By John L. Braese
ONTARIO – The announcement over the public address system at Ontario High School caught senior Denis Benitez Martinez by surprise.
She was asked to report to the front office, and she had no clue why.
She found out soon, for she was ushered in and told she had been named Oregon Migrant Student of the Year.
“I did not know anything about it. I did not even know I was put in for the award,” Martinez said. “The application said some really nice things about me and it was an honor to be recognized for the work I have done.”
Martinez was nominated by Anabel Ortiz-Chavolla, the Ontario School District’s director of federal programs and school improvement.
“The migrant education team met in the fall and went through the roster we had of students,” said Ortiz-Chavolla. “We had some great candidates, but Martinez’s grade point average and her community service made her our choice to submit to the state. She has truly gone above and beyond.”
Martinez came to Ontario High School after attending Four Rivers Community School through the eighth grade. Once in the doors, she went to work.
Maintaining a 4.0 grade point average, Martinez also became involved in Future Hispanic Leaders of America, National Honor Society and SMILE (Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences). She played varsity soccer and performs throughout the year with Ballet Folklorico Sol y Luna, an Ontario dance group.
She’s also working simultaneously on her associate’s degree at Treasure Valley Community College.
“I was pretty busy this year,” she said. “I have a tremendous amount of support from my family. They make me want to do things and not let them down.”
Martinez lives with her mother, Maria, a former employee at Baker-Murakami Produce and father, Jose, an employee at Baker Packing. She was seven months old when brought to the U.S.
Sitting in a classroom talking of her achievements, Martinez is shy and attempts to give credit to her teachers and especially her family for all she has done.
Last summer, Martinez volunteered in the school district’s the technology department. In past summers, she volunteered at the Migrant Summer School program.
Busy both during the school year and summer, Martinez has also taken college courses at TVCC.
“I will have my associate’s degree this summer in general studies,” she said. “I am then off to college to study forensic pathology. I like to see how things work inside the body.”
Martinez represents the 20,000 migrant students in Oregon, according to Ortiz-Chavolla.
“All the regions in Oregon submit their nominations and for the second year in a row, an Ontario student was chosen for the award,” said Ortiz-Chavolla.
With the award, Martinez and her family traveled to Salem to accept the award. She was also awarded $500 for her education.
“I will admit there have been times it has been stressful keeping up with everything and there have been some late nights, but it has all been worth it,” Martinez said. “I have a lot of people, teachers, friends and my family for this honor.”