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First in college, student aims to make family proud

MATT ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Political science sophomore Monica Martinez sits in front of Old Main last week. Martinez received the UA Hispanic Alumni Scholarship and will be the first of her immediate family to graduate from a four-year university.
By Alida Kunsa
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 29, 2004
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Monica Martinez, a political science sophomore, is a first-generation college student who thinks that having opportunities and being acknowledged for achievement is very important.

Martinez is the first person in her immediate family to attend a four-year university and is planning on graduating in May 2007. Neither Martinez's parents or her grandparents attended college.

"I think that not enough people have enough opportunities to attend college or get recognized for their accomplishments," Martinez said. "I feel very privileged."

Martinez said the family trend, for her cousins, is to start out at community college but then end up working full-time and dropping out. She also said many of her cousins are starting families.

Martinez said her education sometimes goes unnoticed in her family, which she said gives her reason to strive for something more.

"I find that I'm under constant self-construction. A constant construction site," she said.

Martinez, 19, is attending the UA on the UA Hispanic Alumni Scholarship, which is paying for her four years of tuition.

For fun, she goes to independent films and goes out on weekends with friends. But much of her time is spent in the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center working on her Arabic homework, working as a cashier at the Cactus Grill on the third floor of the Student Union Memorial Center, or working out at the Rec Center.

Martinez's parents Martha and Pete Martinez have sacrificed a lot for her and are her biggest influences, she said.

Her dad is a construction worker, but the job is intermittent. Her mom is a homemaker and photographs weddings and birthdays on the side to make extra money.

Martinez's parents and younger sister, Maricela, 15, live next door to her grandfather to help take care of him.

All of Martinez's family came to the United States from Mexico.

Her mom was born in Mexico but came over as a child because her dad was in the U.S. Army and was a World War II Veteran. Martinez's dad was born in the United States after his grandparents came from Mexico.

Martinez has a big family; her mother has four siblings, her father has nine.

Martinez said she takes pride in her family, something she claims to get from her dad.

"Dad doesn't let you lie. He is the patriarch of the family and everyone has respect for him," she said.

In addition to her close ties with her family, Martinez thinks it is important to keep in touch with her friends.

She graduated from Tucson High School in 2003. While in high school, Martinez received a $1,000 Target scholarship for college.

During high school she also interned at the Coalition of Human Rights, which deals with border issues and indigenous communities and at the Tucson/Mexico Trade Office.

Now, Martinez lives in a residence hall on campus and will stay there until next year when she hopes to rent out a house. She said her parents frequently bring her food and her mom still does her laundry.

Martinez said her parents had a hard time with her moving into the dorms because she wouldn't be as close to them.

"I knew I would be studying late and would want to go out. I wanted my independence," Martinez said.

Martinez explained there is a cultural gap between her and her parents. She said since her parents didn't attend college, they aren't aware of college life.

Martinez tries to be as involved at the UA as possible.

She is one of three event coordinators for the International Studies Student Association.

Last summer she did a study abroad program in Seville, Spain. During her 7 1/2-week stay, she studied art history and took an advanced Spanish literature course. The trip was her first time traveling out of the United States and Mexico.

She said she would love to travel more and visit her friends who live around the world, including a friend in Pakistan.

Even though she speaks Spanish, she likes studying the language more in depth and is interested in learning about the roots and languages of all cultures.

"I think it's important to be a part of the cultural aspect of the university because it's a multi-faceted learning institution," Martinez said.

She describes herself as passionate about education and people, especially her family.

Martinez said she grew up with "good Samaritan" parents and said she can't forget about what they taught her.

"I am really proud of them," she said. "I hope they are proud of me."

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