Student Success Story: Elizabeth Martinez
As a high school senior, Elizabeth Martinez was one of the founders of Taste of Immokalee. She vividly recalls the moment the idea sparked.
"We were on a high school field trip, traveling on a bus to help with Meals of Hope. After packing meals that would be shared with the hungry and homeless in our community, we headed home – passing all the fields that surround our town of Immokalee.
We started talking and wondering out loud: what if we used all this produce that is grown right here, and created products that we could sell so we had money to help all the people in Immokalee that are hungry and live in poverty?"
That is the moment when Taste of Immokalee was born.
Elizabeth and her counterparts formed the core of the business, and worked to create its first products – learning every aspect of the business along the way.
Since that time, Elizabeth’s passion and determination have continued to flourish at Arcadia University, where she is studying business. That beautiful, sprawling campus in Pennsylvania is a long way from home and the hardships she endured growing up.
"Like most of the students in our program, I remember how difficult it was moving from one place to another as our family chased the seasons looking for work. Sometimes we’d have to change schools up to four times a year, which made it tough to study and keep up. Oftentimes migrant students weren’t prepared for tests and would fail or have to be held back – not because they weren’t capable, but because it was impossible when we were always moving to a new school.
But through it all, we learned the value of hard work. I watched my parents work so hard in the fields – under the scorching sun – to provide shelter for me and my four siblings, and it only made me want to work harder. We worked alongside them in the fields since we were ten because childcare was not something they could afford. So many people think that this life puts us at a disadvantage. That’s just not true. I think that my upbringing has actually been an advantage for me, and has taught me to work hard and go after my dreams.
There have been times in college when my professors pull me aside after class discussion. They tell me they see something different in me and are eager to know what that is. Sharing my story makes me proud to call Immokalee "my home", and thankful for the business and leadership training I have received with Taste of Immokalee.
Taste of Immokalee has given me an outlet to use the determination and work ethic that has been instilled in me as a child to not only dream of a different life, but also learn the skills necessary to achieve my dreams."
While she’s on college break, Elizabeth is back home this summer serving in a leadership role with Taste of Immokalee. As the human resource intern, she oversees the 23 younger student interns, manages the programming curriculum and is responsible for the day-to-day activities and planning.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for all you have done – and continue to do – to inspire others and shape the success of Taste of Immokalee!