One of the most important segments of the FTHA’s benevolence mission is the Kent Stirling Scholarship Program. Launched in 2017, the program awards funds for tuition, books and other educational expenses to the men and women of the backside of Gulfstream Park and their immediate dependents. Over $110,000 in awards have been distributed in the five years since implementation, assisting the family of trainers and backside workers in their educational endeavors. One student who recently graduated from the program is Marbella Martinez, the 22-year-old daughter of parents who both work for trainers at Gulfstream Park.
Born in Georgia, Martinez grew up in Hallandale after her family moved to south Florida when she was three. She graduated from South Broward High School in Hollywood in 2018 and enrolled at Nova Southeast University, a private research university located in Davie, Florida. Martinez’s interest in the environment led her to NSU Florida’s Halmos College of Arts and Sciences, where she is a senior, working toward a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. She has a double minor in legal studies and psychology, the former related to her major and the latter an area of personal interest.
“I was always interested in the environment and wanted to get involved with helping wildlife conservation and our oceans,” said Martinez. “I minored in legal studies to better understand the issues and knowing the law as it related to the environment. Psychology was something I had an interest in and when I had to fill out my course load, I chose to minor in that as well.”
Her dream job would be one in which she, as a scientist with legal training, “could help formulate and implement conservation laws and regulations.” Martinez indicated that a position with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a chemical oceanographer is something that she would like to pursue as well. “This would allow me to study the chemical properties of the ocean and aid in creating regulations to conserve it.”
Martinez’s dad Esdras works as a groom for Leon McKanas after being a longtime employee of Joe Catanese at Calder. Her mom, Luisa Dominguez, is a hotwalker for Bobby DiBona. Martinez was made aware of the Kent Stirling Scholarship program by her father, who encouraged her to apply.
“My father never had the luxury of affording a higher education,” Martinez said. “It is because of his hard work and dedication that I was able to attend my dream university and work toward my own goals. I bring pride to my family as the first person to attend college. Receiving the FTHA scholarship is a huge help for my father and family as I get closer to graduating from NSU Florida and using that education to go on to create a better world for the future. I am very appreciative to the FTHA for being named a scholarship recipient.”
Martinez is scheduled to graduate from Nova Southeastern in June of 2023.