“This is by far the most welcoming, the most nurturing, the most helpful college you could find”
Grossmont College graduate
Martha Baugh knows a thing or two about adversity. Abandoned by her mother as a young girl in Mexico, Baugh has been struggling for more than a decade to become an American citizen after being brought across the border by the aunt who raised her.
Despite such challenges, the Grossmont College scholar is graduating June 3 with an Associate of Science Degree in Cardiovascular Technology. The milestone came two weeks after Baugh was recognized at an awards ceremony as a Student of Note, an honor reserved for those who have overcome a plethora of obstacles to reach their educational goals.
Baugh, a 30-year-old resident of Spring Valley, accumulated a 3.8 grade point average at Grossmont College.
“This is by far the most welcoming, the most nurturing, the most helpful college you could find,” Baugh said. “Everybody here has been amazing. I really do feel the faculty and staff are doing everything to make as much as they can available to help their students.”
Hers has been a journey filled with more than its share of setbacks.
Baugh never knew her father as a young child in Sonora, Mexico. Her mother would often disappear for days at a time, leaving Baugh at the home of a friend or relative. When she was 5, Baugh was abandoned for good, left in the care of an aunt in the Baja California capital of Mexicali.
When the family legally immigrated to the United States seven years later, Baugh, then 12, came with them. Problem was, Baugh had never been legally adopted. That made it impossible for her to become a citizen at the same time her aunt and cousins were naturalized.
She’s been trying to become a naturalized American since then. Even being married to a U.S. citizen hasn’t helped.
The hardships have been many.
“Just going to school was difficult,” Baugh said. “You can’t get financial aid. You can’t get grants, you can’t get a lot of things that you’re entitled to when you’re a citizen.”
Baugh got a reprieve when President Obama created a new policy calling for deferred action for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. Applications under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) began in August of 2012.
With a greater sense of stability in her life, Baugh enrolled in the Cardiovascular Technology Program at Grossmont College the following year. She was later hired as a tutor for the program while still a student.
“The program is rigorous, and with the added stress of her legal status, that burden might have discouraged many others, but Martha’s tremendous positive attitude and drive has brought her to the finish line, not alone, but with many others who have been inspired by her perseverance,” said Liz Barrow, Grossmont College’s Cardiovascular Technology Program Director.
Baugh plans to work in a hospital or clinic as a cardiovascular technician, using ultrasound to check the circulatory system in a patient’s body. She also envisions transferring to a four-year university and earning a bachelor’s degree.
Meanwhile, her immigration status is nearing resolution. Baugh is in the process of becoming a permanent resident. If all goes according to plan, in a few years, she’ll be an American citizen.
Baugh, who runs marathons and ultra-marathons in her spare time, will be missed at Grossmont College.
“She is so outgoing, she encourages her peers, and her enthusiasm is such a pleasure to be around,” said Pat Murray, a Health Science Lab technician at Grossmont College. “I have no doubt she’ll have a successful career.”