Rachel Maria Martinez
Rachel Maria Martinez’s childhood ambition was to be a teacher. So after she graduated high school, Rachel enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As part of the program, she had to complete 100 hours of field work in a classroom. That classroom work, however, brought a surprising revelation: this wasn’t what Rachel wanted to do with her life.
After that realization, Rachel decided to take a break from school and go out into the working world to start earning a living. This detour began a career that included successful stints as a Customer Service/Sales Manager, Recruiter, Account Executive, Product Manager, and Product Developer.
“I am grateful for the experience I gained in the business world – that has helped me be where I am today,” Rachel says. “But there was always one thing I felt was missing from my life. I had always had a passion for nutrition, fitness, and putting those together to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle. I wanted to continue to share this passion with others and to show others how to take control of their lives. My barrier was that I just never really knew how to deliver this message on an educated, professional level.”
The pieces began to come together for Rachel in 2015 when she joined the YMCA in West Bend, Wisconsin. She enjoyed her fitness classes at the gym so much that she began to think about how she could parlay her love of fitness into something more than a pastime.
“I thought to myself, ‘Could I teach this class?’” Rachel recalls. “So I took the step of becoming a Certified Group Fitness Instructor, and it was one of the best moves I made. This step changed my life forever.”
Having secured a part-time position teaching Group Fitness classes, Rachel took a leap of faith and quit her full-time job as a Product Developer. Rachel took advantage of her new work schedule to pursue a few ventures that would improve her knowledge and prospects in the fitness arena. She continued to secure other Group Fitness certifications, and she decided it was time to go after a college degree in a fitness-related field.
“I pursued Ashford University because the Health and Wellness program was exactly what I was looking for,” Rachel explains. “With all the credits that I had from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I transferred those credits and completed my program here at Ashford in two years.”
In 2016, a full-time position opened up at one of the YMCA branches where Rachel taught.
“I believe that my passion, and going back to school, showed them that I was eager to learn and that I was serious about a career change,” Rachel says. “So, I had the opportunity to step into the role of Healthy Living Coordinator.”
But more exciting opportunities were just around the corner. As she was completing her BA in Health and Wellness at Ashford, Rachel was asked if she’d be interested in the Wellness Director position at the Kettle Moraine YMCA in West Bend. She got the promotion and now oversees chronic disease, nutrition, and healthy aging programming.
“I could not have been luckier to make the change I did two years ago and to be where I am today,” Rachel says. “Without the knowledge and experience that I gained during my program here at Ashford, I probably would not be where I am.”
It was an unexpected journey from aspiring school teacher to Wellness Director, but Rachel sees how all of her experiences – including her Ashford education – brought her to this point.
“Things have come full circle for me, and my continued education at Ashford University helped me achieve the dreams and goals I had of helping others,” Rachel says. “Although I am not a school teacher, I look at myself as a teacher in a different capacity – supporting and encouraging others to take control of their health. I could not have done this without Ashford University!”