Faces of CNM: Rebecca Martinez
Rebecca Martinez

Faces of CNM: Rebecca Martinez

Rebecca is using her story of redemption to inspire others
September 20, 2018

Several years ago, Rebecca Martinez ran into trouble and spent some time in county jail. While there, she came across Cynthia Wooly, a CNM instructor who had come to the facility to teach a creative writing class. Rebecca says the encounter changed her life when Cynthia told her, “the system can try to take everything away from you, but they can’t take away your education.”

With that in mind, Rebecca decided to enroll in CNM as soon as she was released.

“Cynthia’s quote really stuck with me,” Rebecca says. “It made me realize that an education was my way out.”

This was 2004, and by 2009 Rebecca had graduated from CNM with an associate degree and five certificates. She went on to get her four-year degree and a Master’s from Eastern New Mexico University. In 2009 she started working in Enrollment Services and then moved to the Contact Center in 2014. Last year she became an achievement coach in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program.

As part of her job, Rebecca coaches students who are trying to earn their GED here at CNM, and students who are English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. But she’s never forgotten her past, so she’s also doing everything she can to help people who are formerly or still incarcerated.

She’s the CNM contact for the Resource Re-entry Center (RRC)— the first stop for individuals released from the Metropolitan Detention Center as they reintegrate into the community—and she was also recently the keynote speaker for a graduation event at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas.

There, she spoke about her experience with incarceration and how education was a chance for her to redeem herself and move forward. School, she told them, wasn’t just about book learning, but also about learning the other skills you need to be successful, like time management and good listening. Finally, she told inmates how she quickly learned that there is still life after incarceration, after addiction, and after you make a mistake.

Her speech struck a deep chord. David Bibeau, a GED and ABE instructor with the correctional facility, sent her an email shortly after explaining how important her words had been.

“Your presentation of honesty and relentless fortitude to stand up strong again after a personal failure is unlike any other conversation these men have ever heard,” he wrote.

Rebecca says she was touched by the email, but would rather help others move forward than dwell on her own story. She might go back and speak again, but in the meantime hopes that some of the graduates she addressed find their own way to CNM.

“Here at CNM, we want you to know that everyone is welcome,” she says. “We don’t care about your past. We only care about your future.”