An Educational Lifeline
Aurora Martinez Endowed Scholarship supports students in health professions
From an early age, Maria Daniela Nina knew that she wanted to get a college education and work in a helping profession. And it was all because of her mother.
Her mother brought Nina to America at the age of 6 in search of better opportunities than those in her homeland of Ecuador. Limited by education and skill with the English language, her mother eventually was employed in a convalescent hospital. The meaningful work of taking care of vulnerable, frail and elderly people really left an impression on Nina.
“I got exposed to that environment at a young age,” says Nina. “I decided I liked the idea of helping people and promoting their well-being.”
Throughout high school, Nina volunteered at hospitals in the San Fernando Valley, where she narrowed her interest to nursing. After graduation, she enrolled at Glendale Community College, completed her prerequisites for nursing and general education, then transferred to Cal State L.A.
Nina is currently doing her clinical practice in the Intensive Care unit at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, an experience she describes as “demanding, non-stop 12-hour monitoring, assessing, documenting, and advocating for your patient.”
But her favorite rotation has been the family-centered care in the labor and delivery ward at White Memorial Medical Center.
“Everyone in the room has one goal of bringing this baby into the world safely and making sure the mom’s stable and well,” says Nina. “The importance was on patient education. Teaching the mother why we need all of these devices, what these contractions mean and what they do to the fetal heart rate. My patients thank me for explaining this to them. It’s soothing for them to know why we’re doing a procedure, what it’s for, what we’re monitoring. Anticipatory guidance decreases an anxious situation and makes everything flow a lot smoother.”
Now, Nina has only one year left to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing, and she’s doing it with the generous financial support of Aurora Martinez.
Born in 1921, Martinez was a child of Mexican immigrants. She went to nursing school and tended to the wounded children of post-World War II while serving in the U.S. Army. When she returned to California, she made a big impact on the community as a public health nurse in East Los Angeles for many years. Through her career experiences, she came to appreciate the tremendous cultural and linguistic barriers to medical care faced by so many in the region as well as the enormous power of a college education.
Wanting to establish a philanthropic legacy, she left a provision in her will for Cal State L.A. to create the Aurora Martinez Endowed Scholarship. Interest from the endowment goes to fund bilingual students, like Nina, to prepare for careers in the health professions in our diverse region.
“Being bilingual helps a lot in the nursing field,” says Nina, who is fluent in Spanish. “Just to know that I can be the voice that allows me to advocate for those patients who otherwise would not be understood, it’s really rewarding. Especially in Southern California, every hospital has encountered patients who speak Spanish and health care workers that don’t necessarily have the fluency. It really helps.”
Though Martinez died in 1997, her legacy of helping continues through the scholarship’s support of Cal State L.A. students like Nina achieve and continue their education.
“I don’t have access to federal aid, so scholarships are the only way I can continue my education,” Nina says. “That’s how I did it in community college and that’s how I’m doing it now.”