The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the University of Wyoming
University of Wyoming
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Laramie, WY 82071-2000
By Micaela Myers
Born in Tlaxcala, Mexico, Wendy Martinez grew up in Jackson, Wyo., and had never set foot on a college campus. “My parents were full-time workers, and we didn’t have the money to be traveling around to colleges,” she says. “I had never seen a college in my life. GEAR UP did that for me. They took us to different colleges, not only in Wyoming, to show all the options that we had. Once I took those trips, I knew this was real, this can happen.”
Now entering her senior year at the University of Wyoming, Martinez is majoring in political science with a minor in French and hopes to attend the UW College of Law. She says that without GEAR UP she wouldn’t be attending college, and she now works to help the next generation of GEAR UP students. This federally funded program stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. With centers at all seven community colleges, it serves low-income students throughout the state.
UWyo Magazine sat down with Martinez to talk about her journey to college and her plans for the future.
What’s your involvement with GEAR UP now?
I was nominated for the GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy. It’s throughout the nation, and they choose 30 students. I spent a week in Washington, D.C. I met with my senators and representative. Every day we had different conferences, and in those conferences we learned how to tell our story because that’s important in advocating and also in providing leadership. A very important aspect of the entire conference was how to become a leader, how to become a good peer mentor, how to relate to students at different levels from middle school to high school to college.
Last year I was a peer mentor for GEAR UP first-year students to help them in the transitioning process. I liked it a lot. This year I talk to students as a whole, which is a little more challenging, but I really like it because it’s an opportunity to hear from student to student the successes and the hardships that we’ve had in college.
Why do you think GEAR UP is an important program?
GEAR UP targets this group of students that is very large in Wyoming—low-income students. Most of them are the first generation in college, and without this program most of them wouldn’t be in college. [With programs like this there are] more students in college, and the graduation rate is much higher, which is very beneficial to the state of Wyoming.
What impact do you hope to have on the world?
I hope to go to the law school here in Wyoming. GEAR UP has been a support through the whole thing—making me dream big. I’m interested in the humanitarian side—human rights and also immigration law.
There’s always the possibility of creating your own path to succeed. Programs like these are great tools, but you have to have the will to do it. I want to provide an example—be the leader that I’ve been training to become.