I’m a Pathfinder: 2024 Distinguished Alumni of the Year charting their own path | ACTC

I’m a Pathfinder: 2024 Distinguished Alumni of the Year charting their own path

Published on May 14, 2024

“We can say with full confidence that our success started at Ashland Community and Technical College,” said ACTC Pathfinder, Kathryn Barber Roberts.

Twin sisters, Kathryn Barber Roberts and Susan Barber Martinez, started their journey with a Pell Grant at ACTC with the expectation to stay local around Ashland, but as Pathfinders do, they charted their own path through life with help along the way from their instructors, friends, and mentors that they found at ACTC.

The connections that they made along the way ended up making all the difference on their journey. 

“Carolyn Preston was more than an advisor; she saw something in Susan and I that we would have never seen in ourselves,” Roberts continued. “She gave us the confidence to pursue something we would have never wanted to do without the encouragement, and that was to be engineers.” 

Martinez and Roberts graduated from ACTC in 2016. Martinez embarked on an internship with NASA in Huntsville, Alabama before they both continued their academic career at the University of Kentucky. They attended on the Phi Theta Kappa full tuition scholarship for Mechanical Engineering, putting their newfound confidence to work. 

“I pursued several internships,” Roberts noted. “The first at NASA, and the next few as a Disney Imagineer before graduating from UK in 2020.” 

Graduation brought about more change for the twin sisters, but they continued to be true Pathfinders, just as they have always been.

Martinez began as a full time NASA Engineer upon graduating in 2019 and worked in that role until 2022. As for her sister, Roberts worked as a traveling engineer for Amazon Robotics as well as Walgreens Robotics. 

In 2021, both Barber and Martinez were honored as the Ashland Community and Technical College Students of the 2010 Decade. They were most recently welcomed back to the community at the 2024 Spring Commencement ceremony as our guest speakers where they reminded ACTC graduates of all the exciting opportunities that await them.

As for the sisters, their paths ultimately found their way back to each other. 

“If you would have told me 8 years ago that we would both be in Huntsville, Alabama working together at Blue Origin, I truly don’t know if I would’ve believed you!” Martinez remarked. 

Both Roberts and Martinez work as engineers for Blue Origin, getting to live out their dreams side by side. 

“We could have never done all of this by ourselves of course,” Roberts noted. “We had tons of support at ACTC.” 

The sisters credit many connections at ACTC for helping them find their path. Richard Conley, for his mentorship and instilling a deep love of physics for Martinez, as well as opening doors and encouraging her to pursue her NASA internship. Former President Dr. Kay Adkins, who served as a wonderful friend and mentor to Roberts during her time as Student Government President in 2015-2016. Richard Merrit, who helped Roberts with the confidence she needed to pursue a career in STEM, and so many more. 

“Our time at ACTC was one of the times in my life that I will always look back on with the best of memories,” Roberts concluded. “Ashland is so lucky to have such a wonderful hidden gem in ACTC.”