Leticia (Lety) Martinez considers herself to be a culturally diverse student at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She is “able to see two different perspectives,” which allows her to better serve individuals. Martinez is well-known among peers in the First Generation Initiative (FGI) program and on the Winona Campus at Saint Mary’s. She is recognized as a hardworking, passionate person who wants to inspire marginalized people to gain new insights on life and learn from others in order to live healthier lives.
Martinez was once a public relations major with a minor in graphic design at Saint Mary’s; however, after attending an inspirational S.O.U.L. (Serving Others United in Love) trip, she changed her major to criminal justice with a minor in psychology because she wants to have a direct impact on people’s lives.
“While attending the (S.O.U.L.) trip in New Mexico we had a border awareness program where we worked with immigrants who were attempting to gain their U.S. Citizenship,” Martinez explained. “During that trip, I had the chance to work at a home where women were guided through getting their citizenship. Among other things, the women were not aware of the United States’ culture.” The trip solidified Martinez’s decision to essentially study criminal justice.
Based on her experience with S.O.U.L. and her experience growing up in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago—where there are many underprivileged and underserved people who receive few resources—Martinez feels she will do well in her chosen field.
“I literally live right across from Cook County Prison,” Martinez said. “I was raised in an area where there is a lot of violence and I think that ultimately is the reason why I changed my major and why I want to be part of the criminal justice field. I want to promote change and be that voice for the voiceless.”
Martinez hopes to someday have a career as an attorney and work in litigation for either human rights or immigration law by counseling people who do not understand the laws of this country or their rights.
Martinez believes Saint Mary’s has prepared her well to work in the criminal justice field. “My professors are really great. Tricia Klosky has prepared me by helping me to think outside the box and not be stuck in a little world, so I have awareness of what is going on within our nation and the corruption that goes around,” Martinez said.
In addition to her classroom learning, Martinez said, “S.O.U.L. had a huge impact in teaching what I can contribute to this nation.” Saint Mary’s has taught her what it is to be Lasallian by helping her grow in her faith and spirituality.
“Going back to S.O.U.L and Campus Ministry and T.E.C. (Teens Encounter Christ), those are the programs on campus that have helped me open up my faith, and I think spirituality is a necessity because at the end of the day the Lasallian message is to help one another,” Martinez said. “That is something I did not care about at first but it has grown through my heart. Now it’s my top goal in serving the community. Saint Mary’s has emphasized how important giving to the community is.”
Martinez also feels she will be well equipped to help others because she too has overcome challenges. One growth opportunity for Martinez has been living in a different environment. In fact, she said that at first she did not feel comfortable at Saint Mary’s because it was so different from what she was used to.
Martinez said she did not think about the racial differences on campus, but she did notice a need at times for more inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. Martinez also added, “I have experienced a lot of students whose views are opposite of my own, especially in class. When you get into debates it is interesting to see the reactions and viewpoints of others, because of this I see Saint Mary’s as a good university where they are making an effort to help all students.”
Being a senior is a completely different experience compared to Martinez’s freshman year on campus. “Definitely my freshman year at Saint Mary’s I had a lot of fear and insecurities of speaking publicly of my views because I felt very alone and unlike everyone else. But as the years went by I started getting support for speaking about my views. Now in class I feel like I have grown up as an individual and feel more secure of who I am and of my own beliefs and speaking my own opinion,” Martinez said. “I think it is important for minorities who feel underrepresented to speak up and be able to be secure with themselves.”
Martinez has met FGI benefactors, including Mary Ann Remick, who she says have influenced her to do her best in school. Remick is the chair of the FGI Advisory board, supporting staff and students. Martinez worked with Dr. Jane Anderson and Remick to coordinate the C2C (Countdown To College) program.
“I have learned so much from her,” Martinez said about Remick. “She has inspired me to have a mindset of being determined to become successful by being capable of anything as any other student who is privileged. I think the Remicks see how important it is to give people the opportunity to receive an education.”
Martinez wants to give people those opportunities in the work she does and the life she leads.