Kelley Martinez of Katy was cooking dinner when she got the letter telling her that she was going to receive an honor for her hard work as a graduate student at the University of Houston-Victoria, but it didn’t look like much when she got it.

“The envelope was all crumpled, torn and taped together and was stamped saying the envelope was damaged during delivery,” she said. “I remember looking at it and thinking, ‘Well, I hope it’s not something important.’ But, of course, it was.”

Now, Martinez has been named the Fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate Student for the UHV School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development, and she will graduate with a Master of Education in administration and supervision with a concentration in principalship in December. Patrick Horton, of Edna, was named the school’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student.

Each semester, professors from UHV’s three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement. UHV will hold its fall commencement at 11 a.m. Dec. 14 in the Leonard E. Merrell Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane in Katy. A livestream of the ceremony will be available at

“Every year, we are tasked with choosing outstanding students from a huge group of wonderful students,” said Fred Litton, dean of the school. “Kelley and Patrick are two examples of what makes our student body so extraordinary, and I am honored to know they chose UHV to further their education. I wish them all the best as they move forward into their careers.”

Martinez is an instructional coach at Diane Winborn Elementary School in the Katy Independent School District, where she works with math and science teachers. She chose to get her master’s from UHV after some of her teacher friends told her about their experiences with the university. In addition, the university has a location in Katy, and classes are offered online and on weekends.

“I wanted to challenge myself and move forward in my career,” she said. “Education helps me see things through a different lens. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, and I did.”

During her first week as a graduate student, Martinez almost quit because her husband was diagnosed with cancer.

“At first, I thought the diagnosis was a sign that I shouldn’t be getting my degree now,” she said. “But he wouldn’t let me quit. He pushed me to do it anyway, and I’m glad he did. Now, he’s been cancer-free for a year, and I am about to get my degree.”

After graduation, Martinez wants to find a position as a principal in Katy ISD.

“I believe that education has the power to change people,” she said. “I know I can be a valuable asset to my community, and I’m challenging myself to be the best leader I can be.”

Horton has always dreamed of working in the classroom and inspiring students. Now, as he is about to receive a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in fourth to eight-grade education, he is excited to see that dream become reality. He plans to work as a middle school teacher for the Edna Independent School District.

“Teaching is a work of the heart,” Horton said. “Teaching middle school is my goal, and I’ve been through so many ups and downs to reach this point. I can’t express how excited and grateful I am.”

Horton drew much of his inspiration from his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was a student at Victoria College and died in August 2016. At the time, he was concerned that his grades at VC were not good enough to get into UHV’s education program, but before her death, his mother had encouraged him to keep trying.

“She always taught me to never give up,” he said. “That’s something I plan to pass on to my students. I’m not going to give up on them, so they shouldn’t give up on themselves. When you give up on yourself, you lead to failure.”

That sentiment is one that speaks to Martinez’s educational journey as well. Throughout her struggle to earn her master’s degree, she has used the experience to show her sons the importance of working through difficult time and circumstances to reach success.

“I just stayed open and honest with them about what I was going through,” she said. “I just kept telling them that yes, this is hard, but if you want something, you have to be willing to work for it.”

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