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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Madera campus supports single mom’s big career dreams

August 18, 2015
SJVC Madera Teresa Martinez
Admissions Advisor Teresa Martinez reminds students that a small town can support you when you need to aim higher.

Admissions Advisor Teresa Martinez knows something about what it takes for single moms to make it alone. Her mom, Paula, took care of her and her brother without any help.

At 18 years old, Teresa found herself alone with her young son, Michael, when she and her son’s father separated. It was up to her to make a life for them. Going to college was something she had dreamed of, but knew it would not have been permitted while she was in that controlling relationship.

“My son’s father was very traditional,” says Teresa. “It was, the wife stays home and takes care of the kids. I couldn’t wait to be out from under that.”

The day after he moved out, Teresa called SJVC’s Fresno campus and made an appointment for the next day.

Teresa went in thinking she might want to get into the medical field, but she was so impressed with the style and confidence of her Admissions Advisor, that she changed her mind and enrolled in the Business Administration program instead.

“I was basically wanting her life,” Teresa laughs. “I looked at what she did for a living and made the best decision ever.”

Teresa successfully completed the Business Administration program, earned her AS degree, and used her new-found skills and experience to find compatible employment. A few years later, in between jobs, she called SJVC’s Career Services department in hopes of getting a job lead. “She told me, ‘Come here; we’re hiring!'” says Teresa.

Teresa started as an assistant to the High School Representative on the Fresno campus, but six months later filled that position herself. She started filling in for adult Admissions Advisors and eventually made a smooth transition into that seat. The very seat she had wanted the day she enrolled a few years earlier. It was a perfect fit.

When the Madera campus opened its doors last year, Teresa was asked to make the move. After 15 years at the Fresno campus, she had to do some soul-searching to decide if she could leave the campus and the people she loved. She took a chance and answered the call to serve a new community.

“Madera is identical to the small town I grew up in (Selma), and I feel like I’m back home,” says Teresa. “I have a lot in common with the students in Madera. Their situation is very similar to what mine was 20 years ago. There are a lot of single mothers here, trying to stand on their own feet and not have to rely on others to support their children.”

Teresa does not just enroll students; she helps them to see their potential, the possibilities that lay before them.  Not just the young, single moms, but all who feel they will have to struggle to reach graduation.

“I tell them, ‘I’m not just here to enroll you. I’m your go-to person for any situation, and will get you to the person who can best help you,'” she says. And, they do come. There are problems like no gas money, or enough money for the cost of pants for school; sometimes it is the uncertainty of an emotional divorce.

“Students’ stories are heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time,” says Teresa. “I let them know that there are facilities and resources in place that they might not be aware of.” Student Services often gets involved and helps students work through as many obstacles as they can.

Teresa is proud of all the support the college gives the students and each other. “We never put ourselves before the students; their goals come first. Any interaction any staff member has in Madera is all about the student experience. Mr. Almaguer (Campus Director) fosters that kind of environment.”

“Teresa’s greatest contribution to SJVC is the example she sets as a successful alumnus and that she is representative of who our students are and where they come from,” says Ben Almaguer. “Students know they can count on her.”

Teresa was just given the Exceptional Performance in Enrollment Services award by SJVC’s Board of Governors. The honor recognizes her excellent service to students and the direction and support she has provided over 16 years.

“I get to see my students walk in the door and out the door every day,” says Teresa. “And that’s wonderful.” Teresa takes that joy home with her to husband, Richard, and Michael, Madison and Mia.

More than anything, Teresa wants to touch lives. “Hopefully, I can affect our students like my Admissions Advisor did 20 years ago. I want to broaden their horizons.”

Teresa’s very personal message to all of her students:

“You can have more, a better life; you can change your situation – not just financially. It is a whole picture of creating a life with stability and great relationships. There are choices. The change begins with you, and it’s going to affect your children and your grandchildren.”

Teresa has been there. Exactly there.

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