I was fortunate enough to have parents that instilled in me an intrinsic desire to advocate for social justice. Growing up as a minority gave me a unique perspective on life. I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina to Puerto Rican parents who had arrived over five years earlier. Learning English as a second language when starting in the public school system, I was able to identify and empathize with vulnerable populations. I knew once I graduated high school that I wanted to work for social justice – advocating for the safeguarding of human rights, equity, and fairness.
Initially, I majored in International Health at Clemson University and volunteered to translate at a mobile clinic for families of migrant health workers. I made the decision to transfer to Florida State University to avoid paying out-of-state tuition since my mother had moved to Florida. At Florida State, there was not an International Health program, but I knew that I wanted to join the Peace Corps after graduation, so I choose to major in Psychology. By doing so, I would have enough credits to graduate early; I found the major useful to understand the human experience and interpersonal relationships. Once I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I was eligible to apply to be a United States Peace Corps volunteer.
The mission of Peace Corps is to help people in developing countries to meet their needs for trained workers. Growing up with my father, who was a fan of the famous Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente, I was reminded of a quote that inspired my decision to join the Peace Corps, “Anytime you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world, and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this Earth.” For two years I served in a rural town on the southern border of the Dominican Republic as a community health specialist. My community had limited resources – no rural clinic, minimal electricity, and access to water only from the river that ran through the community. Our main project was training a group of women in six evidence-based practices to conduct home visits to community members. The health promoters conducted home visits to teach reproductive health, methods of family planning, signs of dehydration, the importance of childhood vaccines, and appropriate care for chronic illnesses. A latrine project was implemented to prevent infectious diseases. I was also fortunate to participate in various medical missions.
As a result of this clinical experience, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in nursing. To me, the nursing responsibilities to promote health, prevent disease and alleviate suffering require the expression of caring for humanity and advocating for social justice – the safeguarding of human rights and dignity. Now that I have been afforded the opportunity to embark on my career as a nurse, I look forward to advocating for and providing competent care to vulnerable populations locally, nationally, and globally.
We are proud to announce Sofia Martinez is one of the current LatPro Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column) and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.