Following in the footsteps of strong women

Harleen Kaur, Staff Reporter

A woman can be a mother, a wife, a student and a boss. She can be anything she wants to be. March 8 was International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women and their stories. At CWU there are women in every department who are working towards their dreams. 

From being homeless to being the first African-American student president, Jasmin Washington overcame her struggles. Washington is ASCWU president and a senior majoring in public health. 

“I turned in my application to run on the last day, last hour, last minute,” Washington said. “I had the package fully filled out, but I felt like there were other people who were more qualified than I was. But I had to talk to myself and let myself know that nobody was as passionate about the issues as I was.”

Mickael Candelaria, a junior majoring in business administration with a specialization in human resource management, is the ASCWU vice president for student life and facilities. Candelaria said Washington is like the “mom” of the office. According to him, she takes care of everyone and everything. He also said Washington  inspires other students and makes sure underrepresented students are heard in the community. 

“Empowering is the biggest word that I would use for Jasmin,” Candelaria said. “She is the first African American woman to ever serve as the student body president, which is inspiring other young people of color and women that they too can be student body president of 13,000 students.”

Washington grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. She and her family moved to Washington after Hurricane Katrina. 

Teagan Kimbro

They were homeless for some time but her parents worked hard to provide for her and her four siblings, Washington said. Growing up she was the most powerful woman she knew.

“I’ve seen my mother get up and decide to go get her associates degree, which has never even been done before in my family and she worked her butt off to become a teacher. That was during the time where you didn’t need a bachelors degree to be a teacher,” Washington said. “Just so that we could have food on the table and have a place to stay.”

Being on the streets taught Washington to have a survival trait and to be strong. When Washington first came to CWU, she had no money. 

All she knew was she wanted an education. Washington almost got kicked out because of financial reasons, but President Gaudino helped her. 

According to Washington, she wouldn’t have received an education if it wasn’t for him. 

Washington is going to get her master’s in public health after graduating from CWU. 

She hopes to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After a couple of years working in the industry, Washington said she will go back and get her PhD. She hopes to inspire young girls to be and do anything they want to. 

“You are more than your circumstance. You are an overcomer. Always remember that there are generations attached to your name so there’s no way you can fail,” Washington said. “There are women that fought for you to be able to be where you are today.”

Melanie Crispin Garza, a senior majoring in accounting and music, is another powerful woman at CWU. Garza was Miss East Cascade in 2018, representing five counties in Washington and is a trained concert pianist for 18 years.  

Growing up, Garza wanted to be the woman her five-year-old self could look up to and be proud of. 

Although there have been times when she did not succeed with this goal, this has not stopped her from growing and helping others reach their goal, Garza said. 

“I believe in the value of mentorship, the value of taking care of people and wanting to see them succeed. I want to see the people around me be proud of themselves and excited for what is to come next. I love being a part of a person’s journey,” Garza said. 

According to Garza the one thing that makes her so strong and powerful is herself. 

There have been people that encourage her to be her best self, but she can only rise within her own power. Garza said instead of telling herself she got lucky for the success in her life, she tells herself that she earned it. Garza said the difficulties she faced during her childhood manifested into her highschool years.

“I was five years old the first time I was called fat, I looked like a normal little girl. However, this has stuck with me for the rest of my life,” Garza said. 

 Garza said she was one of the very few ethnic minority students in a white community. Garza said her looks were not described in a positive light by adults and peers. 

“I had people constantly telling me to straighten my hair, that my eyes were too dark, etc. As a child growing up this made me form a very negative image of myself, just for being a person of color,” Garza said. 

At the age of 15, Garza lost her brother, who was her best friend, to cancer. This caused Garza to fall into depression and feel as if her world had come to an end. 

According to Garza, this was the darkest time of her life. Garza fought out of it and it shaped her for the rest of her life. Garza learned to love, care for and appreciate the people in her life. 

After graduation from CWU Garza plans on moving to Wenatchee. Garza plans on getting her master’s in accounting and hopes to be more involved in the community. 

“Never forget the power that you hold. It is very easy to doubt ourselves,” Garza said. “We tend to compare ourselves too much to someone else’s success, we get told we’re not good enough, or smart enough, our dreams and goals get belittled by people that are scared of them. Remind yourself that you can, that you are smart enough, that you are driven enough, that you are important, every single day. The constant affirmation of yourself will change your mindset and you can achieve anything.” 

Kathryn Martell, a professor of management at CWU, is a woman who has worked her way to the top. Martell moved from New Jersey in 2012 for her high school sweetheart. 

She started to work at CWU as a professor and was then the dean of the college of business. Martell missed the interaction she had with students, so she went back to teaching. 

Martell earned her undergraduate degree in economics in the University of Chicago and her PhD in management at the University of Maryland. 

Martell has two daughters, whom she raised as a single mother. Martell said one of the hardest things is being a working mother. For 15 years Martell travelled around the world giving speeches about assessment of student learning and as her daughters got older, she was able to take them with her. 

“I divorced their dad, when my girls were four and six. And he really checked out. So there was no child support,” Martell said. 

Growing up, Martell came from a lower-middle class family. Martell’s mother was also a single mother who raised her and her siblings. 

Martell recalls the time she would get hand-me-downs from her aunt since there were a lot of things her family couldn’t afford. 

Martell had to start working at a young age, doing various jobs. 

According to Martell, there was a time when girls were not allowed to work, so she would deliver newspapers using a boy’s name. 

“We were lower-middle class family. I’m the oldest of six children, and then my parents split up when I was probably about 15 and my dad dropped out for a while,” Martell said. 

Martell is planning on retiring in five years. She plans on traveling around the world with her husband, who is retiring this March. Martell also plans on doing volunteering work in a hospice.