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A Sting’s Success in Nursing School


    Miami High alumna Ashley Martinez is almost a licensed nurse whose journey from Miami Dade College to Jackson Memorial Hospital shows strength and kindness in healthcare. 

Ashley’s Nursing Journey 

    At Miami Dade College Medical Campus, Ashley attended nursing school debt-free and without FAFSA, thanks to their scholarships. It was an incredible privilege for Ashley to receive such support from her college. Additionally, the support of her best friends and mother played a huge role in her success.  

    She loves the intensity of nursing, stating, “The way I am always learning new things about how the human body works, it’s fascinating and a privilege.” She emphasizes how the knowledge gained through her experiences allows her to help her patients, which in return, makes her happy.  

    Ashley notes the significance of being able to communicate with Hispanic patients in their language, highlighting, “Situations like these and working with doctors, therapists, and more in the hospital help me feel like I am part of something important.” 

    When Ashley graduated high school in 2021, she had already taken Dual Enrollment credits which allowed her to start nursing school at 19 and graduate at 20. She advises aspiring healthcare professionals to start taking classes early to be ahead.  

    The most challenging part of nursing for Ashley is the exhaustion after working 12 hour shifts back-to-back.  She works in the coronary care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where one patient might go into cardiac arrest at the same time another patient wants a cup of water. “It can make the environment stressful,” she states.  

   However, she feels proud of what she does and how she helps her patients. “Because at the end of the day, I am not the patient, I am their nurse, and there to help them,” she said.  

   Ashley loves the critical care unit, which is the specialty she sees herself working in for a while, and she would love to work in the neurological care and cardiovascular care units. In the future Ashley envisions herself working as a nurse anesthetist.  

Ashley’s High School Experience 

    Her biggest challenge in high school was confidence and learning the importance of education. One of the main reasons she started Dual Enrollment in junior year instead of sophomore year was because she thought she was not smart enough for college.  

    However, she later realized that she was more than prepared for college, which felt like taking any other high school class. Her college journey began with Dr. DeNight’s dual enrollment ENC 1101 class in junior year, which boosted her confidence to tackle even more challenging courses. This motivation drove her to graduate with as many college credits as possible, earning her Cum Laude honors upon graduation.  

   While she wishes she had started dual enrollment sooner, allowing her to begin nursing school at 18 instead of 19, she is grateful for her journey and would not change anything. 

   In high school, she participated in the fashion show, Law Honor Society, debate, theater, and many more clubs. She believes a combination of all these activities helped guide her in the right direction regarding what she wanted and did not want. 

   She enjoyed the public speaking aspect of all the clubs she joined. “It made me more confident when talking to patients compared to my fellow classmates,” she said. This initial confidence boost grew into full-blown confidence when she was assisting a nurse with wound care while her Miami Dade College classmates were too scared to help.  

   The main teachers and mentors that impacted her were Dr. DeNight, Ms. Fernandini, and Ms. Puentes. “Without them, I would not have become an academic scholar,” she said. They helped her grow into her highest academic self, and their impact is still felt today. “I will always be grateful for all they have taught me.” 


    Her experiences have made her value education tenfold over the years. She said, “Many students and friends of mine seem to overlook the importance of education, when it’s incredibly valuable.” Some of these peers treated education casually, as if they had the financial security to not care. However, without that financial safety net, they now find themselves without clear career paths or financial stability.  

    Ashley strongly believes that wisely investing in education and pursuing a sustainable career is essential for a healthy life in our economy and country.  

    She believes having a positive mindset leads to a positive life. Emotional intelligence has allowed her to understand herself, her patients, families, and friends. “I learned there is power once you control what goes on in your mind,” she said.  

   It was amazing once she realized she could choose her own thoughts and make her mind a sanctuary instead of a bad place. “Greatness is a feeling one chooses to feel,” she said. “No one else could give it to us.”  

    When she was taking a pharmacology class, which in nursing school is one of the most difficult classes because it is based on how medicine impacts human anatomy, she was close to failing the course. She said, “I got a 72 on one exam, then 70 on the second. In simple terms, I locked in.” She switched her mindset to get out of the ‘poor me, I am failing my class!’ to a ‘I can handle anything that gets thrown at me because I was meant to be in this career. This rewire in her mind resulted in her getting a 90 and 92 on the next two exams—passing the course. 

    She learned she had to go beyond what she felt in her setbacks to succeed. “A simple change in perception of oneself can completely alter their life,” she said.  

   Looking forward to the future, she envisions herself in a library in her dream home, with multiple degrees related to nursing. She states, “I would be working in a children’s hospital as a nurse anesthetist and making kids feel comfortable before and after surgery.”  

   Ashley feels many positive emotions towards her career, and this motivates her to continue working hard towards her future. Transitioning from the challenges of being a high school student during a pandemic at 18 to facing life-and-death situations in nursing school at 19 was a huge adjustment for her. Looking back, she realized how the pandemic and her childhood influenced her interactions with others.  

   Now that Ashley is 21, she is happy to say that she has improved and learned so much about other people that it has helped her connect with them at a higher level. 

Life after H.S./Childhood 

    Ashley would read so many books in middle school and high school. Her main favorites being sci-fi ones by Lois Duncan and Cassandra Clare. She loves the sense of adventure in these novels which allowed her to live in two worlds: an academic one and a fictional one.  

   Nowadays she finds herself reading books like “The Four Agreements” by Peter Coyote and writings by the philosophical greats such as Plato or Aristotle. She states, “All of these have the same message and key to life: positive thinking.”  

  Reflecting on her childhood, she fondly recalled attending a Miami Heat game as a child, and when she graduated high school, she walked across the Miami Heat arena to receive a scholarship.   

   Ashley’s main goal in high school was to try every club and class possible to figure out the career she wanted which, up until senior year, she thought was elementary education. So much so, she got full ride scholarships to multiple schools to become an educator.  

   Yet, she had a change of heart which resulted in the biggest change of her life. She did accomplish many of her high school goals, but not prom and many other activities due to the pandemic. She describes, “It was a bittersweet experience.”  

  Discussing the impact of her education and experiences post-high school on her career path, she states, “Taking dual enrollment classes at 16 gave me a great opportunity to start nursing school at 19. I would be in junior year taking 6 normal high school classes and 4 college ones simultaneously”.  

   In senior year, she would take five to six college classes a semester on top of her high school ones. The lessons she learned in the intense workload helped her prepare for nursing school. 

   Reflecting on her journey, she offered this advice to her teenage self: “Enjoy every moment possible, as it is temporary. I would tell myself something I tell my friends—how the world will always try to have you give up on hope and happiness, but don’t. Truly don’t ever give up on yourself and the ability to have a good life. Keep going and look forward to the future.”  

   Ashley said that if any current Miami High students want to learn more about studying for a nursing career, they can contact her at [email protected]. 

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