Scholarship to honor memory of Pierce graduate

Danielle Martin, co-founder and former vice president of Pierce College’s Habitat for Humanities club and former Associated Students Organization (ASO) senate member died on June 21, just two weeks after graduating from Pierce. She was 21.

Martin was born with Goldenhar’s Syndrome, which caused misalignment in her body. On June 10, she had a jaw alignment surgery that went as planned, but she suffered a ruptured brain aneurism that was discovered too late, according to information on Habitat for Humanity’s club website and confirmed by family.

Martin was active at Pierce, and due to her involvement on campus, the ASO is in talks to establish a scholarship in her name, according to ASO president Gus Sandoval.

“If scholarship criteria depends on what [those named in the scholarship] were involved with when they were alive, I’d like to follow suit and tailor it to Danielle,” Sandoval said.

Habitat for Humanity club president and co-founder Iona De La Torre said the club would not have existed without Martin, and that she hopes the scholarship goes to someone with her level of dedication.

“She was incredibly driven and independent. She was so focused on getting things done,” De La Torre said. “In any group situation, she really pulled it together.”

Martin’s cousin and former Pierce student, Alex Ramos, said that because Martin had a physical disability, people would assume she was also mentally disabled, and this motivated her to prove people wrong.

“She would study harder, she would do more,” Ramos said. “She was someone not to be underestimated in any sense of the word. She was so spirited. She was so brave. She was so determined, so driven, and she didn’t let any type of handicap or set-back delay her or slow her down. She was very smart, and in the words of Mr. T: ‘I pity the fool who underestimates her intelligence.’”

De La Torre was one who certainly did not underestimate Martin. The two became close friends while riding the bus to school together, and De La Torre often thinks of all the jokes the two shared. She appreciates how funny Martin was, and that “she just said the darndest things.”

“She would tell people that she had more nose jobs than Michael Jackson,” De La Torre said, in reference to the number of facial surgeries she had had: over 20.

After attending Pierce together for some time, De La Torre left for a while, and when she came back, she was pleasantly surprised to find that Martin had not yet transferred as she had planned.

“I was so happy that she was still here. Of course I wanted her to pursue her dreams, but I was just happy that I had my Danielle back,” De La Torre said. “She was my lifeline at Pierce. I’m so grateful for the time we had together.”

The dream that Martin was pursuing was to go to medical school and become a doctor of psychology, and she was so proud when she graduated from Pierce, according to De La Torre.

“She would say, ‘this associate degree is one step closer to me becoming Dr. Danielle Martin,” De La Torre said.

According to Ramos, Martin was very serious about both ASO and her desire to go into medicine, and she dedicated her time to volunteering whenever she could.

“Whenever there was a blood drive she would either volunteer or she would donate blood herself,” Ramos said. “That was her field and she was very passionate about it.”

Ramos said he hopes that the person who gets the scholarship will make the most of it, because that is what Martin would do.

“I really speak on behalf of my whole family when I say that that’s a huge honor. There are not enough words to effectively explain how much that means. It’s something nobody expected,” said Ramos. “Though I know that everyone knew she was involved, I think it’s just a huge sign that they are more than grateful for what she did.”