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Student Body President Inspires with Speech About His Academic Journey

Salt Lake Community College invited SLCC Student Body President, Junior Martinez, to speak this week at its first-ever Community Influencers luncheon at the Miller Campus in front of about 120 people. His speech was thoughtful, inspiring and worthy of sharing with the broader SLCC community of staff, faculty and students. With a few minor edits, his speech is printed below in its entirety.

"I am a Latino, an immigrant, a first-generation student and a leader. This year I’ve had the opportunity to represent the students of Salt Lake Community College. It is my absolute honor to be the student representative for this institution. As student body president, I get to advocate for the student body, ensure equitable and inclusive opportunities for students and collaborate with administrators, staff and faculty to make this institution a better place. SLCC has become my second home. Most of my day is spent working in the Student Life office, working out in the Lifetime Activities Center or studying in the Markosian Library. People think I live here, and it is true! Today I want to share with you my story and how SLCC became my second home.

During my last year of high school, I was looking for options to continue my education. I needed to continue my education somewhere affordable. Like many other students in my area, I was working four days a week, making $7.25/hour. Enough to keep my gas tank full and my phone activated. I started doing research about the cost of college. Two books were equivalent to my monthly income. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. Don’t get me wrong, my family was supportive. It was my decision! I promised myself that I would get by financially because I didn’t want to add any more financial stress on them. I had applied for scholarships, but I was unsure about my scholarship status and my frustration started to grow.

As a first-generation student, I also needed a place where I can clear any doubts about college. “College ready”, was not the culture I grew up around. I had to think about how I was going to make myself a valuable candidate for scholarships, knowing that my grade point average was not going to be as competitive as those from students from anywhere else in the state. My frustration grew deeper.

One of my strengths is being futuristic, someone who is fascinated with tomorrow and inspired by what the future could be. I am a dreamer. My strength encouraged me to think of a place where I can develop my skills and confidently move to the workforce. I needed a place where I could find my dream career. After all my research ultimately, I applied at three higher education institutions.

I chose Salt Lake Community college because it offered me the opportunity to come to college debt free. You know any student that would pass on that opportunity? I didn’t. I took that opportunity and began my journey as a Presidential Leadership scholarship recipient. The scholarship introduced me to the world of leadership. I was intimidated because previous to this I was never involved. I had never pictured myself doing something like this. I thought that I wasn’t qualified, and I had self-doubt. By working with a community of student leaders, slowly that started to change. I learned that anybody can be a leader. I found my self-worth and confidence. This place does that a lot for many students. The stigma is that Salt Lake Community College is a place where you can “try college,
 like a 30-day free trial or something. Yes! You can try college here, but you can do so much more than that!

At the beginning of my college experience, I was a pre-med student, majoring in Pre-Health Sciences. I remember taking my first biology course and I knew, that was not for me. NO THANK YOU! So, I started to explore. I took one business course, and it felt right. Like I was on the right path. I continued to pursue that feeling and took more and more business classes. This semester I will graduate with and Associate of Science in Business. However, I am still figuring which branch in business to choose from. Students ask me all the time, “What do you want to do with your life?” and I say, “I don’t yet.” But it doesn’t matter because I know that it is okay not to know. In my leadership experience here, I have met with CEOs, directors, VPs and other executives. I ask them “How did you know this is what you wanted to do?” And they respond, “I don’t,” or “I am still figuring that out myself.” It is true, most of us really don’t know where this ship is sailing, but this institution has given me the skills to steer that ship. I know that I can go anywhere I want from here, and how to get there. I just need to choose a destination!

In my time here, I’ve learned a lot from students. I’ve put my listening skills to the test, because I’ve learned how important it is that you know who you are representing. If you ask around, the students will tell you that they love the attention and interaction they get from being in small classrooms. They appreciate the wide variety of classes they can choose from. They cherish the accessibility to higher education courses at an affordable rate. I’ve met many students who face challenges with food insecurity, homelessness, disability, gender identity, mental health and more. Salt Lake Community College gives those students access to education and resources to help aid some of their stress so they can be successful in their studies. For many of our students there are opportunities to get involved in places where they can find a sense of community and a specialized support system. We make higher education possible for students who never thought about going to college, and that is why I am so proud to be here in front of you as their representative.

Moving on, I will continue to advocate for SLCC and students. I have seen firsthand the impact this institution has on students and the community. I encourage anyone to get involved with the college because anyone can make a difference. We welcome any collaboration with open arms. We start initiatives for positive social change. We are on top of affordable access to books and online resources. We have a system for addressing student issues and needs. Most importantly we involve our students in the decision process because we know their input matters. I have committed to advocate, represent and uphold the mission, vision, and values of this institution not because I had to for the job, but because I believe in them. I hope that you can too!"

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