It’s How You Finish That Counts: Daniebeth Martinez Negron ’23’s Commencement Address
May 18, 2023
By Office of Marketing
Daniebeth Martinez Negron ’23, the Hamilton Holt School’s 2023 outstanding graduating senior, shares her journey to overcome a series of challenges to earn her bachelor’s degree.
Good afternoon, my beloved Rollins community. What an honor it is to be here, standing before you, as this year’s 2023 Holt Outstanding Graduating Senior, and as a Hispanic, first-generation college graduate, mother of twin boys, and a surprise newborn daughter.
My fellow graduates, we have all been on a unique journey. I am sure we each had to overcome many adaptive challenges to make it here today. I know I did.
My journey has been fraught with unexpected, and often very frightening, health care situations. Ironically, I was that little girl who loved to play the part of emergency first aid responder for my friends when they got hurt playing outside.
As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the ability to use medicine to heal the human body. I knew I always wanted to be a doctor. What I didn’t know was how my own medical trials and tribulations would lead me to pursue an education in health care management at the Hamilton Holt School.
As a teenager, my perfect plan was foiled when, during a routine doctor’s visit, I was told I would never be able to have children. Suddenly, I became the person who had dreamed of becoming a mom my entire life.
My partner and I decided that it might be a long road ahead, so we should try for a baby and hopefully by the time I finished my doctorate in medicine, we would have a family. God had other plans—we had no idea that it would happen so soon.
To our surprise, just a short year later, we received the news that we were expecting. Eager to see our baby’s heartbeat, we rushed to get our first sonogram. They quickly found the heartbeat.
“There’s the heartbeat.” Pause. Zoom out a little. “And there’s a heartbeat.” Pause. Zoom out some more. “And there’s another heartbeat. Congratulations! You are having triplets!”
In slow motion, I laid back down and I don’t remember anything else except for my family’s excitement. I thought to myself, “What are we going to do with three babies? How did this happen naturally when I was told I couldn’t? How am I going to finish my degree now? And, wait, how many diaper changes are we talking about here?”
Overwhelmed with the news, I prayed, “God, if you walk with me and carry me through, I will not give up.”
I did not know how powerful that prayer would be in my life. I continued going to school. I planned ahead by doing extra class work, so I wouldn’t fall too far behind. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. I went into premature labor and lost one of my triplets. It was an immeasurable and devastating loss in our lives.
Three months later, our twins were born prematurely, fighting for every breath. They stayed in the neonatal ICU for two months, where they each overcame a number of adaptive challenges.
During this time, I was enrolled in homeschool from my hospital bed and night school to keep up with school. My passion for healthcare only grew stronger as a result of this experience.
Imagine being awakened from a deep sleep from the exhaustion of being new parents with a call from the hospital. “Hello, are these the parents of twin b?” Immediately, my adrenaline spiked and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.
“Yes, is everything ok?”
“We are just calling you to let you know that your child stopped breathing, and we had to intervene and revive him. The next hours are touch and go. Any questions?”
Can you imagine the despair we felt? Now imagine receiving a similar call eight more times throughout the night—each time interacting with NICU staff who would call to deliver such sensitive news to us, so matter-of-factly.
On the other hand, some health care professionals would do a phenomenal job reassuring us, procedure after procedure. This continued to deepen my desire to pursue health care, to be a part of the change we need to see, to deliver lifesaving measures with love, empathy, and compassion—not only to the patients but also to their families.
I finally graduated from high school on time, with extra college credits earned through dual enrollment from Valencia College. Of course, with my family and my twin boys in the audience, just like today.
Then came the second biggest plot twist in my perfectly laid plan. I decided to go back to finish my bachelor’s degree. Another year into my studies, I became unexpectedly gravely ill.
As I lay in critical condition, a group of doctors, with a grief counselor, came to tell my family it was time to say final goodbyes. All my organs were shutting down and the doctors gave me less than 24 hours to live.
The human body is incredible. Coupled with today’s medical advances, a month later I made a full recovery. Facing another adaptive challenge, I was forced to take yet another pause in my studies, and this time to take care of my health.
Fast-forward to 2020, when we were forced to stay home during a global pandemic. All of a sudden, my incredibly hectic lifestyle came to an abrupt stop. Like many of you, I was lost, unsure what to do with myself in all this newfound free time. Then I thought, “this is the break I needed to be able to go back to school.” It was a blessing in disguise.
I found Rollins during a time when I was going through many transitions, and looking for a place where I could be supported in my continued academic growth, while also balancing my family and work obligations.
That is exactly what I found here in the health management leadership major. To Dr. Niles and Dr. Alamri, for teaching us how to overcome so many difficult situations in health care during those heated classroom debates—from honoring do-not-resuscitate wishes to how to ethically handle family conflict in health care.
To Dr. Bommelje, for teaching us the importance of having an outward mindset, thinking of others needs before our own, the power of mindful silence, listening with open minds and hearts, and facing adaptive challenges, thank you.
I attribute my achievements to the care and support of all my phenomenal professors who taught with such compassion and wisdom. I don’t know of any other college where professors are as accessible, and I am beyond blessed to have found a second home at Rollins.
Little did I know that these lessons would not only mold me into a stronger health care advocate, but they would also prepare me for my final, and most shocking, plot twist, which came just two short weeks ago.
As I was preparing for this speech, I found myself speechless when my doctors delivered the surprise news that I was pregnant and I needed to have an emergency C-section or risk a stillborn baby. The bittersweet occasion of joy and fear wrapped up into emotions that I found difficult to describe—happiness, fear, denial, shock, joy, and elation.
But God works in mysterious ways. Here I am, finally graduating with honors, and I’ve been blessed with a new baby girl named Bella Valentina Soto—my beautiful valentine. It’s been a week of more adaptive challenges, and I know they will continue.
In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I would like to recognize all the moms here today who have made sacrifices for their children. To mi mami, the greatest love of my life. Thank you for giving your all to your family, for dropping what you were doing to come help us, for supporting me in all my decisions, and believing in me when I couldn’t, and telling me “mamita, how can i help you today so you could finish your work?”
From building your home close to us, so you could rush over and make us cafe con leche, to school pick-ups and after-school activities, and today, helping me care for my surprise newborn, Bella. You truly are one of a kind, and I dedicate all my success to you, mi reina madre amada. Te amamos infinito.
To my family, my partner, my twin boys, and my beautiful friends who have become family and cheered me on, supporting my decision to find a way to turn the tragedies into positivity by choosing to return to school. I also dedicate my success to you. Thank you. God has truly blessed me with each of your lives.
Graduates, I share some of my trials and tribulations not to shine a light on what I have had to overcome—even if it took me, or you, a decade and a half to complete my degree—but rather to say that we do not have to conform to societal stereotypes. We can choose to take different detours along the way.
Our future is constantly dependent on just one decision: from who we have been, towards who we can become. The power to change the trajectory of your life lies within you. With discipline, hard work, dedication, honor, and integrity, you can accomplish whatever you set your heart and mind on.
I do not know what adaptive challenges you may be going through, but I am here to remind you that you do not have to be a product of your circumstance. Your current circumstances only determine your history—not your future. It truly does not matter where you come from—your choices are stronger than statistics. What counts is not how you started but how you finish.
Graduates, this is just the beginning. Stand proud for your accomplishments. We did it. Congratulations, Class of 2023.
Thank you and fiat lux.
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