The city of Chelsea was among those recognized by Martha Cecilia Valentin when she addressed fellow graduates at Salem State University’s College of Arts and Sciences ceremony on the morning of May 21. Valentin had been selected to address her fellow graduates at the commencement, where she received her Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
“This is the American Dream,” said Valentin in the days before her speech. Her commencement address can be viewed here and begins at 57:50.
Valentin, a 30-year employee of Chelsea Public Schools, arrived in Chelsea from Honduras at age 17. Although she recently relocated to Malden, Valentin considers herself “a Chelsea girl at heart,” and she credits the city's school system for giving her the opportunity to receive both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
“Chelsea gave me amazing friends and the opportunity to study at Salem State University,” she said in her address.
After Valentin began working with Chelsea Public Schools in 1992, she was encouraged by staff members to take college courses and complete her bachelor’s degree, ultimately receiving a full scholarship from the city. Valentin completed her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education at Salem State in 2009 before returning to complete her master’s degree.
In her commencement address, Valentin recognized the many individuals who helped her succeed: her late mother, husband, three children, professors, teachers, and colleagues within Chelsea public schools. She thanked her TESOL professor and advisor, Professor Melanie Gonzalez, who she said was always there to help.
Now Valentin, who did not speak any English when she first arrived in the United States, looks forward to helping others who face some of the challenges that she did.
“I have discovered that I can help others that just like me are going through the same struggles,” Valentin told the audience. “I have discovered that I am not alone. I have discovered that there is always someone that is ready to help you out.”