Martin plans to stay in Houston with Teen and Family Services and continue to learn more about the program planning and administrative aspects of the organization. She also has more academic goals—attending the University of Houston to pursue a master’s degree in social work.
Martin is proud of her determination in completing her degree online, and when she heard of the Corneal Award for Outstanding Student Achievement in HDFS, she knew she wanted it.
The award, which is a highly coveted recognition for HDFS students, is given each year to a student who has demonstrated academic excellence, the successful navigation of a hardship, and sustained community service, all in memory of Sherry Corneal, a long-standing and valued member of the HDFS faculty.
“It was the only award I ever applied for and I wanted it so badly,” Martin said. “At one point in time, those qualifications—excelling academically and overcoming a hardship—just didn’t feel like they were in the cards for me.”
On the night that she was writing her application for the award, her brother, who still struggles with addiction, overdosed. He survived but was in the intensive care unit for three weeks.
“That experience was such a stark display of what addiction could have done to me, and I am so grateful I was able to get out of that,” said Martin. “Education gave me my purpose to carry on. I knew I wanted to go to school and I didn’t want to mess that up.”
“And then I got the award. To know that I put my full effort into this, to excel the way I did and be recognized with this award even as a World Campus student, is super validating. For that, I am so grateful.”
“If there is anyone out there who is thinking about World Campus or an online education but thinks they can’t do it or they’re too busy, I want to charge them to continue to pursue that. The intrinsic value and reward feel amazing,” she said. “Four and a half years ago, I was sitting in jail. But I still wanted an education. If you want it, you can get it.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you are encouraged to get help. Penn State offers a number of free and confidential resources, including counseling services, intervention, and addiction recovery support. Learn more about these resources for University Park and World Campus students. In a life-threatening situation, always call 911 or University Police immediately.