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Martha Rodriguez moved for her family to the United States on April 16, 2004, to live a better life. (Photo by Braelyn Berlowitz)

A Move for Better Days

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Media Contact: Kristin Knight | Communications and Marketing Manager | 405-744-1130 |

Everyone has days or moments they remember vividly.

For Martha Rodriguez, that day is April 16, 2004.

On this day, Rodriguez and her two children, ages 10 and 16, boarded a bus in Mexico, took a leap of faith, and headed to the United States. 

“Life in Mexico was extremely difficult,” Rodriguez said. “I remember not having shoes growing up, and my family experienced extreme poverty.”

Rodriguez grew up on a farm in Aguascalientes, Mexico, with 14 siblings. She is the first of her family to travel to the United States.  

“I came to the United States because I wanted a better life for my children,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t want my children to live the same life I lived as a child.” 

Rodriguez’s first two sons — José Gomez, now 29, and Carlos Gomez, now 35 — were both born in Mexico. 

Growing up in Mexico in the ’90s was quite different, José Gomez said. The region of Mexico where the family lived is rural and more agriculturally based, he added. 

“Our house in Mexico was by a massive mountain, so hiking was a natural thing for me,” José Gomez said. “To get from one spot to the other, you either had to walk, ride a bicycle, or take the local bus.

“I woke up about 4 a.m. every day to catch the bus and go to school,” he said. 

Moving to the U.S. was a big culture shock, José Gomez said. His family was unfamiliar with living in a large town like Stillwater, Oklahoma, so they had to adjust, he added.

“Coming to the United States was a hard journey, and life here isn’t the same,” Rodriguez said. “However, I like the people here because there is more respect for everyone.”

After moving with her children to Stillwater, Rodriguez gave birth to her third child, Eddie Gomez, who is now 18 and a Stillwater High School senior.

Rodriquez supported her family through various jobs before accepting her current position, she said. For the last seven years, she has been a custodian at Oklahoma State University.

Rodriquez tends to Agricultural Hall, home to the Ferguson College of Agriculture, and has created relationships with many of the students and faculty, she said.

“I arrive on campus around 4:45 a.m. each day,” Rodriguez said. “I have to arrive early to clean the deans’ offices and unlock a majority of the classroom doors.” 

During the day, Rodriguez tends to 14 restrooms, she said. She cleans them and ensures they have necessities such as toilet paper, soap and paper towels, she added.

“My favorite part about my job is seeing all the students and professors,” Rodriguez said. “It brings me so much happiness to see the students and professors because I wouldn’t have the job I have without them.”

Agricultural Hall is her second home, Rodriguez said, and she spends most of her time in the building during the week. She enjoys meeting the students and professors, she added, and she does her best to get to know them.

“As a student, you are constantly going through a lot of emotions,” said Zuri Seymour, a natural resource ecology and managment junior. “I remember meeting Martha in the hallway, and she has been like family ever since.

“She is constantly checking on me and asking me how my day is going,” Seymour said. “She’s like the family I don’t have here.” 

 Rodriguez is proud of all the students for furthering their education, she said. She wishes she could have experienced an education like this growing up, but she had too many siblings, she added. 

“My mom always wanted the best opportunities for us,” said José Gomez, who lives in Dallas and manages a Verizon Wireless store. “Coming to the United States was the best thing for my family because it gave us more opportunities and allowed us to change our lifestyle.”

Rodriguez often reminds her children to take advantage of the opportunities and better their future lives, she said.  

Carlos Gomez still resides in Stillwater as a professional painter.

“The opportunities my children are experiencing here would not be possible if we were still in Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve seen struggles and experienced hard times, but we always found a way to push through.”

José Gomez said his mother always finds a way to make it. She instilled a “go-getter” mentality into him as he was growing up, he added.

“Even though bad things happen in her life, she shows up,” Seymour said. “She’s always happy, no matter the situation, and it’s very contagious.”

Rodriguez spreads joy to other people, Seymour said, and her advice and outlook on life are inspiring. 

“My family goes in head first,” José Gomez said. “My mom taught me to walk the right path, keep my head up, and not look back.

“It’s what I’ve always seen her do,” José Gomez said. “She always stays positive, and she always has faith.”

José Gomez never witnessed a day his mom wasn’t happy, he said. A big part of his mom’s personality is her uplifting attitude, he added.

“I choose to take the best of each day and be happy,” Rodriguez said. “It’s important to enjoy every single day and have a good attitude.”  

Rodriguez is thankful her children have a better life, she said, and it’s a blessing to live the life they live now. 

“I’m in a really good spot right now,” José Gomez said, “and I give all the credit to my mom.

“My mom really did raise her kids well,” José Gomez added. “We all turned out OK.”  

Story By: Braelyn Berlowitz | Cowboy Journal

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