Gorge Martinez: Adviser, Teacher, Advocate and Leader
As a first-generation college graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, Gorge Martinez knew he wanted to have an immediate impact on students like him. Inspired by College Advising Corps and its mission, Gorge became a part of the first group of advisers to work in San Antonio’s public schools. Believing he could continue his impact as a classroom teacher, Gorge joined the 2014 Teach For America Dallas corps, where he taught high school Algebra. His service with College Advising Corps launched what he hopes will become a lifelong career in education. Read on to learn more about Gorge’s journey as he discusses his experiences with Lindy Gould, Director of Recruitment for Teach For America.
Q: I’d love to hear more about your path to Teach For America. How did you decide to join College Advising Corps? And what was your path to TFA?
A: I’ve always had a passion for helping others, specifically low-income, first-generation students like me. With College Advising Corps, I was able to give first-generation students exposure to college opportunities. After my time as an adviser, I realized if I was encouraging students to pursue higher education, I should continue my education as well. I got a master’s degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education at Texas State University. While there, I had the chance to reconnect with some of the same students I worked with in San Antonio. Towards the end of the program, I started thinking about the barriers many students faced to get to college. I realized my true passion for higher education would be best served working with younger students who weren’t receiving those resources. What better way to do that than as a high school teacher? That thinking brought me to Teach For America.
Q: What are some examples of positive impact you had on the community you served through College Advising Corps?
A: I started a student organization at my placement high school focusing on college access, and we were able to get a $10,000 grant. The school has kept that money five years later, and it is still impacting students, giving them college access through programs and college visits. Also, when I went to grad school, I was in college alongside students I had advised. Even though they were in undergrad and I was getting my master’s degree, we were in many of the same clubs and organizations. Some of my students even went to UT Austin, so whenever I went back to my alma mater, I could check up on them. Their success was in part due to my persistence and all of those check-ins. Seeing them run with those opportunities was really powerful.
Q: How have your personal life experiences shaped your career path?
A: I was one of seven children in my family and my parents emigrated from Mexico. When it came time to apply to college, I didn’t have a lot of guidance aside from one family friend. I learned about the scholarship deadline to UT Austin three days before, which was a big wakeup call. If it hadn’t been for that family friend, I might not have had the opportunity to go to college. I knew I needed to go back and make sure other students were informed. Sometimes, students don’t have the resources and miss out on opportunities, and it’s not due to a lack of skills.
Q: How did your service with College Advising Corps prepare you to be a leader with Teach For America?
A: Being in Dallas with TFA was like teaching in my backyard. I had already worked with similar students and communities. When I joined TFA, I was able to be a mentor and support system to other first year teachers. Because of College Advising Corps, I was able to skip that beginning stage of teaching and get even more involved by getting to know the community on a deeper level from the start.
Q: What are your big career goals for the future, and how have your professional experiences driven these ambitions?
A: I want to continue to make an impact on the public education system. In the next five years, I want to get my principal certification and hopefully lead a school. Through my experiences with College Advising Corps and Teach For America, I was exposed to the gaps that exist in first-generation communities, despite students’ potential. Being a bilingual, first-generation, Latino male gives me a unique opportunity to be a role model.
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