First-generation opportunities fuel desire to help

Sep 30, 2019
First-generation opportunities fuel desire to help
Florida Polytechnic University admissions counselor and graduate student Karla Martinez travels throughout the state to help high school students decide whether the STEM-focused school is the right fit for them.

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series of feature stories that highlight diversity on Florida Poly’s campus and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

When Karla Martinez was only 7, her parents decided to leave their home in Hidalgo, Mexico, and settle in Lake Wales, Florida, to open their world to new opportunities. Martinez excelled in school and grew passionate about science and technology, but when it was time to start applying to universities, she was at a loss for where to begin.

“Because I am a first-generation college student it was a little challenging,” she said. “Since I didn’t have anybody in my family who went through that process, I basically had to learn everything on my own.”

She ultimately chose Florida Polytechnic University because of its positive, welcoming environment and its project-based curriculum centered on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“It’s more of a family setting and everybody here is always learning from one another,” Martinez said.

She graduated from Florida Poly with a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in cyber security in 2018. Currently, she is pursuing her master’s degree in computer science at Florida Poly while also traveling throughout the state to help guide high school students through the college selection and application process as a full-time Florida Poly admissions counselor.

“I try to be that resource to those students that need it,” Martinez said. “I enjoy helping others through the college process because I’ve been through that.”

She spends most of her days in South Florida speaking at high schools, greeting potential students at college fairs, and meeting with high school counselors.

“I talk with students that are really interested in STEM, and because we’re one of the few universities focused totally on STEM they are able to ask me very in-depth questions that I’m able to answer very easily,” Martinez said. “If they have specific questions about classes or the type of projects students are working on, I’m able to bring up my experience, and that’s something that would be hard for someone else to relate to or answer their questions.”

Martinez plans to continue working to recruit talented, high-achieving students to Florida Poly while also following her dream of earning her master’s degree and landing her dream job in the data science field.

“I definitely take education very seriously because even though my parents wanted to pursue higher education, they weren’t able to,” Martinez said.

“This is something that not everybody has a chance to do, so I treasure the idea of being able to go to college and keep learning.”

Lydia Guzman
Director of Communications