The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thankfulness, courage, and desire to help others have led former Student Nurse of the Year Erica Martinez-Meza to this moment of impact: leading a group of Dickinson State University Nursing students to Guatemala.

Erica had always known that she wanted to become a nurse. She grew up in a less fortunate family and through those experiences, she discovered her desire to help others. When she became a mother, her motivation to provide a stable home for her family to call their own grew stronger.

“The reality is,” said Erica, “Not everyone has all they need. It’s important for me to model gratitude and giving back to my children and nieces.”

A nontraditional nursing student at DSU, Erica entered the program with one child and had her second after her second year. Instead of the added responsibilities holding her back, Erica thrived and was named “Student Nurse of the Year” in 2022. She was nominated by her teachers because of her passion and love for nursing.

“This is where I want to be,” said Erica. “I cried throughout the entire personal interview of the contest. I love the program at DSU: I love being a nurse. But I was still surprised and honored when I won.”

As the director of funds for the Nursing Students Association (NSA) at DSU, she heard of other NSA groups coordinating a mission trip abroad. Being bilingual and with the God’s Child project so close in Bismarck, all the pieces fell into place to organize a trip to Guatemala.

In March, Erica plus 11 other NSA students from DSU are spending their spring break working with Casa Jackson. They plan to provide care to malnourished children in the hospital and build homes as part of their trip.

Mother, Nurse, Role Model, Missionary. Women Empowering Women is delighted to recognize Erica and witness the impact of her passion and dedication as she graduates this spring.

Kudos is a program of the local nonprofit organization Women Empowering Women. The program recognizes the good work women do. These are women who’ve lived quietly, joyfully, or creatively to influence our lives. They are an inspiration and deserve to be recognized for their efforts and impact. Women Empowering Women is dedicated to the collaboration of women to meet needs and help women become the best versions of themselves. To learn more, see