Martha Morales knew from an early age that education was the answer to a better life; her family, however, took some convincing.
“We came from a village in Mexico where the highest level of education offered was fifth grade,” Morales said. “My parents just didn’t understand the value of education.”
The fact that Morales was a teen mother presented further challenges.
“I had to beg my parents to help me with my daughter so I could finish high school.”
Morales’ mother reluctantly agreed on one condition: She had to earn good grades and do something with her life. Morales didn’t hesitate to agree to her mother’s stipulation, because she knew precisely what she wanted to do with her life.
“I started working in hospitality at 16, and I fell in love with it,” she said. “I fought to get into a tech school that specialized in hotel so I could learn more.”
Working against the odds, Morales graduated high school with a full-ride scholarship from the Epicurean Charitable Foundation. While studying in the Hotel College, she continued to climb the ranks in the workforce.
“UNLV taught me to embrace diversity and people from all different backgrounds,” she said. “As I grew in my career, I really learned to appreciate people and see them in a different light because of the Hotel College.”
Having come full circle, Morales now serves on the ECF board, awarding scholarships to students who are under-resourced as she once was.
“These are the people who will go out and make a difference,” Morales said. “So it’s great to be able to give them the gift of education.”