Nearly 1,000 graduates eligible for Amarillo College Fall Commencement

Few will be surprised to learn that a member of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society has been chosen to serve as student speaker for Amarillo College’s Fall Commencement, which is at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 at the Amarillo Civic Center.

But the news did catch the speaker herself just a bit off guard.

“I was like ‘no way’ because I never thought such a thing was possible,” said Christie Martinez, an education major and one of 979 summer and fall AC graduates who are eligible to take part in Fall Commencement this year.

“In fact,” she said, “if you’d have told third-grade me, a girl who couldn’t even read back then, that one day I would be speaker at a college commencement, I’d have probably called you a liar.”

The truth is twofold: Martinez, who is 46, indeed will deliver the commencement address during a ceremony that will be both live-streamed and available for repeat viewings at; and, as a third-grader, she had good cause for doubting her future academic success.

Frustrated by an undiagnosed learning disorder early in life, Martinez knew she had fallen behind her third-grade classmates, particularly due to her inability to read. But thanks to the emergence of interventions to improve literacy outcomes, and her own dogged persistence, she managed to catch up and graduate on time from high school in Sealy, Texas.

She married and became a homemaker. It was some years later when the family moved to Amarillo, where, because her son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, she decided to try and homeschool the boy.

“Because I struggled in school myself, I thought being a homemaker might be the limit of what could do, but when I started homeschooling my son I realized I liked it, I liked teaching, and I actually began to consider it as a career.

“I took the TSI test (a measure of college readiness) at Amarillo College, and when I was told that I had passed I broke down in tears.”

Still, it was with trepidation that Martinez enrolled in 12 semester credit hours in March of 2020, her first eight-week semester at AC. She need not have worried, though, because she made all A’s, and that level of success became her norm.

Martinez not only parlayed her academic prowess into membership in the exclusive ranks of Phi Theta Kappa, but she was selected to join AC’s prestigious Blue Blazers, a small contingent of student ambassadors who assist with College recruitment and community relations.

Next, Martinez plans to pursue her dream of becoming an elementary teacher through AC’s partnership with Texas Woman’s University, a virtual pathway leading to a bachelor’s degree in education with teacher certification.

First, however, she plans to share her thoughts with almost 1,000 classmates at Fall Commencement.

“I am so excited to celebrate all the people who were a part of my success,” Martinez said. “It is such an honor. The culture of caring at Amarillo College is so evident and so real that I feel like I never had to make any part of the journey by myself.”