NHIer Veronica Martinez awarded Fulbright to study in Spain
Veronica Martinez has had an incredible educational journey, and though it’s been punctuated by successes throughout high school and college, she sometimes thinks back on her fourth-grade year, when a teacher told her she didn’t see college or even graduating high school in her future. That set her on a course to transfer to a charter school, to learn the power of mentoring, to discover the National Hispanic Institute, and finally, to earn a Fulbright award to study in Spain.
Martinez, graduating from Pitzer College next month, tweeted about her acceptance earlier this month, noting, “In 4th grade, my teacher told my immigrant parents she didn’t see college in my future, nor did she even see me graduating from high school. Little did she know I had it in me.”
She then added, “If you ever enter the education field, you better not doubt a single child.”
She’s no stranger to studying abroad. While at Pitzer, working on her degree in Organizational Studies (with an emphasis in International Politics and Spanish and Cultures), she went to both Vietnam and Spain. There, she fostered her interest in what she described in her application as “the power of how bilingualism can increase social and cultural knowledge in a community while providing upliftment amidst a globalizing world.”
Martinez found a school in Spain, La Comunidad de Madrid, where she can do independent research to learn more about mentoring and teaching English — two integral elements of her own education. While that’s a perfect place for her to utilize a Fulbright award, she inadvertently selected one of the most competitive countries for the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board’s prestigious awards.
She noted, “I need to not think about that acceptance rate” while preparing her application, and thinks that there’s a lesson there for other NHIers aspiring to make their marks in the world.
“I’ve actually received a lot of text messages from NHIers wanting to know more about Fulbright, and a lot of them have been saying, ‘I’ve been thinking about Fulbright, but I haven’t really had the courage to apply just because of the acceptance rate.’ It is a competitive application, but honestly, any NHIer has the ability to apply to Fulbright.”
“A lot of students are able to pitch their own research and pitch their own ideas on why they want to go to a certain school,” she added, noting that she’s hopeful her success will inspire other NHIers toward their own successful applications.
“I think every single thing I learned, I’ve always tried to bring back to NHI.”
In her application, she wrote, “The transformational effect of caring mentorship motivated me to become a compassionate mentor or coach that could give students, like my younger self, the support needed for succeeding academically.” NHI contributed to that interest in mentorship, as she served in a mentorship role to students after attending the 2015 California LDZ program, her initial foray into NHI leadership programs.
Her most recent direct involvement with NHI, as a 2020 John F. Lopez Fellow, brought the challenge of converting to online programs during a pandemic. She described the process at NHI headquarters starting by saying, “Let’s sit down and just really have meetings and discuss how we see these programs running.”
“And then all of us just started jumping off of each other’s ideas, and really just putting any ideas we had out there,” she recalled. “We really started from square one when we arrived there, and we continued working every single day … we would wake up at 8 am, and wrap up at 10 pm, still working on how we can make sure that our programs are running as smoothly as possible. The support network was honestly just all of us really just wanting to make sure that the programs were the best possible for students, involving as much engagement as possible.”
That included making sure that college panels were part of the CWSx, which she recalled being integral to her CWS experience.
Martinez will be off to Spain in the fall for at least a year, but may also look to extend her Fulbright-funded studies into a second year. She’s looking for her research to eventually lead to policy changes, and in part drawing from her LDZ experience, she’s thinking about how to make that a reality.
“I honestly have no idea how my life would have been if I would have stayed in the public school system,” she reflected. “Because there are a lot of teachers that don’t believe in students to this day. And with at least implementing policy, that’s going to address that whole psychic prison that students are placed into.”
This article is one in a series appearing in NHIMagazine.com during National Volunteer Month this April, celebrating NHI’s outstanding volunteers.