with relationships/personal development. Celina said she became interested in education because she wants to be able to influence people.
"I just like helping people out," said Celina.
Mario received his Bachelor's degree in secondary industrial education and will be teaching at Wapato High School this fall. Mario wanted to begin a career in education for similar reasons as his wife. Mario said he learned from his father the importance of helping others.
One might find children as an obstacle to obtaining an education, but Celina said she never did. One of her children, Marc, was born during finals weeks and her youngest was both during summer quarter last year, but she still managed to keep up her studies.
"There are a lot of resources out there for parents to tap," said Celina.
Celina said through her childhood she learned the value of hard work. Celina said she decided to pursue an education because she didn't want her family to have to scrap to make a living working in the fields.
"You have to have a vision," said Celina. "You also have to be committed to do it."
Mario said having three children and continuing an education was a matter of learning to juggle a schedule. Mario said there were plenty of times when he was going on a few hours sleep, wondering if he was going to make it through the day. It was during those times he would just look at his children and see them smile to realize everything was going to turn out alright. Mario added anything worth attaining in life is going to be difficult and have its obstacles.
"Those bumps in the road provide greater meaning," said Mario. "The best investment a person can make is in yourself."
Mario said he always knew he was going to earn his college degree, but he took a different road than others. He went to college for a few years, attending the University of Puget Sound and CWU before leaving to head back to the Seattle area, where he started a non-profit organization, the Higher Vision Foundation, which worked with area high schools on promoting different aspects of education.
After earning her Associate's degree, Celina went to Heritage College to further her education, but left after a year.
"I decided I wanted to go experience something else than what was in the Valley," said Celina.
Celina moved to the west side of the state, where she met her husband, and the two have been together ever since, married for the past five years. But Celina, like her husband, never doubted she would finish her education.
"We had to get our education," said Celina.
Celina said receiving her Master's degree this past weekend was very meaningful.
"Education has always been meaningful to me," said Celina.
Even though she is finished with her classroom education now, Celina looks at every day as being in the classroom.
"Learning is a lifelong process," said Celina. "I am going to keep learning regardless of where I am."
Mario also feels a sense of fulfillment in getting his college degree this past weekend.
"It has been both a marathon and a sprint for me," said Mario.
Mario believes his degree honors his family, who like his wife's worked in the fields.
"This degree not only belongs to me, but all of our ancestors," said Mario. "I am more proud for all of them than myself."
Mario plans to return to college to earn Master's and Doctorate's degrees.
"This is just the first step," said Mario.
Through all of the past years of hard work, Mario said the most rewarding part is watching his wife and how she has grown.
"I know she is not going to stop," said Mario.
"He was pretty amazing when I first met him," said Celina. "His goals were very high. He is one of the reasons why I am where I am at."
Both Celina and Mario want to encourage people who may think they can't finish their education because they have children or might be too old or think they just can't do it, to reconsider.
"It has been an adventure," Said Celina. "We have had our ups and downs. We always had that vision in our heads. Follow your dreams. Imagine it happening. Put in the effort."