For this UA student, hard work pays off


From childhood on, Michael Martin has wanted to be an attorney.

This first-generation, adult student is well on his way to achieving that goal after hitting what Martin calls some "brick walls." It wasn’t until he came to UA that he found doors that would open for him, as he told the University's Board of Trustees and other members of the campus community during a presentation on his Akron Experience at the Board's Oct. 31 meeting.

Michael Martin

The Detroit native is the youngest of four children who relocated to Akron with their mother after a series of hardships. Despite his career ambitions, college just wasn't a possibility after Martin graduated from Buchtel High School. Instead, he worked at a variety of jobs and even started his own cleaning business. But he continued to hit brick walls that fueled his frustration.

In August 2009, he chose a new direction, becoming a student at UA, where he knew no one and was not at all sure he belonged, especially in his first days on campus.

Finding the courage to persevere

"I realized that I had gotten myself into something that I had never seen before," recalls Martin. "That something was the ultimate path to success. So I refused to give up, because in order to get to it, you have to go through it."

Martin's hard work and perseverance earned him a place in the Honors College as he pursued a major in political science, along with minors in criminal justice, conflict management and sociology.

Another door opened when Coleen Curry, director of Academic Achievement Programs, hired Martin as a student assistant to work with potential first-generation and low-income high school students.

As he mentored the younger students, Martin found his own mentors. Among them, Lee Gill, UA's associate vice president for inclusion and equity/chief diversity officer, and State Representative Vernon Sykes, with whom Martin served an internship through the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.

Internships shape career goals

While an intern with Sykes, Martin worked on H.B. 524, designed to reduce recidivism by increasing employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records. That experience is serving him well in his current internship with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, where he helps assess prisoners to determine the supervision level they’ll need while on parole.

For Martin, there are no more brick walls — only possibilities. He is on track to graduate summa cum laude in May 2013. He is already studying for the Law School Admission Test, with the goal of being a law student in fall 2013. He plans to be a criminal defense attorney and, perhaps, a legislator himself someday.

"I want to fight for equal justice and equal opportunity for everyone regardless of their race, sex or socio-economic status under the law," says Martin.