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Future prosecutor, Stetson Law student Nicole Martingano turned life-changing accident into determination

When law student Nicole Martingano walks at Stetson’s graduation in Gulfport on May 18, she will be one step closer to her dream of becoming a prosecutor. A near-fatal accident in 2006 while Nicole was still an undergraduate student in Gainesville changed the course of her life forever and inspired her to seek justice.

Nicole Martingano and her puppy Hulk look forward to graduation on May 18 at Stetson Law in Gulfport.

Nicole Martingano and her puppy Hulk on Stetson’s Gulfport campus.

A sudden head-on collision with a drunk driver left Nicole with left-side paralysis and gaps in her memory after a brain injury. She had multiple surgeries to regain use of her arms and legs. She found it difficult to assemble sentences. In the three months she spent recovering in the hospital and during subsequent speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions, Nicole said she became determined to educate people about the dangers of drunk driving and to one day become a prosecutor.

While recovering from the accident, Nicole launched an awareness campaign on the University of Florida campus where she was a student. She created her “How to Save a Life” website at htsalife.com to share with fellow students how her life was forever altered. Over the past six years, the focused student has shared her personal story with thousands of high school and college students as a cautionary tale about the consequences of drunk driving. While preparing to make a presentation at the University of South Florida, Nicole said she was drawn to Stetson’s advocacy program and the Tampa Bay area where she thought she could make a difference.

When she first became a Stetson law student, Nicole began sharpening her advocacy skills. She successfully tried out for Stetson’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Board and enrolled in Stetson’s Prosecution Clinic, a path she recommends to other students interested in working as prosecutors.

Nicole applied for jobs with prosecutor’s offices around the state, and got an email with good news and a follow up phone call on March 5 from the state attorney in Miami. That day, she learned that the job with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office was hers.

“I always wanted to be a state attorney,” Nicole explained. “I will get the most experience with trials at the state attorney’s office and I will have an opportunity to work with DUI victims.”

On Saturday morning, May 18, Nicole will graduate from Stetson as an advocate in the truest sense of the word, determined to make an impact on drunk driving in the state, and to encourage others to save a life. On Aug. 19, she will start her new job with the state attorney.

“It’s something I was called to do,” Nicole explained.