This summer before transitioning from WCET to APUS, I had the opportunity to interview Adina Martinez, who was a student at a progressive institutional upstart, Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s.  Portmont was run in conjunction with My College Foundation and at the academic helm was Dr. Vernon Smith, now my APUS colleague. It is a small world.  Much has changed since Adina attended the program, it is no longer offered as Portmont College but the insights Adina shares are evergreen. We’ve also included several short videos Portmont made of Adina discussing her time as a student.

It’s stories like Adina’s that help us remember why we’re here, why we are a part of the WCET community so committed to finding new ways for students to succeed by using technology effectively.

Enjoy this interview!
-Cali Morrison

Interview with Adina Martinez

Adina:  I grew up here in Colorado.  All of my family is from here and I had a son when I was 18, so right at the end of my senior year of high school.  I went to work right away.  I started off as a file clerk at a credit union and within a couple of months I moved up to becoming a loan processor.  And I did that for about a year and a half, but just never really felt satisfied with that.  It wasn’t something that I enjoyed doing.

photo of a smiling Adina who is about 31 years old with shoulder-length hair
Adina Martinez

I had always disliked my hair growing up, because I have a lot of hair.  It’s very thick, it’s kind of in-between curly and straight, so it’s got a wave to it but I can’t do either – I can’t wear it straight without effort and I can’t wear it curly without effort so I just never liked it.  And I never liked the haircut that I got.  So I started cutting my own hair and doing things to it when I was about 14 and when I was 20 or so, after I had left the credit union, I decided that I wanted to go to cosmetology school. My personal experience is what led me to that.  For the last 12 or so years I’ve been in that profession.  So that’s how I met Vernon.  I’ve been focused on men’s grooming, men’s hair-cutting for the last six years and so he was a client of mine for a few years.

Cali:  That’s great! So, through that, as most stylists do, you get to know your client.  You got to know him while he was working at Portmont, which was based in Denver, CO?

Adina:  Correct. He had moved to Denver, I believe, to take on the challenge of starting that online program and that’s when I met him. We have a membership program which is a better value at our high-end barber shop.  Vernon took part in that right away which means I saw him every two weeks, allowing us to get to know each other pretty well.

Cali:  Through that relationship you learned of Portmont?

Adina:  Yes.

Cali:  What intrigued you first about the program or was there, aside from meeting Vernon, was there something else?  Had you been looking to go back to college?

Adina:  At that time I wasn’t actively looking into going back to school.  Throughout my adult life—I had always had an interest in nursing.  I basically fell in love with the idea of nursing with the experience of having my oldest son because I had never really been in a hospital or anything like that before.  I’d certainly never been a patient.  And I just felt the entire experience and watching how the nurses interacted with each and with me as a patient and my family, I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.  Especially labor and delivery—just being a part of a person’s life, one of the most significant times in a person’s life, it intrigued me. It’s something I’ve always thought of and always said that’s what I want to do.  But just being a young mom and things like that, it seemed like such a big commitment to make, you know, time-wise, money-wise, all of that.  That’s why I never really thought that I could do it before.

But it was something that from time to time throughout the years I would go and take some classes that would put me on the track towards some sort of degree in the medical field. At one time I thought maybe I’ll for medical assisting or go for a lower level like an LPN nurse or something like that.  But, again, I just felt I’ll always have my kids and my family and felt like I was taking away from that.  And that’s kind of why I always put it off and I was never successful.  I was also married to the father of my two boys and he wasn’t discouraging at all but he definitely wasn’t encouraging and he wasn’t as supportive as I needed somebody to be to be successful.  Because it is a challenge when you have a family to take care of.

When Vernon and I first started talking, he was really excited about Portmont and everything that it was about.  And I did everything that I could for him– leaving flyers at my station at work and talking to people about it.  But originally I believe they were targeting kids that were about to come out of high school and thought that maybe traditional college was not for them.  So this was supposed to be an alternate route.

Somewhere along the line they decided to kind of change it up and he said they were going to try to target more of the adult learners.  And that’s where the conversation started a bit more. One time we were talking about my son or just education and things like that in general.  And he threw out some statistic, and I don’t remember the exact numbers but it was basically a very high percentage of kids that go on to college straight out of high school and are successful is dependent on the fact of whether or not their mother has a college degree.  And that really just struck me, that’s what got me started.



Cali: So, Portmont allowed you to get started?  They didn’t have a nursing degree, did they?

Adina: No, they didn’t.  Their degrees were all associate degrees. I believe they had liberal arts, business, and then science or pre-health degree.  I went that route and it basically sets you up with all of the prerequisites that you need pretty much to enter any realm of health care, whether it’s veterinary school or nursing or even trying to get into med school.

Cali:  Awesome.  And then it sounds like you’ve gone on from there?

Adina:  Yeah, I’m about to enter my second quarter in nursing school.

Cali:  That’s great.  And now, are you doing that face-to-face, online?

Adina:  It’s in-class.  Every now and then—this quarter, coming up, I have a couple of classes that are online and three of them that are in class.  So, I’m pretty excited because I feel like I have somewhat of an advantage amongst my classmates because I did my entire associate degree online so I kind of know the format and the commitment that it takes.  Because I think it’s really hard to basically be a self-learner and I feel like that’s what a lot of online is.

Cali:  Yeah, you have to have that self-motivation and discipline.

Adina:  The way that I’ve experienced it and I’ve seen others—my dad’s taking classes, college courses, online now too.  In both of our schools you have assigned reading and assignments that are due and things like that, but it’s not like you have to log in at 10 p.m. on Mondays or there’s not a certain time, so it definitely takes a lot of self-discipline.

Cali: What has helped you be successful in your studies?

Adina:  One of the things that really helped and I think is helping me to be successful now on this journey in nursing school is the online format gave me what I felt like an option to try and be successful.  I have four kids.  They range in age from 15 to a year and a half.  So I actually found out that I was expecting my youngest, the baby, a few months after I had started at Portmont.  It came down to, I could use that, the fact that I was having another baby, as an excuse to say now’s not the right time, again.  Or I could continue with the mindset that I already had and just say we’ll work through it and we’ll get through it somehow.  So that’s what I decided to do.  Being able to learn online was huge for me because while it’s still a time sacrifice but if I needed to step away from the computer to make dinner or just to give some attention to my family, I was able to.  That was a big reason why I decided to pursue my education, because it felt like I could fit it into my family life.




Check out these other videos with Adina discussing her Portmont journey:

Thank you again, Adina for sharing your insights with us and we look forward to seeing you at a Metro-area hospital, taking great care of patients, in the near future.


Cali M.K. Morrison, M.Ed., Ed.D. candidate
Director, Alternative Learning
American Public University System


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