Published January 30, 2012
| Fox News Latino
Las Vegas, Nevada – Across the United States, in all fields of endeavor, Latinos are working to uphold their place in American society. Fox News Latino is proud to present "Our American Dream" – a series of snapshots and profiles of Latino success stories.
Las Vegas native Martha Morales, 24, graduated from Rancho High School in three years with a 3.75 GPA back in 2005. In 2009, she graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in four years with a degree in hospitality management. She immediately landed a job as a manager for one of Las Vegas' top hotels after graduation.
She did it all while raising her 9-year old daughter on her own.
"Gosh, high school," sighed Morales, recollecting how tough it was for her during those formative years. "To me, it was not high school. I never did prom, I never did homecoming, or any special clubs."
Morales grew up in North Las Vegas, the not-so-glamorous part of Sin City known for it's poverty-stricken surroundings.
"My mom growing up, she worked in a smaller hotel that paid six dollars an hour as a maid and my father just worked in construction," said Morales.
Morales gave birth to her daughter at the age of 15. The child’s father has been absent for a majority of her daughter’s life. Thankfully, Morales' parents were there to help ease the burden by taking care of her daughter while she was at school.
“Going to school, working full-time, going to Saturday classes, doing community service to get more credits, taking extra classes to make up for all the credits I lost in ninth grade," said Morales, who didn't attend school as a ninth grader because of her pregnancy.
Despite it all, Morales went on to UNLV. While there, she worked full-time doing various jobs at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, ranging from the front desk to bell hop duties. Ironically, her rigorous high school schedule prepared her for the demands of college.
"I would go to work from nine to five, (go) to UNLV, start my classes around 5:30pm and end around 8:20pm, (go) home, be with (her daughter) and help her with her homework, have a late dinner, go to sleep, and start the day over again," said Morales.
But being away from her daughter during her growing years was tough on the North Las Vegas native.
"I wanted to be a great mother. I wanted to be there the times she needed me and to see everything that happens as kids grow up," said Morales.
During her time at UNLV, she was a member of the Epicurean Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps inner city youth land jobs with different hotels around Las Vegas through exclusive mentorship programs with executives at these very hotels. Directors of the program admired her work ethic despite all the obstacles.
"She's a single mother who knew the importance of creating a better future not only for herself, but for her daughter,” said Elizabeth Muto, executive director of the program.
"I think of them as my educational family," said Morales when talking about the program. "Everything I didn't know in school, I learned from them."
Morales would go on to finish her degree in hospitality management at UNLV and thanks to her participation with the program, she landed a job as a hotel manager at Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino the same year. Her primary duty as a manager is to handle logistics for major conventions at the hotel.
"Every pre-planning (for a convention) for any group that comes to Caesars Palace, I have to be there and I have to be their point of contact," said Morales.
Morales' determination to succeed is not only for her daughter, but also for those young girls in similar situations who feel like giving up. Her message is clear: never give up and follow your dreams.
"You can only help who wants to be helped," said Morales. "If you really want to follow your dreams, there's many places, many associations that are willing to help you and hold your hand to take you through it."
Pete Griffin is a Junior Reporter in Las Vegas for Fox News.com.