Fresno State President’s Medalist: Educators’ daughter prefers a career in law

Undergraduate dean’s medalist Primavera Leal Martínez (College of Arts and Humanities) was recognized as winner of the President’s Medal during the 103rd Fresno State Commencement at the Save Mart Center.
Undergraduate dean’s medalist Primavera Leal Martínez (College of Arts and Humanities) was recognized as winner of the President’s Medal during the 103rd Fresno State Commencement at the Save Mart Center.

Primavera Leal Martínez comes from a family of educators, so it’s reasonable to think that she’ll go into teaching just like Oviedo Martínez, a middle school principal in the Fresno Unified School District, and, Dolores de Alma Martínez, a kindergarten teacher for 28 years who left for a few years to work as a pre-school curriculum support provider before deciding to go back to the classroom life she missed.

An aunt is a fifth-grade teacher. Her parents are graduates of Fresno State.

“I had somebody in every step of my education,” said Martínez. “In kindergarten I had my mom, I had my tía through elementary school, and my dad in middle school.”

So, what expectations do they have on the recent Fresno State graduate?

“They really want me to go into teaching at the elementary or middle school or high school level,” said Martínez, who finished her bachelor’s in English in three years at Fresno State.

“I’m more set on law,” said the 20-year-old Martínez, the recipient of the President’s medal as the top undergraduate in the class of 2019.

She was the dean’s medalist from the College of Arts and Humanities.

You can credit Hallmark Charter School in Sanger for Martínez’s decision. She was recruited from Sanger High School by Al Sánchez to be a part of the charter school’s debate team.

It sparked her interest in debate.

“From my first introduction, I loved the ability to get on a podium, do research first and then just talk about something even if I personally didn’t agree with that side,” said Martínez, who went on to become an all-American debater at Fresno State. “I think it’s important to have the skills to advocate.”

Getting into debate sparked her interest in law.

“I found my passion for law within debate. It got me passionate about law, policy, reading legislation,” said Martínez. “Some people may find it boring to sift through a bill, but I find it really interesting, and I can see myself doing that full-time.”

She is hoping to become an immigration attorney to “advocate for those forgotten by the immigration system and are most in need.”

Martínez, because she graduated in three years, wasn’t ready to take the law school entrance exam. She had planned to find work with a law firm in the meantime, but she was convinced to go for her master’s in communications and work with the Barking Dogs Debate Team at Fresno State as an assistant coach.

The Sanger native has advocated for migrant workers and DACA students.

“It could have been so easily that I would have been in that situation given the background of my grandparents,” said Martínez about her advocacy work. “They could have easily been in that position. That really kind of opened my eyes that I’ve had a lot of privilege and am very lucky and blessed to be in this situation where my grandparents’ immigration status is now set.”

Her grandparents, who were born in Nuevo León, México, “are now citizens.”

However, Martínez sees friends not having the same opportunities and having the stress of their legal status get in the way of achieving their dreams.

Martínez also served as a vice president of external affairs for the Fresno State student association, as well as student representative for the Student Success Summit conference and for the College of Arts and Humanities.

She also served as co-editor of La Voz de Aztlán, a student-led newspaper at Fresno State. Martínez also volunteered for Camp Kesem, a camp for children affected by a parent’s cancer.

Martínez praises the environment at Fresno State. One of her first memories is briefly meeting dean Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. Weeks later, she was stunned when a man wearing a suit and riding a scooter on campus yelled at her, “Hola Primavera, ¿cómo estás?”

“It took me a second to realize it was the dean of the college,” said Martínez.