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ASU student attributes higher education success to Upward Bound program

Parker, AZ (February 14, 2019) – Robin Martinez Jr. always knew that he wanted to attend college, but as a first-generation student, higher education seemed more like a distant dream than an attainable goal.

That all changed when he became a part of the Arizona Western College Upward Bound program as a freshman at Parker High School.

“Being a first-generation student, I had no one to guide me along the winding pathways that lead to college. Upward Bound became that guide for me,” he said.

In addition to giving Martinez the practical tools he needed to achieve higher education, Upward Bound also cultivated his self-esteem, ambition, and overall well-being.

“The program helped me see that despite the fact that neither of my parents had obtained a college education, I could still succeed and fulfill my purpose in this world through higher education,” said Martinez.

“Now that I am actually living my dream as a student at Arizona State University, I attribute a great deal of my successes and accomplishments to the Upward Bound program and all of the invaluable resources and assistance the staff gave me access to.”

His Upward Bound academic advisor Andy Wheatley was a constant support that helped him, as well as his older brothers who completed the program before him, to navigate their way through high school.

“A faithful ear to my problems and no stranger to the Martinez boys, Andy was always there to help guide me in the right direction,” he said.

Upward Bound program manager Elizabeth Madrigal was also committed to helping him further his future, and that wasn’t lost on him either.

“She invested so much into the success of each and every one of us and made sure that we never lost sight of our goals and ambitions,” said Martinez. 

Lastly, when he started in the program as a stubborn freshman that thought he knew it all, his Upward Bound summer camp director Dagoberto Lopez challenged and encouraged him to think differently.

“To this day, I recall one thing Dagoberto told my summer class that I have never forgotten. He told me, ‘You have a place, a part, and a purpose in this world.’ That, in a way, summed up my entire time with the program,” he said.

After participating in the program for four years, Martinez graduated from Parker High School in 2017. He is now a sophomore at ASU double-majoring in Justice Studies and Philosophy (Morality, Politics, and Law) with two certificates in Ethics and Socio-Legal Studies. With those degrees and certificates, he hopes to one day attend Columbia Law School to study Constitutional or Civil Rights Law in hopes of becoming a Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.

Along with pursuing his degrees, Martinez has also gone on to become a youth trainer with the Youth Leadership Institution for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). Through the program he travels across the U.S. to teach young people about substance abuse, prevention, leadership, policy change and advocacy, and ways they can create change in their communities. 

He initially got involved with CADCA when he was a part of the Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment (PAACE) youth coalition in Parker that gave him the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and receive the training himself.

“Seeing the disease of substance abuse negatively affect the lives of my own family members and having a baby brother of my own to look after and protect, I felt obligated, as if it were my duty to help in any way possible, to help fight substance abuse and help other young people across the country do the same thing.”

Upward Bound is a federally funded grant program through the U.S. Department of Education designed to help students graduate from high school and continue on to college, ultimately earning a post-secondary degree.  Eligible students are potential first-generation college students, and/or income eligible. There are currently 13 Parker High School students enrolled in the Upward Bound program in La Paz County, which is housed at the AWC Parker Learning Center, 1109 Geronimo Ave. More than 50 other students from Cibola, Kofa, Yuma, and San Luis high schools are also in the program in Yuma County, which is housed at the AWC Yuma Campus, 2020 S. Ave. 8E.

Program services through Upward Bound include academic instruction, tutoring, academic advisement, preparation for college entrance exams, counseling, and social and personal development. Students are also offered the opportunity to participate in a summer residential program that allows teens to get a first-hand look at living on a college campus. Trips to tour post-secondary institutions and assistance with college selection, admissions, housing, and financial aid are also provided.

Robin Cooper
Center Assistant, La Paz County
Arizona Western College
(928) 317-7503

Andy Wheatley
Upward Bound Academic Advisor
Arizona Western College
928-314-9571 (Yuma)
928-669-6551 (Parker)

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