Near-death experience puts grad on activist path

A near-fatal illness when she was 16 led Beth Anne Martin to dream big dreams. She decided she wanted to make the world a better place.

Martin has hiked through rainforests to study ecology in Costa Rica and has planted hundreds of trees as a farm intern in New Zealand. She has founded a student organization to fight slavery and trafficking, and has led volunteer efforts for a Tempe homeless program and an environmental action team.

The young activist was one of more than 400 university students from 40 countries selected by Rotary International to study abroad. She studied food security and community-based agriculture in Chile.

She will graduate from ASU's Barrett, the Honors College this December with degrees in sustainability from the School of Sustainability and history from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Martin was sideswiped by an E.coli infection when she was in high school, and her doctor told her she had been days away from death. Always a healthy person, part of an active family with eight children, she says the experience made her reevaluate her life’s direction.

The ASU Study Abroad program has helped set her on an international path to developing her interests in sustainable development. She has traveled to Costa Rica and New Zealand to learn about food production.

“I realized I had no knowledge of farming, so I sent out about 100 emails to farms all over the world," Martin said.  "I heard back from Uma Rapiti, a small family farm of about eight acres on Waiheke Island off the coast of New Zealand.

“I spent last summer living there by myself in a wool shed, with an outdoor shower and toilet. My family was horrified, but it was wonderful. The people who owned the farm lived on the mainland and came out on weekends. I planted 300 to 400 fruit and native trees, and I planted seedlings in greenhouses for the next year.

“I believe life is shaped by the dreams one follows,” she wrote in her Rotary essay. “I want to always dream big dreams; I want those dreams to motivate me to take action.”

Written by Sarah Auffret