Augusta University is celebrating its spring graduates this week.
Spring Commencement ceremonies for Augusta University will be Thursday, May 13, at Lady A Pavilion, 7016 Evans Town Center Park. There will be a morning and an afternoon ceremony to accommodate participants and guests, while also following appropriate COVID-19 precautions.
Breeze Martinez is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social work from the Department of Social Sciences at Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
Growing up wasn’t easy for Breeze Martinez.
“Jackson, Michigan, is an extremely small city that is literally known for having the largest walled prisons in the world,” said Martinez, a senior at Augusta University. “I grew up in poverty. It was a really bad place.”
She was the oldest of seven children after her mother became a foster parent and adopted five younger siblings who came from abusive and neglected homes. Her siblings needed a lot of love and support.
“Since I grew up in a foster home, I got to see my mom take in children who were in really bad situations,” Martinez said. “That was always really cool to me. She reached out to these children who needed help.”
After graduating from high school, Martinez joined the Army and gladly left Jackson, but she soon found out that a military career wasn’t what she wanted in life.
“When I got out of the Army, I was looking for something fulfilling. Something that really helps people out,” she said. “I ended up choosing social work and I’m really glad I did.”
Majoring in social work at Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Augusta University has given her the ability to reach out and help children who need guidance and support, Martinez said.
“I think because of my background growing up in a foster home and being on the opposite side of some of the abuse and neglect and being on the brighter side just really gives me a better chance to relate with children,” Martinez said. “Because of my own struggles as a child, it’s a lot easier for me to notice certain things.
“I can be that person of contact when a child may be going through something that a lot of other people don’t know is serious, but I can see it as serious.”
Martinez, who will be proudly graduating from Augusta University on May 13, has already accepted a job at Child Enrichment, Inc. in Augusta.
Child Enrichment was established in 1978 by a group of physicians, nurses and social workers to help abused children overcome their experience and rebuild their lives. Over the past 40 years, the nonprofit has helped more than 24,500 children who were abused, abandoned and neglected in the Augusta area.
“Child Enrichment does some incredible things here in Augusta. It’s a wonderful nonprofit,” Martinez said. “I started interning there last September with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.”
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program recruits, trains, supervises and coordinates community volunteers to speak up for abused and neglected children in the foster care system, Martinez said.
The volunteers must be carefully screened, undergo background checks and receive more than 40 hours of specialized training to learn skills necessary to advocate for children in juvenile court proceedings, she said. Just last year, CASA volunteers served and advocated for 405 children in such court proceedings.
“CASA works to make sure that children will be placed in a safe and stable home as quickly as possible,” Martinez said. “We speak up for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. So, that’s what I did during my internship and I ended up loving it so much that I accepted a job there.”
Martinez is truly grateful for the education and guidance she received from the professors and faculty within the Department of Social Sciences at Augusta University.
“The social work program is amazing. It really prepares students throughout the whole entire track,” Martinez said, adding that she particularly enjoyed the courses taught by Penny Alderman and Morgan Fields.
“Dr. Eunhye Kim is our new gerontology professor and she’s also awesome. But there are a lot of great courses here at AU. For example, Dr. John Hayes’ history courses are wonderful. He is an amazing history professor. I just really enjoyed my time here at Augusta University.”
After graduation, Martinez says she believes Child Enrichment plans to have her working with children in the Columbia County area.
“That will be different because I did my internship and volunteer work in rural Augusta, so I’ll get to see a whole different side of this community,” Martinez said. “I’m really excited because I love Augusta. After I joined the military, I liked it here so much that I got married and my husband and our family settled down here.
“Now, I call Augusta home and I want to stay here and serve the kids and the families of the Augusta area.”