When Mayra Martinez was growing up in San Luis Potosi in Mexico, she described it as a very small place with limited opportunities for education. She only attended school until sixth grade, and when she came to the United States in 2014, she was told it was “too late” for her to attend high school.
“I started working in a fast food restaurant, as a custodian is a school district, as a cashier, because I didn’t speak any English,” she said. “I was not even able to order food.”
However, she worked hard to learn English, and earned her GED. She started at College of the Mainland (COM) in 2018, and earned her Associate of Science degree in May 2020.
“When I started community college, I was not able to take notes, because I didn’t know how to write and I had to translate everything,” she said.
Martinez has continued to work hard at the University of Houston, where she is a Petroleum Engineering student. Her effort has been recognized, as she is one of two recipients from UH of this year's Andy Ellis Memorial Scholarship Award from the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE).
Ellis, a resident of Katy, passed in 2020 and the first award was given in his honor in 2021. Ellis was a longtime member of the AADE, and served as the president of the Houston Chapter and president of the national association. He was honored with the title of President Emeritus of the national association.
Martinez is now the current president of the UH student chapter of the AADE.
“After pushing myself to be a better version everyday, I have the honor of receiving multiple scholarships this semester,” she said, noting that she graduates this year. “My educational journey has taught me that only the sky is the limit.”
Martinez noted that she wasn't expecting to receive this honor.
“I was surprised because this is one of the most competitive scholarships I have ever applied for,” she said. “I felt so happy to know that someone from our petroleum department was able to obtain the scholarship.”
Attending the University of Houston had always been a goal for Martinez, thanks to the advantages of the area for her.
“I had to choose a local university because I can’t afford to study out of town, but also back in 2014 when I came to this country, I saw the campus and I thought how much I would like to study there,” she said. “Since the first day I started studying at community college, I knew UH was the place where I wanted to transfer to complete my engineering degree.”
Because of her status as a first-generation student as well as her personal educational background, Martinez said she could not have gotten to where she is today without the support of various people.
“Being a first-generation college student has been very challenging when it comes to support or academic influences, but through my academic life I have met amazing people,” she said. “When I started my education at College of The Mainland, I met my English professor, Dalel Serda), who was also Latina and first generation. She become my motivation to believe I can do it. She helped me to succeed in every way, she motivated me and always believed in me.”
She added, “Also from COM, professor John Mohr has been such an inspiration in the oil & gas industry for me, mentor, role model and very supportive.”
When Martinez began studying at UH, she said she recently plenty of support, but one of her peers assisted her greatly.
“One of my best friends, Edgar Cardona, graduated from UH back in 2018. He motivated me to attend UH, and he brought me to campus to gave me a tour and showed me where my future classes will be. He was very supportive and helpful, and kept me motivated to continue working on my engineering degree.”
Martinez also identified several faculty members in the Petroleum Engineering Department as being major influences in her success.
“I have received such an amazing support from Dr. Lori Hathon. I am glad I had a professor like her who cares about students’ success,” she said. “Dr. George Wong, my petroleum production operations professor, is one of those professors who cares too much about our success.
Martinez graduates in May 2024. She completed an internship as a field engineer with Helmerich & Payne this year, and she also works for Oxy part-time in well servicing. She is exploring her opportunities in industry after graduation, ideally in drilling or production.