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Northern New Mexico College Announces the New Olivia Martinez Endowed Scholarship

Donations from the Greater Espanola Valley Community Development Corporation and family members honor the late Olivia Martinez’ commitment to education

Thanks to a generous $30,000 donation from the Greater Espanola Valley Community Development Corporation (GEVCDC) and an additional $20,000 from the late Olivia Martinez’ husband Elias Martinez, her son Chris Martinez and daughter Lydia Torres, Northern New Mexico College’s (NNMC) Northern Scholarship Fund is initiating a new endowed scholarship. Beginning in 2024, the Olivia Martinez Endowed Scholarship will begin providing scholarships for degree seeking students at Northern.

“I am inspired and honored by the leadership of Mrs. Olivia Martinez, who gave her time, talents and treasure to those issues close to her heart,” said NNMC President Hector Balderas. “As a lifetime resident of Northern New Mexico, she championed education and economic development in the Española Valley, including being a founding member of the Greater Espanola Valley Community Development Corporation. We want to thank the GEVCDC and Olivia’s family for their generosity in creating the Olivia Martinez Endowed Scholarship. Northern is honored to hold and manage this endowed scholarship, which will pay tribute to Olivia’s passion for education by helping students achieve their educational goals.”

The Martinez family were pleased to learn that the GEVCDC wanted to contribute to the Northern Scholarship Fund. Their decision to add to that contribution to create an endowed scholarship means that Northern students will benefit far into the future.

“My mom always told me that my education was something that nobody could take from me. When I think of my mom and the importance of an education beyond high school, I always hear those words in my head and I share that with my kids,” Lydia said.

Martinez was devoted to community service, both in her career and her personal life. She spent many years working for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), finding her niche when she became a community outreach specialist for economic development in LANL’s Community Partnership Office.

“With our office we really are out in the community helping to support some of the community needs. And she just had a passion for that,” said Vangie Trujillo, Group Leader at the Community Partnership Office and former board member of the GEVCDC.

Martinez took deep pride in the Española community, defending it fiercely from detractors. “She just couldn’t understand why you would want to move away when you have the opportunities you have here in Española,” Chris said.

Martinez translated her love of her community into finding ways to support and improve it. She was tireless in her efforts to build a better future for the Española Valley. Her volunteering – which began as a young woman – became her life work after she retired from LANL. Martinez did not just attend monthly board meetings: her involvement was almost daily. She was a founding member and driving force behind the GEVCDC, and also worked with Española Mainstreet and the Downtown Action Team. She frequently lobbied public officials for policies that would improve the community. Her last project was coordinating a winter coat drive in December 2021.

One of Martinez’ favorite activities was helping to organize the annual Española Light Parade. “That was her baby. She was so proud of that event,” Lydia said.

After Martinez death, the all-volunteer board did not feel they could live up to her efforts. Martinez had already contemplated disbanding the organization, so the board decided that dissolving and dispersing GEVCDC’s assets to the causes that meant the most to her would be the best way to honor her. Since education and economic development were important to both Martinez and the GEVCDC’s mission, they voted to contribute the bulk of the organization’s funds to Northern’s scholarship program, with additional contributions to the Regional Development Corporation and the Downtown Action Team.

“Olivia has always been part of Española. Seeing the growth in Española and our community was always really important to her,” Trujillo said. “She had a passion for being involved and wanting to see her community thrive. So what better way to honor her?”

The Olivia Martinez Endowed Scholarship will be an enduring tribute to Martinez’ legacy.

“It couldn’t have gone to a better cause in terms of what my mom considered important. She’d be honored, because education to her was very important,” Chris said. “She really wanted everyone around her, everyone that she was a mentor to or a parental figure for to get an education.”

The Olivia Martinez Endowed Scholarship fund will begin accepting applications in 2024. The Northern Scholarship Fund will announce when the application process is open.

Northern offers over 50 bachelor's, associate and certificate programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math); Nursing and Health Sciences; Liberal Arts and Humanities; Arts, Film & Media; Business Administration; Teacher Education and Technical Trades.
Northern New Mexico College is the most affordable 4-year college in the Southwestern US. Choose us for our value, our quality degree and continuing education programs in diverse areas of study, and our experienced faculty. We provide students with unique opportunities for academic, personal, and professional growth, small class sizes, personalized attention, and strong hands-on experiences from day one.
The Northern Foundation remains committed to stimulate leadership, promote equity, and grow resources and philanthropy in the Española Valley and surrounding rural areas. Over the past twenty years, we have granted $1.3 million to support over 1,250 NNMC students.