Whether in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas or across the globe in Bogotá, Colombia, Miguel Martinez ’18 takes his pride in his community and passion for social justice wherever he goes.
Miguel Martinez is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Government and triple-minoring in Latina/o Studies, International Relations, and Inequality Studies. He is a member of the First Generation Student Union, the Cornell Dream Team, the Pre-Professional Program (P3), Cornell’s Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, and has been a scholar in the McNair program since his sophomore year.
A prominent figure across the Cornell campus, Miguel credits his ambition to his experiences before college. His motivations stem from the deep appreciation for his community back home and the personal struggles he faced when growing up in a low-income neighborhood where gangs were heavily present. Miguel hopes to return to his community one day and create a non-profit organization dedicated to serving youth and helping them get into college, explaining that his “success will always be tied to the success of [his] community and those around [him].”
Aside from being a role model on campus and in his home community, Miguel has taken his passions around the world. In the summer of 2016, Miguel participated in a short-term study abroad program in Salamanca, Spain. He enjoyed the classes, workshops, and excursions that allowed him to realize the Spanish origins of some of his family’s Mexican traditions. His most exciting period in college was his study abroad semester in London, England where he was able to continue his studies and travel across Europe.
Miguel’s summers have been filled with programs centered on human rights advocacy. After his first year at Cornell, he interned at the San Antonio city council. The next summer, Miguel interned for the Cornell Farmworker Program, a program dedicated to serving upstate-New York farmworkers and their families from the effects of social isolation, language barriers, and undocumented status. This past summer Miguel had the opportunity to participate in a human rights program in Colombia, as well as to continue his personal research at the University of California at Santa Barbara investigating the relationship between the Latinx community, discrimination, and international human rights. He hopes to provide his community with tools beyond the U.S. border to combat discrimination. After Cornell, Miguel plans to pursue his PhD in either Sociology or Political Science focusing on immigration, human rights, and the political mobilization of marginalized communities.
Miguel experienced his most profound moment at Cornell during his first year. He detailed how he felt when his eyes opened to the systemic perpetuation of many issues he had faced when growing up. “The moment I realized that the things I, my parents, and a lot of other people went through [are rooted in] a larger, systemic issue,” he explained, “… I felt like ‘Why haven’t I known that this entire time?’” This realization only furthered his involvement in social justice groups on campus and pushed him to become a leader in the Latinx community and the broader Cornell campus.
Along with his many successes at Cornell, Miguel has faced issues experienced by many first-generation college students. Homesickness, not knowing whom to turn to for help, and even helping his parents financially all contributed to the challenges. He found his safe haven within the Latinx community, and encourages any aspiring Cornellian to get to know faculty and staff that are supportive of your personal success.
“I often think about the quote ‘we rise when we lift others’ and how it’s always been important for me to constantly give back. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of others.”