Student Speaker: Marcus Martinez

Marcus MartinezAccounting Associate of Technical Arts Degree, Accounting Certificate, and Accounting for Small Business Certificate

When Marcus Martinez sat down in his first class at Edmonds CC, he was nervous. Not only was he unsure about his classes, he was worried about his decision to even attend college. Then, someone who he thought was a student sat next to him and they began to talk about the class. After a brief conversation, she had helped him realize that he was going to be just fine. Little did Marcus know that he was actually talking to the classes’ instructor, Deborah Kuhlmann. From then on, he knew he had made the right decision. 

Martinez had always had a knack for remembering numbers so he felt that accounting could be the field for him, but he was aware of the challenges he would have to face. After working for 14 years in the fast food industry, he knew that he was ready to make a change.

“My wife Kristina has always been a big supporter in all that I do and she has never doubted me,” explained Martinez. “She encouraged me to go to school and study to be an accountant. I’m glad I listened to her and now love what I do.”

During his time at Edmonds CC, Martinez was selected to attend the Annual National Conference for Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE®) in Washington D.C. as a student delegate. The experience opened his eyes to challenges student face in higher education. 

“Students go through so much and it is our job to be change agents to enhance their success,” said Martinez.

Martinez was recently hired by Radiant Global Logistics in Bellevue and works in their accounts payable department. His future plans include completing his bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Martinez’s advice to the graduating class, “stay true to yourself and take pride in all that you do. Never be afraid to work for what you truly want out of life.”


President Hernandez, members of the board of trustees, faculty and staff, parents and graduates, thank you for the kind invitation to join you this evening. To the class of 2016: congratulations on your outstanding achievements.  

I want to thank the parents, spouses, family members and friends of the graduates who are with us this evening who have sacrificed so much to make this day possible. When your son, daughter, husband or wife graduates college, it’s a wonderful day for your entire family.

I also want to give a huge thanks to Stephanie Bevans, Debbie Kuhlmann, Kari Meehan and other members of the faculty and staff. Edmonds Community College is fortunate to have excellent faculty members who impact students’ lives and work hard to prepare them for a successful career or a transition to another college. You have so much to be proud of. There is no more important, or nobler profession than teaching. Your decision to invest in the lives of young people is an honorable one, and I thank you for it.

Having been adopted at a young age, the value of education was not embedded into us as children, instead a mother of 9 told us that graduating high school is the only thing that she expected. Coming from a huge family in which no one had attended or even graduated college and being the first one to take this first step is a huge milestone. When I met my wife Kristina, college was not in the picture. It was something I dreamed of but was not a possibility at the time. A few years later, I started to work towards my dream of becoming an accountant.

But then I started to ask myself:
What if I fail?
How am I going to pay for college?
Was this the right choice for me?

We all have struggles, but if you have the motivation and determination to become a person of success nothing can stand in your way.

If you were to ask any of these students who had the most influence on their lives, they would most likely mention a parent, a family member or a spouse. Few things in life are more important than our jobs as being a friend, parent, or spouse. As your son, daughter, husband or wife takes the next step in their life today – you can take pride in knowing you played an important role in their success. I know the graduates will join me in thanking you for your love and support. [Start Applause]

Graduates: you have worked hard for this day. For some of you, today has been a long time coming. Many of you have responsibilities beyond school –jobs and families to care for – and you will be returning to those responsibilities full-time after today. Others here are taking the next step forward with their studies. And this evening, some of you like myself are fulfilling the dreams of generations in your family by becoming the first person to graduate from college. Congratulations on a job well done.

Your education here at Edmonds Community College has undoubtedly prepared you well. For almost five decades, Edmonds CC has given thousands of students from around the world access to an affordable, high-quality education and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Many of you came here to learn new skills or get additional training for a new career.

The road ahead is rife with obstacles and decisions we cannot see. Some more challenging than others. Whether you are continuing your education or about to start a new job, you will face many decisions over the next few years. But the question I’d like to ask you today is this: how do you define success? Is it defined by your resume? Your job title? Your salary? Or is it something greater?

I’d like to challenge you to think differently about success. In my view, true success is not marked by your achievements, but by the kind of person you become. So as you enter this new chapter in your life, I challenge you to become a person of character who pursues excellence and puts others first.

Commit yourself to being a person of character. Your character in life is shaped by the principles you choose to follow and will stay with you for the rest of your life.

You will also be faced with many difficult choices in life and many of those choices will test you and your character. But if we are to live meaningful lives and have any hope of addressing the problems of today, we must remember that there is a difference between right and wrong.

Secondly, commit yourself to pursuing excellence. In whatever you do, big or small, do it well. There is a difference between excellence and perfection. Things may not always turn out to be just perfect and that’s ok. Perfection has to do with the end product, but excellence has to do with the process. Becoming a person of excellence means that in every circumstance you make the most of your talents.

Lastly, commit yourself to serving others. I am convinced that success is not measured by what you get out of life, but by what you give back. We are told that our country is in need of great leaders. But I believe what we actually need is great servants – people who put others first. We all come from different backgrounds and have different abilities and talents – and we all have something to give. Individuals who engage in their communities can have the greatest impact and change lives for the better.

Each of us has a higher calling. Not just to make a dollar, but to make a difference. Not just to find happiness, but to fulfill a purpose. No job, regardless of the salary or perks, can take the place of a life committed to a purpose greater than yourself. Former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow once said “to love is to acknowledge that life is not about you”.

The world is a large and wonderful place. This is your moment to step into it. Remember that true success is not marked by your achievements, but by the kind of person you become, so I challenge this graduating class to become people of character who pursues excellence and puts others first.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “Sooner or later the day will come when decisions which control the affairs of your community, your nation, your world, must be made by another generation: yours. The nation’s future is what you make of it, I have faith in America’s young men and women, and in the future they will build.”

Clearly our country faces many challenges, but we are armed with our education and the character bred into us by our families, friends and faculty. Now is our time to make this world a better place for us all. Congratulations to the class of 2016. Thank you.